Families, Not Just Students, Feel The Weight Of The Student Loan Crisis

For many college students settling into their dorms this month, the path to campus — and paying for college — started long ago. And it likely involved their families.

The pressure to send kids to college, coupled with the realities of tuition, has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in America, says Caitlin Zaloom, an anthropologist and associate professor at New York University. It’s changed the way that middle class parents raise their children, she adds, and shaped family dynamics along the way.

Zaloom interviewed dozens of families taking out student loans for her new book, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost. She defines those families as middle class because they make too much to qualify for federal aid — but too little to pay the full cost of a degree at most colleges. For many, the burden of student debt raises big questions about what a degree is for.

Full story at NPR

The Case For Summer Vacation

Put down those popsicles. No more sleeping in. Beach time is over.

Economists have long hated summer vacation. All those wasted school facilities! All that educational backsliding! Kids are getting dumber!

The conventional wisdom is that summer vacation is a relic of agricultural times, when kids had to help out their parents on the farm. But the economist William Fischel says that story is completely wrong.

“When the U.S. was a farming country, in the 1800s, kids went to school during the summer and winter,” he says. Rural kids had to take fall off for the harvest and spring off for planting. In other words, summer vacation would have “actually worked against the rhythms of agriculture.”

Full story at NPR

Not just Capital One, Equifax: Data breaches at school, risking your family’s security

Districts maintain reams of sensitive information about employees, students and families, all of it online and accessible to varying degrees to hundreds or thousands of employees – not all of whom were paying particularly close attention in this year’s mandatory cybersecurity webinar. With annual budgets in the tens or hundreds of millions, their pockets are deep, at least in theory, for the purposes of paying ransom.

And they can’t very well afford not to retrieve their data.

“On the list of things that keep me up at night, it’s a high one,” said John Miller, director of technology, data and program evaluation at the Hilton Central School District, about 20 miles north of Rochester, New York.

“If you ask any tech-related person in the field, they’ll tell you the same thing. … None of us want this to happen to us.”

Full story at USA Today

DeVos Wants to Prioritize Education Funding for Opportunity Zones

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION Betsy DeVos wants to prioritize federal education funding for areas of the country that qualify as opportunity zones – a move that if finalized, could shift hundreds of millions of dollars away from some communities and to others.

As part of the 2017 tax law, the Trump administration has certified more than 8,700 opportunity zones, which provide tax incentives to attract investment in business or real estate located within certain economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with the goal of revitalizing those areas. But it’s unclear whether policies like opportunity zones actually benefit distressed communities at all, let alone move the needle on education achievement.

DeVos’ proposal, published Monday in the Federal Register, would give priority to applicants who propose projects in those opportunity zones for more than 80 education grant competitions, which collectively total more than $700 million.

Full story at US News

You 2.0: The Empathy Gym

What books are on your summer reading list?

If you’re reading mostly nonfiction, consider the benefits of adding a novel to the mix.

“There’s a fair amount of evidence now that the more fiction that people read, the more empathetic that they become,” says Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. “Because fiction is one of the most powerful ways to connect with people who are different from us who we might not have a chance to meet otherwise.”

Zaki argues that empathy is like a muscle — it can be strengthened with exercise and it can atrophy when idle. On this episode of Hidden Brain, we talk about calibrating our empathy so we can interact with others more mindfully.

Full story at npr.org

California Parents Home-School Kids to Bypass Mandatory Vaccination Law

CALIFORNIA PARENTS ARE increasingly exploiting a loophole in the state’s mandatory vaccination law that allows their children to forgo vaccines if they are home-schooled.

In 2016, California implemented one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, requiring all children be vaccinated, despite personal or religious beliefs, in order to attend school unless a doctor deemed it unsafe because of a medical condition. The legislation also allowed schools to deny admittance to unvaccinated students.

However, parents began enlisting health care professionals to provide medical exemptions that may not have been warranted. The Sacramento Bee reported in April on the surge in exemptions, stating that doctors in the state have broad power to grant exemptions for required vaccines, and some providers give them out in exchange for cash.

Full story at US News

Race and School Discipline

BLACK STUDENTS WITH disabilities are disciplined more often than their white peers, pushing them into the school-to-prison pipeline at higher rates, a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows – just the latest finding to stoke an ongoing debate over the role race plays in school discipline.

“Ignoring the reality that kids can be harmed and that it is our educators’ obligation to ensure that they are not harmed has an obvious impact on students of color in particular and students with disabilities in particular,” Catherine Lhamon, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says. “When we know that turning away from specific harms to specific identity groups will hurt their educational opportunity and their rights in schools, we are taking steps we ought not to take.”

The 224-page report draws on data from the Department of Education and its Office for Civil Rights to argue that students of color don’t commit more offenses than their white peers but receive “substantially more” discipline than them, as well as harder and longer punishments for similar offenses. At the same time, the report underscores, data shows that students with disabilities are about twice as likely to be suspended compared to those without disabilities.

Full story at US News

As Scrutiny Of China Grows, Some U.S. Schools Drop A Language Program

The Defense Department wants more Americans to speak Chinese, and it provides millions of dollars to train students at U.S. universities.

China’s government, through language centers known as Confucius Institutes, has been doing the same thing, for the same reasons, and at some of the same U.S. universities.

But a new law has forced these American universities to choose: They can take money from the Pentagon or from the Confucius Institute — but not both.

“Confucius Institutes expose U.S. universities to espionage, to the threat of theft of intellectual property, which we are seeing far too frequently at colleges and universities,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in an interview with NPR.

Full story at npr.org

Textbook Giant Pearson Makes Major Shift Away From Print to Digital

CALLING IT A “generational business shift,” textbook publishing giant Pearson announced Tuesday that all future updates to its 1,500 U.S. titles will occur digitally, a move company officials say will push the academic publishing industry into the 21st century and save students money by ending lengthy and expensive print revisions.

“The history of this business is as a college textbook publisher, and really over the last 20 years, like many of the other industries like newspapers and music publishing, we’ve seen a gradual shift from digital where over time digital time has become a more important part of the offering,” John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, says. “We’ve really reached a tipping point.”

London-based Pearson, the $8.5 billion company, is the largest provider of college textbooks in the U.S. It now has more than 10 million digital registrations each year coming from the company’s current offering of about 1,500 titles that cover all major course offerings at colleges and universities.

Full story at US News

Broken Promises: Teachers Sue U.S. Over Student Loans That Weren’t Forgiven

Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

For 10 years, Baker, who was a public school teacher in Tulsa, Okla., checked in with loan servicing companies and was told she was on track.

“I said, ‘I’m qualifying for public service loan forgiveness,’ and they said, ‘OK, great,’ ” she says.

But it turns out that her $76,000 in student loans didn’t get forgiven. Baker was finally told she was in the wrong type of loan. If she’d known that at the beginning, she could have switched loans and ended up qualifying. But she says nobody ever told her.

Full story at npr.org