When the Two-Year College English Association of Mississippi held its annual conference on Sept. 21, Holmes Community College Goodman campus professors Jessica Brown, William C. Moorer and LaShonda Levy accepted leadership positions with the association. Brown and Moorer will serve two-year terms as co-chairs, and Levy will serve as Holmes’ representative on the executive committee.
TYCAM, a Two-Year College English Association-Southeast affiliate and part of the National Council of Teachers of English, provides resources to help further English teaching methods and practices in Mississippi’s community colleges. Presidents of those schools and the Mississippi State Board of Community and Junior colleges support it.
In their positions as co-chairs, Brown and Moorer will have the responsibility of planning and running TYCAM conferences and textbook publications. Levy will serve as the liaison between Holmes’ English faculty and TYCAM, and will also work with the executive committee to run the annual conferences.
Brown, Moorer and Levy teach composition, as well as developmental English and reading at Holmes. Brown, co-chair of the college’s English department, also teaches American literature. Moorer, who also teaches creative writing, is the director of the Goodman Writing Center and has served as Holmes’ TYCAM representative on the executive committee since 2012. Besides composition and developmental English and reading, Levy teaches African American literature.
For more information, visit holmescc.edu.
Four State Universities to Share $20 Million NSF Grant
Jackson State University announced on Sept. 19 that it will be partnering with Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi to establish the Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics, an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional materials research program. MSU will serve as the project’s administrative lead, and USM will serve as the science lead.
The center will focus on collaborative research in optoelectronics, energy and biotechnology, especially in relation to the study of organic semiconductors, or solid, nonmetallic materials that exhibit electrical conductivity.
Despite past pledges to shrink or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, the spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law provides a small boost to the department’s budget for this fiscal year.
The increase of $581 million for fiscal 2019 brings the Education Department budget to roughly $71.5 billion. It’s the second year in a row Trump has agreed to boost federal education spending—last March, Trump approved spending levels that increased the budget by $2.6 billion for fiscal 2018.
The spending deal for fiscal 2019, signed late last month, includes relatively small increases for Title I (the main federal education program for disadvantaged students), special education, charter schools, career and technical education, and other programs. Although fiscal 2019 began on Oct. 1, the agreement mostly impacts the 2019-20 school year.
In addition to Education Department programs, funding for Head Start—which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services—now stands at $10.1 billion, a $240 million increase from fiscal 2018. And Preschool Development Grants, also run by HHS, are level-funded at $250 million.
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Concordia student, Dominick Snow Pierce, says filing the FAFSA helped him follow his dreams. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)
As surprising as it may seem, applying to universities and trade schools may be the easiest step when it comes to continuing education. The second step, often viewed as the most daunting one, is filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid better known as FAFSA.
Over the years, FAFSA has gained a bad rep, although it’s working hard to change that. Recently, the FAFSA application process, which once began in April, changed to October. In other words, people can begin submitting their FAFSA applications as early as Oct. 1.
“FAFSA is the tool that opens the door to education,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.
According to Interim Milwaukee Public School Superintendent, Dr. Keith Posey, in 2016 the FAFSA completion rate in MPS hit 49.9 percent. This year’s goal is 80 percent. To help achieve this goal, all the high schools will be participating in the Wisconsin Goes to College Campaign, Posey said.
Additionally, to encourage more students to apply to college and FAFSA, 20 new college career centers were established in MPS high schools. M3, which consists of UW-Milwaukee, MATC and MPS, are continuing their joint efforts to ensure that every student continues their education.
Dr. Keith Posey, interim superintendent, says the college and FAFSA application processes are community efforts. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)
Posey said FAFSA is a community effort. It’s not just the schools and the students, he said.
“[The students are] going to need your commitment and your support,” Posey said to parents.
Shannon Snow, the mother of Dominick Snow Pierce who graduated from MacDowell and now attends Concordia University, said the College Career Program helped Dominic with his applications.
As a mother, Snow said she always emphasized to her children that school was the top priority. MacDowell’s college advisors matched her commitment by following through with Dominick and making sure he filled out not only his college application, but FAFSA too. He’s eternally grateful his support system pushed him to do both, said Dominick.
“FAFSA is the best thing in life,” he said.
