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47 posts categorized "Higher Education"

5 Questions for...Judith Shapiro, President, Teagle Foundation

April 24, 2015

Judith Shapiro has spent decades in and around higher education in the United States. The first female professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Chicago, where she taught from 1970 to 1975, Shapiro joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr College in 1975 as a member of the department of anthropology and later served as acting dean (1985-86) and provost (1986-94) of the college. She went on to serve as president of Barnard College — the first person to come through the New York City school system to do so — from 1994 to 2008 and was named president of the New York City-based Teagle Foundation in 2013. Shapiro has researched and written widely about gender differences, social organization, cultural theory, and missionization, and throughout her career has spoken out on a broad range of topics.

Headshot_judith_shapiroPhilanthropy News Digest: You spent most of your career in academia, including fourteen years as president of Barnard College. Is being a foundation president a lot different than being a college president?

Judith Shapiro: I loved being president of Barnard. But the job was unremitting, whereas my job here doesn't feel as if it consumes my entire life. Being a college president is really strenuous, but having that in my background is espec­ially useful to this particular foundation. One interesting difference in my situation is that, for the most part, I spent my academic career in elite institutions: Brandeis, Columbia, University of Chicago, Bryn Mawr, Barnard. But since coming to Teagle, I've been exposed to a much wider variety of institutions and learned that there are truly interesting things going on in all kinds of institutions.

It's good that there's diversity in our educational sector, not only among institutions of higher education, but also among foundations, and among foundations that are involved in higher education. Lumina, for example, can focus on policy-related issues in higher education, Mellon can dig into the arts and digital humanities, and Sloan has a nice focus on undergraduate STEM, whereas Teagle doesn't specialize in any of those areas. So there's a nice division of labor among foundations, but also opportunities for them to coordinate and cooperate. You know that foundations often like their grantees to collaborate, and it's a good thing for foundations to work with each other as well.

PND: That type of collaboration often comes with challenges. As an anthropologist, how would you recommend that some of the cultural challenges be addressed?

JS: Some of the challenges are very real. The Center for Effective Philanthropy examined how foundations can and do work together and found that, in some cases, the cost of the collaboration in terms of coordinating activities was so great that the foundations collaborating really had to step back and decide whether the partnership made sense. In general, I think the pooling of funding is a good idea, but you have to find a way to combine the distinctive focus and identity of the various partners and avoid getting carried away by the kind of institutional narcissism that results in organizations competing with or not paying attention to each other.

PND: You're known as someone who is willing to comment on a broad range of issues — not exactly a trait one associates with foundation presidents. Do you think foundation presidents should speak out more frequently on important national issues?

JS: They certainly should speak out on issues that are relevant to the mission of their foundation. During my years as a college president, I felt that the role of communicator-in-chief was a particularly important part of my job description. The bully pulpit is a tool that can and should be used to advance the work of a foundation. Both of my predecessors here at Teagle, Bob Connor and Rich Morrill, did that to wonderful effect. So, if an issue is important to the mission, yes, I think it's a good thing for a foundation president to speak out, even a responsibility.

On issues that are not directly relevant to the foundation's mission, on the other hand, I would say, "First, do no harm." I remember Larry Summers, when he was president of Harvard, speaking at a conference dedicated to women in science and suggesting that the shortage of women in certain disciplines was in part due to gender differences in mathematical ability. Well, we all know what happened next. He later said he was not speaking as president of Harvard. But when you're the president of Harvard, it's very hard not to speak as the president of Harvard.

In my case, I have written on issues related to my area of social science expertise, to my teaching experience, and to my experiences as a college president — issues that are not necessarily relevant to the work we do here at Teagle. And in those cases, I do not identify myself as the president of the Teagle Foundation, but rather as someone affiliated with Bryn Mawr or Barnard.

In terms of issues that do not fall into my area of expertise but which are of concern to me as a citizen of the United States — I may have strong opinions about how to address climate change, for example — I tend not to speak out publicly. So I support the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, but I don't see the point of speaking out on their issues in my role as a foundation president.

