Category Archives: payingtheprice

Wayfinding Academy – Why it has me excited..

So maybe its a midlife crisis, maybe its being an associate professor who at 42 is still paying her student loans, maybe it is the 21st Century masters and what I have been reading… . but I am worried about higher education and especially about some of our highest achieving students who get great grades but don’t really have a plan for what they want to do in life.

I am worried that there are lots of students who don’t know what they want to do and are going into extreme debt to leave college with a degree and still without a direction.

One Sunday morning as I drank my coffee to come to life I saw a story on CBS this morning  about Oregon Public House and one of the charities it was funding Wayfinding Academy.  A not for profit college that focuses on helping students find their way, their goal and mission and life before amazing a ton of credits and a ton of debt.

Here is the original story that Inspired me to get involved:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-nonprofit-pub-thats-good-for-what-ales-you/

I am pretty questioning about charities, and I am pretty sure to check them out myself – so in April I went to Wayfinding weekend – I will share more of my experiences in future posts –

But here are some of the questions I am asking:
How can we help more students be successful in college?

How can we help them explore who they are and how they can affect the world without them going bankrupt in student loans?

How can we help students identify their goals so that college catapults them to success rather than lets them wait out 4 years until they start asking those questions?

I have decided to support Wayfinding Academy though my charitable giving and you can get involved to.   We are starting a Crowdsourcing campaign after Memorial Day to provide students with a great start to college.   Join me and make me do something silly for something I believe in.   So you can support me in their mission:  https://www.razoo.com/story/Rgjd5f

Paying the Price – What is the role of Professors in College Costs

I was a bad Book club member ..(I should have looked at my schedule more..) but I wanted to share some ideas about the Book Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick Rab (I also saw her speak on campus).

Higher Education has me really worried.. I feel as though much of the angst that is upheaving our politics and communities is because we are making college the difference between the Have’s and the Have Not’s.

When I went to college – I remember it was a big deal that they raised our tuition to $52 a credit hour at Northwest Missouri State University – (from like 45 the year before) Here it is today.. (we did not have the fees like we do today)

If you look at this link http://www.collegesimply.com/colleges/missouri/northwest-missouri-state-university/price/ (which has face validity)

So in 1992 – it was 1,680 and now it is  6,770 (tuition and fees)

In all honesty, in 1992, my father (who made too much for me to qualify for financial aid) gave me a 20K promise for college – told me that if I had money left – It was mine.. I made it on that money, while being an RA and working as a custodian, tutor, house sitter, upward bound math and science assistant and earning scholarships until my student teaching semester (when I got pneumonia and it all fell apart)  I took out a loan from him for my final semester and paid it back.

I am not telling this story to say that I was privileged (but I know that I was) but to put in real perspective. Now the estimate for Northwest Missouri State University is basically 16K a year (on the books – actually cost is likely higher -see the book) .  I could have easily blown my whole funding a year now and it was generous support (I mean parents don’t have to pay for college and that was a quite a nice car in 1992)

So what does this mean for our students – college is out of reach for many of our students – the cost is prohibitive and their aid does not reach their need.

From the same Website:  Average cost is 15, 651 with age average of 7,769 – DOES NOT Compute.

Sara Goldrick Rab’s book goes into more individual stories but here are my first thoughts (for now)

  1. Student aid does not make it affordable for students to attend college – especially if they have need.
  2. Middle class students – especially those whose parents claim them but don’t support are totally skewered.
  3. There are hungry students on our campus (every campus) – and if we have rate of 22% free lunch in Oklahoma – once they graduate high school – where do all those kids go.. (hint: some go to college)
  4. A lot of retention – is focused on first year students – but I do think that we should focus on later year students more (they run out of money and beginning scholarships) and also graduate students – it is no longer the fun poor I remember.. (okay there is really no fun poor) 
  5. Financial stresses are one of the biggest stresses on students and keep them from finishing. If they quit before finishing they have the debt but no degree and are even more at a disadvantage.

So from these – here are my takeaways and action steps for professors.. 

  1. As professors we need to read books like this one, and others and we need to be aware of the financial issues facing our students.  We need to talk to them and we have a responsibility to understand what college costs for them.
  2.  Advocate for students – As OU is facing another budget cut after a 16% State cut last year, it’s  tough – lots of things getting cut -but honestly we are advocates for our students and we need to better understand their experience.   And we need to help them find resources (like the new OU foodbank)
    1. As advocates here are some things we can do:
      • listen – hear them – take real time to listen to their stories and their struggles.
      • Connect with resources – there are services through the provost office and the retention team to help students be successful.
      • Encourage students to apply for scholarships and assist our development people in raising money for scholarships.  Write letters of recommendation with a smile! 🙂
      • Consider students when writing grants and applying for funding. Could we create more student jobs both Grad and Undergrad – The Office of Undergraduate research and CRPDE could offer some ideas.
      • Think about our course materials in light of the bigger picture.  Can we use cheaper or Open Educational Resources to reduce student costs (most students don’t buy the expensive books anyway)  The OU Libraries will help.  http://guides.ou.edu/oer
      • Participate in your campus conversations about fees and try to use fees to greater benefit of the students if they exist.  (I have changed a class from Blended to weekend to reduce fees for students – each online class has a $40 per credit hour fee, and $20 for blended). If you are offering in these formats – ask yourself the questions – why?  Key skills? Online learning experience? Student needs? or my Convenience?

Those are my initial thoughts.. (I have more) but I challenge other faculty to advocate for our students.

Consider reading Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick Rab or College Unbound by Jeff Selingo they are good places to start.

I was reminded this week about first generation students.. (those students whose parents did not go to college). They often ask questions – but not the right ones.  I remember dinner conversation from my Dad about his stories about college – so I was at a distinct advantage to know what to ask.   As professors, we can help this situation by being informed and involved, helping our students to ask the right questions, and advocating for them when we can.