As a parent himself, Barrett said he knows how intimidating the FAFSA application can be. The name alone sounds scary he said. The first questions many people have is ‘What is FAFSA?’ followed by ‘How do I do FAFSA?’. Once the application process begins, it quickly becomes understandable, he said.
“We filled out the FAFSA,” he said. “[It was] one of the smartest economic decisions of my life.”
FAFSA helps the students and their parents establish a plan for their college years. Barrett called it a blueprint of do-ability that can help ease the discomfort of financial uncertainty. He said, as mayor, he speaks on behalf of the city. Milwaukee needs more kids to go to college, he said.
The job vacancies are there, but the applicants may not have the skills to even apply for the jobs, he said. Companies may decide to export the jobs if they can’t find employees in Milwaukee. This would be a huge blow to the city’s economic status. Wealth can be built in these neighborhoods, he said, and it can be built through education.
“The plus side is so huge, I think it’s worth it,” Barrett said.
Andrea Atkins, a single mother of seven MPS students, testified to how helpful FAFSA is. Of her children, four have attended college, so far, and three of them have graduated. Parents can support their child’s dream of attending college with FAFSA, she said.
“Our children are the future and we must invest in their education and success,” she said.
After years of being blamed for the problems in schools, teachers are now being held up as victims of a broken system. How did the pendulum swing so quickly?
For years, teachers continually heard the message that they were the root of problems in schools. But in a matter of months, the public narrative has shifted: The nation is increasingly concerned about teachers’ low salaries and challenging working conditions.
Teachers, it seems, are no longer bad actors ruining schools—they’re victims of an unfair system, and the only hope for saving kids.
Before, “there seemed to be a lot of teacher blaming going on,” said David Labaree, a professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. “You now see a surprising degree of growing sympathy for teachers.”
The Connecticut Education Association today released its first-ever Legislator Report Card that evaluates legislative candidates’ overall support for issues important to students, teachers, and public education. CEA’s new report card recognizes legislators who are committed to giving students more opportunities for success and are working hard to improve public education and the teaching profession in Connecticut.
The report card evaluates legislators’ voting records, as well as their advocacy and efforts to advance CEA priorities over the past two-year legislative cycle. These priorities include funding public education, preserving collective bargaining, enhancing the teaching profession, protecting the pension system, keeping schools safe, upholding teacher certification standards, and supporting sound education policy.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to public education and teachers’ rights, many legislators took actions in the wrong direction and earned less-than-stellar grades,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “This new report card system is transparent and holds candidates accountable. It informs our members of the candidates’ positions on key issues and highlights those who want to help our students and teachers, and those who are doing harm to them.”
“In the aftermath of teacher demonstrations across the country, there has been a renewed interest in the political process and its direct effect on public education, students, and teachers,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “Our members are becoming more active—they are using their voice and their vote to make sure the concerns of teachers and students are heard.”
The candidates for all 187 Connecticut General Assembly seats as well as legislators running for another office, receive a grade based on a number of factors. For incumbents seeking reelection, the report card is based on the following:
Voting record on bills that advance or hurt CEA education priorities, and support for students, local schools, and teacher rights
Co-sponsorship of bills critical to advancing CEA’s identified legislative priorities
Advocacy on behalf of or against CEA positions in public hearings, on the chamber floor, in the press, and among peers in the legislative environment
Responsiveness to requests to meet with CEA members and staff
For all candidates, including those without a state legislative history, answers to candidate questionnaires and interview results were included in the report card.
Additionally, significant emphasis is placed on a candidate’s actions involving the rights of teachers to have a voice in the education of their students, the working and learning conditions of their school, and the ability to bargain for fair wages and benefits.
MURFREESBORO, TN — MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee kicked off the new academic year Thursday, Aug. 23, by applauding the university’s faculty and staff for continued progress in student retention and graduation while emphasizing the need to develop new strategies in an ever-evolving higher education landscape.
Now in his 18th year leading the Blue Raider campus, McPhee addressed a capacity crowd of faculty and staff inside Tucker Theatre during his annual State of the University remarks as part of the traditional Fall Faculty Meeting in advance of classes beginning Monday for fall semester.
“The calling to make a difference in the lives of others — the passion that drew each member of our academic community to fulfill careers in teaching, research, service, and providing mentorship — is the ultimate goal of our institution,” he said.