PND: Teagle has supported a number of blended learning initiatives and projects in which at least part of a formal education program is delivered electronically. How are digital technologies and the shift to a digital economy changing the way students are approaching higher education?

JS: We're trying to help faculty at our partner institutions incorporate online resources into classes so that class time is used in a more interactive, productive way

I'm also on the board of the University of the People, which is entirely virtual — even the administra­tion is virtual. Its goal is to reach populations — both abroad and in the U.S. — which otherwise wouldn't have access to higher education. Not surprisingly, a lot of those programs tend to have a strong career focus.

Ethnographically speaking — again as an anthropologist — we need to better understand how students are operating in these new worlds of digitally delivered information and learning. That doesn't mean we have to go native completely; students can benefit from more traditional habits and ways of learning. And just as there was a slow food movement that emerged in response to fast food, we may see a the emergence of a slow teaching or learning movement that is dedicated to helping young people focus on one thing in a way that enables them to learn it more thoroughly and comprehensively.

PND: You recently traveled to Cuba. How might the U.S.-Cuba reset affect U.S. foundations?

JS: Actually, the trip I took was organized by the Bryn Mawr Alumni Association; I spent nineteen years at the college as a faculty member and as provost. The trip was scheduled months ahead of time and it was a total and utter coincidence that it took place in the wake of the major changes announced by the Obama administration. Clearly, it turned out to be very, very exciting. When we got to Havana, we ran into Senator [Pat] Leahy (D-VT) in the hotel, which had both the American and Cuban flags flying out front.

As for foundations and the new spirit of détente, it's hard to say what will happen or what they should do. Teagle is a small foundation, and we have not worked internationally. If you're David and not Goliath, you've got to be very careful about where you aim. Our approach is to be good partner to our grantees. We don't assume we have all the answers, and what we do grows out of the interactions we have with the organizations we support.

But, certainly, larger foundations with more resources may start thinking about establishing connections with civil society groups in Cuba, and I hope they do. The needs in the country are enormous, and the prospect of U.S. foundations beginning to allocate some of their resources to address those needs is a wonderful thing to contemplate. I think any help will be gratefully welcomed by the Cuban people. And I hope that kind of spirit prevails as foundations here look to deepen their engagement with Cuba and the Cuban people.

Matt Sinclair

Weekend Link Roundup (April 18-19, 2015)

April 19, 2015

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

National-cherry-blossom-festivalData

How can nonprofits use data to create a culture of continuous improvement. Beth Kanter explains.

Evaluation/Effectiveness

In a post on her Giving Evidence site, Caroline Fiennes suggests that charities are being asked to do too much evaluation -- and presents some evidence to support her argument.

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Nancy Baughman Csuti, director of research, evaluation and strategic learning at the Colorado Trust, says that funders can and should

engage in deeper conversations with grantees to understand their needs regarding evaluation, continue to provide general operating support, and, with that, encourage time to review results, reflect, and adapt. We can encourage grantees to share what they have learned and provide resources and assistance for them to do so, and do the same ourselves. As funders, we should jump on the opportunities to encourage our grantees to embrace a culture of evaluation and learning that results in seeing problems and solutions differently. And always, we must do ourselves what we ask of grantees....

Human/Civil Rights

Civil society and human rights groups find themselves in a new world characterized by "multiplicity," public disillusionment, and growing non-institutional activism, writes Lucia Nader on the Transformation  blog. And if they want to remain relevant, she adds, they'll need to find a balance "between preserving what has already been achieved, and deconstructing, innovating, reinventing and transforming [themselves]."

Journalism/Media

Is the nonprofit news model sustainable? Based on his reading of Gaining Ground, How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability, a new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Inside Philanthropy's Paul M.J. Sucheki has his doubts.

Nonprofits

$23.07/hr. That's Independent Sector's latest estimate of the value of volunteer time. More here.

Philanthropy

A family foundation set up to exist in perpetuity may not be around for a long if the kids have no interest in running it. Wall Street Journal reporter Veronica Dagher shares five things that family foundations can do to empower the next generation to carry the family legacy forward.

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Mulago Foundation director Kevin Starr shares the seven commandments of effective funding.

Exponent Philanthropy has compiled a nice list of resources for "foundations, giving circle members, donor advised fund holders, and individual donors [who] are intentionally keeping their operations lean and their ears to the ground."

Social Good

On Thursday, online crafts bazaar Etsy became only the second B Corps to go public. The question now, writes The New York Times' Hiroko Tabuchi, is whether "Wall Street will embrace a company that puts doing social and environmental good on the same pedestal with, if not ahead of, maximizing profits."

There is more money in the world than at any point in human history, so why doesn't it reach the places that need it most? Writing on the Transformation blog, Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, explains.

In a short essay adapted from his new book, The Road to Character, New York Times columnist David Brooks reminds us that "people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world's deep needs?" 

Social Media

Does your nonprofit have an Instagram strategy? Are you and your colleagues unsure why you need one? Kivi Leroux Miller shares 50+ nonprofit Instagram accounts that might change your mind.

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments box below

Weekend Link Roundup (March 28-29, 2015)

March 29, 2015

Umbrella_april-showersOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

Collaboration

On the Rockefeller Foundation blog, Zia Khan, the foundation's vice president for initiatives and strategy, shares four "counter-intuitive lessons" about cross-sector collaboration.

Data

On the Markets for Good blog, Bill Anderson, technical lead for the Secretariat of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), examines the potential for a people-based data revolution across Africa.

Education

50CAN, a network of local education advocates "learning from and supporting each other," has launched a new blog called The Catalyst to help local education leaders develop policy goals, craft their advocacy plans, and secure lasting change.

On the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation blog, Cari Schneider, director of research and policy for Getting Smart, suggests that one of the least appreciated barriers to effective education reform is definitional in nature.

Fundraising

Why do people give to charity? The Guardian explains.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 28-March 1, 2015)

March 01, 2015

Leonard-nimoy-spockOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

Data

On Medium, Dan Gillmor, the long-time technology writer for the San Jose Mercury News, argues that governments and powerful tech companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are creating "choke points" on the Internet and "using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often," Gillmor adds, "we give them our permission — trading liberty for convenience — but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission...."

Education

In an op-ed for the Minn Post, progressive activist and education blogger Lynnell Mickelsen suggests that Minneapolis could change its schools to work better for kids of color, but it "would involve asking mostly white middle-class administrators, teachers and employees to change their work lives — i.e. their schedules, assignments, job locations and even pay — around the needs, comfort and convenience of low-income people of color and their children." Be sure to check out the comments thread.

Giving

Pamela Yip, a business columnist for the Dallas Morning News, reports on a recent presentation by Sharna Goldseker, managing director of 21/64, a New York consulting firm, in which Goldseker touched on several factors that distinguish younger donors from their parents and grandparents.

Global Health

In a podcast on the Humanosphere blog, Gilles van Cutsem, a physician and medical director for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, says the Ebola crisis in West Africa is far from over.

Higher Education

As this well-thought-out data visualization from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows, America’s postsecondary student population is more diverse than ever.

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Nonprofits Are Not Doing Enough to Help Young Men of Color

January 27, 2015

Headshot_lowell_perryWith the recent grand-jury decisions not to indict the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protests over the racial profiling of youth of color and the excessive use of force by individual members of police forces across the country have made the national news. Many of the demonstrations have been led by young people, of every color and stripe.

Meanwhile, the White House, which last year launched the My Brother's Keeper initiative to address the fact that too many young men of color are failing to reach their full potential, continues to work with concerned leaders to develop a comprehensive solution to the problem.

More can and must be done.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration's decision to provide funding for fifty thousand body cameras as well as additional training for police officers, at an estimated cost of more than $250 million, is not the kind of "solution" we need. In a world in which public-sector money to address social problems is scarce, do we really want to spend tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars on equipment to record interactions — the vast majority of them uneventful — between police officers and the public they are hired to serve and protect? Wouldn't that money be better spent on interventions designed to help boys and young men of color long before they come to the attention of local law enforcement?