Another highlight of the gathering was the presentation of the MTSU Foundation’s Career Achievement Award, this year going to Judith Iriarte-Gross, a professor of chemistry at MTSU since 1996 who is nationally known for her advocacy for girls and women in the sciences.
Iriarte-Gross is director of the Women In STEM (WISTEM) Center at MTSU and the founder and director of Tennessee’s first Expanding Your Horizons girls’ STEM education workshop. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
In assessing the university’s overall progress during his hourlong remarks, McPhee noted that MTSU continues making progress through its Quest for Student Success initiative to improve retention and graduation rates, accountability and affordability while “striving to become the public university that more students and parents look to for a top-rate education.”
He cited the increase in full-time freshman retention rate from 69 percent in Fall 2013, when the university first began its student success initiatives, to 76.8 percent in Fall 2017. MTSU’s efforts have become a national model, he said, with media outlets such as The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education taking note.
He commended University Provost Mark Byrnes and Vice Provost Rick Sluder for leading the retention efforts and touted a list of other achievements from across the university — from funded research to accelerated graduate programs and from athletic successes to ongoing support for student veterans.
“Our proven ability to educate graduates with the least amount of taxpayer dollars per-student is something in which we can, and should, take great pride,” he said.
McPhee also announced Thursday that the MTSU Board of Trustees earlier this summer approved his recommendation for a 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase for employees while also approving the use of $3.7 million in state and university funds for partially implementing a compensation plan to make MTSU salaries more competitive over time.
Other address highlights:
MTSU’s new 91,000-square-foot Academic Classroom Building will provide a state-of-the-art facility for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, including much-needed classroom, office and lab spaces for the Criminal Justice, Psychology, and Social Work departments. The $36 million project is expected to be completed in Summer 2020.
Renovations at Peck Hall are nearing completion and include new ceiling and lighting for the breezeways, new lighting for the corridors, refinishing of the flooring on the second and third levels, and new furnishings for the courtyard areas.
The long-running Middle Tennessee Boulevard widening project is expected to be finished in December.
Parking Services will have new facility located on City View Drive on the southeastern edge of campus, with completion expected by the end of 2019.
Alumni and supporters donated more than $12.7 million in gifts in the last fiscal year, which exceeded the previous year.
Discussions continue regarding the potential transfer of the Valparaiso University’s law school to MTSU. Such a transfer would result in an estimated gift value of $35 million to $40 million.
McPhee concluded his remarks by noting that he would be meeting with senior administrators and deans in the coming months to develop strategies for the next five years “that will differentiate MTSU from our peers and competitors.” (Read the full text of his remarks at http://ow.ly/XbcX30lwRHc)
Career Achievement Award winner
MTSU chemistry professor and nationally recognized STEM education advocate Judith Iriarte-Gross, center, proudly accepts the 2018 MTSU Foundation Career Achievement Award Thursday, Aug. 23, from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, and MTSU Foundation President Ron Nichols, right, at the university’s Fall Faculty Meeting inside Tucker Theatre. Iriarte-Gross, who’s taught at MTSU since 1996 and is director of the Women In STEM (WISTEM) Center at MTSU and the founder and director of Tennessee’s first Expanding Your Horizons girls’ science, technology, engineering and math education workshop. The Career Achievement Award is presented annually to a professor at MTSU and is considered the pinnacle of recognition for the university’s faculty. Iriarte-Gross also is a fellow of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, two of the country’s premier scientific professional societies, among her many honors. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)
In accepting the Career Achievement Award, Iriarte-Gross noted the importance that federal programs such as TRiO and Upward Bound played in helping a young, first-generation college student from a single-parent home enter higher education and pursue the sciences with the encouragement of teachers and mentors.
Iriarte-Gross also is a fellow of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, two of the country’s premier scientific professional societies, among her many honors.
“I tell my students today, listen to your teachers because they see something in you that you might not see,” she said.
When she and husband Charles moved to Murfreesboro in 1996, Iriarte-Gross recalled that she noticed the absence of an EYH program for young girls anywhere in Tennessee. She went to work launching one on the Blue Raider campus that will host its 22nd edition in October and has since been joined by five other EYH programs across the state.
“We are changing the future STEM workforce for Tennessee by showing girls that they can do anything,” she said.