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Making Philanthropic Investments Last: The Role of Financial Sustainability

October 30, 2014

Headshot_schneider_kidron_300x600Launched in 2010, the Jim Joseph Foundation's Education Initiative has supported the development and expansion of eighteen degree and certificate programs as well as leadership institutes at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU).

The foundation provided the resources needed for program development, staffing, student tuition assistance, and marketing/recruitment activities. The investment was substantial – each institution received $15 million over a period of up to six years. As part of its independent evaluation of the initiative, American Institutes for Research (AIR) assessed not only how well the three grantees delivered these programs, but how they planned to financially sustain their programs into the future after the foundation's investment wound down.

Financial sustainability requires careful planning, typically using a dynamic document that is reviewed and revisited periodically. Such a document – the financial sustainability plan – describes strategies to contain costs and to cover them through fundraising and program revenues.

Informing Financial Sustainability Plans Through Break-Even Analysis

A common tool in financial planning is break-even analysis, which identifies the circumstances in which costs and revenues are balanced. To help Jim Joseph Foundation Education Initiative grantees, we developed a program-level Break-Even Analysis Calculator, allowing program administrators to project revenues and expenditures by changing variables such as tuition, numbers of students, and staffing levels. This interactive tool can be used to:

  1. Identify the resources required to implement a program, including personnel, facilities, equipment, and materials, whether paid for directly or contributed in-kind, and subsequently to calculate program costs.
  2. Explore ways to reduce costs.
  3. Identify the effects of different levels of tuition and scholarships.
  4. Calculate fundraising needs and demonstrate to potential funders why their help is needed.

Review of Financial Sustainability Plans

We created benchmarks for reviewing the financial sustainability plans submitted by each institution. The four criteria described below are based on the assumption that financial sustainability is a process, not an end. In other words, although the process aimed at achieving financial sustainability may not yet be completed, the financial sustainability plan contributes to a road map that programs can follow into the future.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September 2014)

October 02, 2014

The leaves are turning, days are getting shorter, winter's closing in. Still plenty of time, though, to catch up with the most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in September. Have a post you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

What have you read/watched/listened to lately that surprised, delighted you, or made you think? Share your finds in the comments section below....

[Review] 'Abusing Donor Intent: The Robertson Family's Epic Lawsuit Against Princeton University'

April 16, 2014

(The newest book by Doug White, a well-known expert in the fields of philanthropy and nonprofit management, is "equal parts thriller and cautionary tale," writes Daniel Matz, Foundation Web Manager at the Foundation Center. Click here for more from PND's long-running Off the Shelf series.)

What is a gift? In an ordinary sense, a gift is something — money, property, advice — given freely by one party to another without the expectation of receiving something in return. We all like gifts, and so, too, do the 1.4 million nonprofits in the United States that benefit from private donations, large and small. But in the calculus of large-scale institutional philanthropy, a gift isn't really a gift; it's a gesture with a purpose — a purpose informed, to varying degrees, by the intent of the person or institution that gave the gift. And therein, as Shakespeare might say, lies the rub.

Cover_abusing_donor_intentIt's no surprise that wealthy donors and foundations seek out organizations and institutions that share their own passions and interests. But what do donors really expect from a nonprofit grantee in the long run? In the performance-measured, accountability-driven world of twenty-first century philanthropy, grantee reporting is de rigueur. For most nonprofits chasing after scarce dollars (and hoping for future gifts), the willingness and ability to demonstrate that they've aligned themselves with a donor's intent goes without saying. But what happens when a donor, after many years of happy engagement with an organization or institution, begins to believe that the original intent of the gift is no longer being honored? Our intuition tells us that, at some level, gifts/grants/donations involve a leap of faith, and that when the trust between donor and recipient is compromised, the recipient is unlikely to receive additional future gifts from that donor. A donor or foundation might even go public with its disappointment in order to discourage others from making gifts to the recipient. But rarely does a foundation or donor who has become disenchanted with a recipient ask for their money back. Which raises the question: Should they be able to? And does a statute of imitations ever apply in such a situation?

Those are two of the questions Doug White, a well-known expert in the fields of philanthropy and nonprofit management, tackles in Abusing Donor Intent: The Robertson Family's Epic Lawsuit Against Princeton University. Just as White earlier explored a rogues' gallery of swindlers and incompetent trustees in Charity on Trial, here he invites the reader to look behind the curtain of privilege and wealth, this time to learn just how bad things can get when a donor and beneficiary no longer see eye-to-eye. Informed by the slow burn of a decades-old frustration, not to mention the disposition of hundreds of millions of dollars and the reputation of one of America's oldest and most respected universities, Abusing Donor Intent is equal parts thriller and cautionary tale.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 1-2, 2013)

February 02, 2014

Groundhog_bingoOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

The 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is off to a roaring start, having pitched its tent on Beth Kanter's blog during January. The topic for the month was how do you measure your nonprofit's marketing or communication strategies, and close to twenty posts were submitted, including contributions from Niki Kidd, a principal at Social Change Consulting ("Using Data to Assess Your Peers"); David Hartstein, WiredImpact's "storyteller and measurement guy" ("8 Metrics To Measure Online Fundraising"); Lori Jacobwith ("If You're Only Sharing Boring, Unclear Data, What's the Point?"); Cassie Bair, vice president of marketing at Mobile Accord ("Measure the Love in Your Mobile Communication Program"); and the Ad Council's Anastasia Goodstein ("Nonprofits and Big Data: An Inside Look at How the Ad Council Is Leveraging Data for Social Change"). Good stuff.

Fundraising

In a post on her About.com site, Joanne Fritz highlights six mistakes that nonprofits make in their online fundraising. Based on responses to something called the Online Fundraising Scorecard survey, they include not personalizing emails with a person's first or last name, forcing potential donors to navigate three or more pages before they can actually make a gift, and not suggesting a next step for donors once they've made a gift and had been thanked.

Higher Education

If you only have time to read one longish post this weekend, make it Clay Shirky's latest, "The End of Higher Education's Golden Age." In it, Shirky, a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, argues that the model of higher education that developed in the U.S. in first half of the twentieth century was "perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists." What's more, writes Shirky, higher education's present difficulties -- its growing unaffordability, dependence on "contingent labor" (i.e., poorly paid grad students), unhelpful focus on elite institutions, inability to adapt to changing demographics -- are "the bill coming due for forty years of trying to preserve a set of practices that have outlived the economics that made them possible." As always from Shirky, a well-researched and thought-provoking essay.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (December 28-29, 2013)

December 29, 2013

New_year_2014_shutterstockOur final roundup for the year of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. See you in 2014!

Giving

In a Q&A on the Harvard Business Review blog, Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, suggests that the way corporations and individuals approach charitable giving is starting to change -- for better and worse.

Higher Education

On the Inside Higher Ed blog, Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argues that "higher education is at a tipping point, and that it will soon look nothing like it does today, except perhaps at a few ivy-covered, well-endowed institutions." Lots of pushback in the comments section.

Impact/Effectiveness

Tracy Palandjian, co-founder and CEO of Social Finance US, and Jane Hughes, director of Knowledge Management at the organization, have an excellent piece on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog that looks at three possible future scenarios for the social impact bond market. They are:

  1. Boom-Bubble-Bust
  2. SIBs Are the Wave of the Future — and They Always Will Be
  3. A Successful Market for Social Outcomes

Palandjian and Hughes then examine some of the factors that will determine which scenario plays out. If you're at all interested in the impact investing space, this is a must-read.

Continue reading »

Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

December 18, 2013

Headshot_darren_walkerIn September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2013)

November 01, 2013

A shutdown of the federal government that lasted sixteen days, the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, a well-deserved (!) Red Sox win in the World Series -- October was nothing if not eventful. And now that it's history, it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic during the month:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

Creating Paths to College and the Urgency of Now

October 29, 2013

(Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant is the interim director of the Youth Policy team at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve the lives of low-income people. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Headshot_RhondaTI was a STEM whiz as a child — a seemingly unlikely thing for a girl, and an African-American girl at that, to be. In middle school, I attended a magnet program and learned computer programming while taking advanced math and science classes. In high school, I took calculus and physics and learned a computer programming language. My primary interest was engineering, so my school district helped me attend summer programs at area universities. That experience landed me a job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the age of 17.