The Career Achievement Award is presented annually to a professor at MTSU and is considered the pinnacle of recognition for the university’s faculty. It is given at the Fall Faculty Meeting as part of the MTSU Foundation Awards, which include a variety of awards recognizing outstanding faculty members. Find the full list of winners at www.mtsunews.com.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), stakeholders, and planning documents identified extensive and diverse capital project needs at HBCUs and GAO found HBCUs rely on a few funding sources—such as state appropriations and tuition and fees—to address those needs. HBCUs responding to GAO’s survey reported that 46 percent of their building space, on average, needs repair or replacement. Based on a review of master plans—which assess the condition of HBCU facilities—and visits to nine HBCUs, GAO identified significant capital project needs in the areas of deferred maintenance, facilities modernization, and preservation of historic buildings. The Department of Education’s (Education) HBCU Capital Financing Program has provided access to needed funding for some HBCUs and has helped modernize their facilities to improve student recruitment. However, fewer than half of HBCUs have used the program, according to Education data,
Capital Projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
Note: The Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Financing program provides low-cost loans to eligible HBCUs.
Education has undertaken several efforts to help HBCUs access and participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. For example, Education conducts outreach through attending conferences. However, some HBCUs in GAO’s survey and interviews were unaware of the program. Moreover, public HBCUs in four states reported facing participation challenges due to state laws or policies that conflict with program requirements. For example, participants are required to provide collateral, but public HBCUs in two states reported they cannot use state property for that purpose. In March 2018, a federal law was enacted requiring Education to develop an outreach plan to improve program participation. An outreach plan that includes direct outreach to individual HBCUs and states to help address these issues could help increase participation. Without direct outreach, HBCUs may continue to face participation challenges. In addition, two HBCUs recently defaulted on their program loans and 29 percent of loan payments were delinquent in 2017. Education modified a few loans in 2013 and was recently authorized to offer loan deferment, but has no plans to analyze the potential benefits to HBCUs and the program’s cost of offering such modifications in the future. Until Education conducts such analyses, policymakers will lack key information on potential options to assist HBCUs.
Why GAO Did This Study
HBCUs play a prominent role in our nation’s higher education system. For example, about one-third of African-Americans receiving a doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics received undergraduate degrees from HBCUs. To help HBCUs facing challenges accessing funding for capital projects, in 1992, federal law created the HBCU Capital Financing Program, administered by Education, to provide HBCUs with access to low-cost loans. GAO was asked to review the program.
This report examines HBCUs’ capital project needs and their funding sources, and Education’s efforts to help HBCUs access and participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. GAO surveyed all 101 accredited HBCUs and 79 responded, representing a substantial, but nongeneralizable, portion of HBCUs. GAO analyzed the most recent program participation data (1996-2017) and finance data (2015-16 school year); reviewed available HBCU master plans; visited nine HBCUs of different sizes and sectors (public and private); and interviewed Education officials and other stakeholders.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends Education (1) include direct outreach to individual HBCUs and steps to address participation challenges for some public HBCUs in its outreach plan, and (2) analyze the potential benefits and costs of offering loan modifications in the program. Education outlined plans to address the first recommendation, and partially agreed with the second. GAO continues to believe both recommendations are warranted.
For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or email@example.com.
With the 2018-19 school year in full swing, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has finished approving nearly every state’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, the federal government’s work on ESSA is just beginning.
The federal K-12 law’s hallmark may be state and local control, yet the Education Department still has the responsibility to oversee the more than $21 billion in federal funding pumped out to states and districts under ESSA. That will often take the form of monitoring—in which federal officials take a deep look at state and local implementation of the law.
And the department has other oversight powers, including issuing guidance on the law’s implementation, writing reports on ESSA, and deciding when and how states can revise their plans.
Even though ESSA includes a host of prohibitions on the education secretary’s role, DeVos and her team have broad leeway to decide what those processes should look like, said Reg Leichty, a co-founder of Foresight Law + Policy, a law firm in Washington.
Given the Trump team’s emphasis on local control, “I think they’ll try for a lighter touch” than past administrations, Leichty said. But there are still requirements in the law the department must fill, he added.
“States and districts shouldn’t expect the system to be fundamentally different [from under previous versions of the law.] They are still going to have to file a lot of data,” Leitchy said.
But advocates for traditionally overlooked groups of students aren’t holding their breath for a robust monitoring process, in part because they think the department has already approved state plans that skirt ESSA’s requirements…
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