Although I chose public policy instead of engineering as my life's work, those were the opportunities that put me on a path to college. My middle school and high school offered classes that nurtured my interests in mathematics and science. I had great teachers who used hands-on learning to take basic lessons to the next level. I remember our physics teacher explaining the science behind breaking boards martial arts-style and wading in the Chesapeake River in hip-high boots to learn about plant life. I also had guidance counselors who knew me personally, connected me to summer opportunities that allowed me to cultivate my academic interests, and walked me through the college application process. My family couldn't afford to pay for college. Without these opportunities, it would have been far more difficult to continue my education.

Continue reading »

New Initiative Moves Beyond College Access for Low-Income Students

October 22, 2013

(The following post was written by AiLun Ku, a program director at the Opportunity Network, which works to put high-achieving low-income New York City high school students on the road to college and a good career, and Greg MacDonald, dean of admissions and financial aid at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.)

Headshot_ailunku_gregmacdonaldEvery college economics professor can tell you about the multiplier effect, but when they do they usually focus on the income side of the equation. In contrast, Lafayette College and the Opportunity Network have developed a multiplier effect in the form of an investment that expands diversity at a highly competitive liberal arts college and enriches the experience for low-income, first-generation students.

Issues of college access continue to make headlines. The Lafayette College-Opportunity Network partnership moves beyond the debate about access by supporting students not only through the admissions process but throughout their college careers.

Through the partnership, Lafayette will admit, with each incoming freshman class, three to six well-qualified applicants from the Opportunity Network and provide them with financial aid to fully meet their needs during their college years. Students attending Lafayette through the partnership will be spared having to overcome the major obstacles to higher education faced by so many first-generations students — cost and a lack of information and guidance needed to navigate the admissions process.

But gaining admission to college is only half the battle. Today, even high-achieving high school students are graduating without the tools needed to excel in a college environment that often is dramatically different from their home and high school. Too many students need to learn how to manage time and money, how to advocate for themselves, how to find and ask for academic help, how to adapt to life on a college campus where most students come from higher-income backgrounds, and how to build a network of people willing to support them in school and beyond.

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The Next Affirmative Action

August 02, 2013

On August 28, 1963, America witnessed what was arguably the greatest demonstration for racial justice in the history of the country. Half a century after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the looming question of racial equality in America remains.

In the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, PhilanTopic is publishing a ten-part series, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in which some of America's most important writers explore our race issues, past and present.

In the fourth installment of that series (click here for the third, "A House Divided," by Thomas J. Sugrue), Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy program at the New America Foundation, argues that while affirmative action "as we know it is dying," the Supreme Court's targeting of current policies may be "an opportunity to change the way people think about race and higher education." The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

Affirmative-actionAffirmative action as we know it is dying. A growing number of states have moved to prohibit public universities from considering race in admissions, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in an anti-affirmative action lawsuit that left little doubt about where the Court's conservative majority stands. Less than a decade after the Court upheld racial admissions preferences in Grutter v. Bollinger, newer jurists like Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts seem ready to render unconstitutional a policy that has helped generations of minority students grab a rung on the ladder of opportunity.

The Court's likely decision is particularly odious given the college admissions apparatus it will leave in place. Elite colleges warp and corrupt the meritocratic admissions process in a wide variety of ways. Academically substandard athletes, for example, are allowed in so they can play for the amusement of alumni and help shore up the fundraising base. While some men's football and basketball players come from low-income and minority households, many athletes at the highly selective colleges where affirmative action really matters engage in sports like crew and lacrosse that are associated with white, privileged backgrounds. Colleges also give preference to the children of legacies, professors, celebrities, politicians, and people who write large checks to the general fund. All of these groups are also disproportionately wealthy and white.

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