EPLC Education Notebook
Monday, November 3, 2008
Content in this edition:
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
ELECTION DAY – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4
PENNSYLVANIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
The Pennsylvania State Board of Education continued its statewide hearings on the affordability of postsecondary education last week, meeting in Harrisburg on Tuesday and in Monroeville on Wednesday. In Harrisburg, the Board heard from current and former students about the impact of carrying unprecedented education debt loads.
Bob Gorinski spoke to the pressures he and his wife experience in their household budget, raising a family of three while paying almost $1,200 a month for their combined 14 years of education toward physical therapy degrees. Gorinski said both he and his wife worked while in school, took a full load of classes, and never changed majors, but still graduated from public universities with more than $100,000 in combined debt. He said while they saw the debt coming, at age 18 you don’t fully understand what those numbers mean, and asked whether there was something they could have done differently.
Karyn Reinhold, a senior education major from Kutztown University, said she feels lucky her parents planned prudently to support her education. But she sees the stress her friends are enduring taking on additional jobs to make up for loans that are now being denied by banks and the anxiety her roommate experiences facing $36,000 in debt while entering the teaching profession where the starting pay is generally less than $38,000. Reinhold suggested the state help alleviate these pressures by increasing need-based grant aid, lowering interest rates on student loans, and expanding interest-free loans for those entering public service careers.
The Board also heard from a diverse cross-section of Northampton Community College and Harrisburg Area Community College students, representing immigrant students, teenage mothers who dropped out of high school, adult students seeking to update job-related skills, and students who do not qualify for financial aid.
Northampton student Leslie Jones, a single mother returning to school more than 20 years after high school, said she comes from a family where education is very important, just not affordable. Jones fretted about how she would address tuition payments combined with child care costs and the need to work to support her family, and told the Board her enthusiasm and desire to succeed academically is high, but she needs financial support to attain her goals.
Students praised the benefits of their educational experiences in helping them grow both personally and academically, and lauded the flexibility and relative low cost of Pennsylvania’s community colleges in allowing them to pursue their education. They echoed calls for PHEAA to change its current policies to allow students taking more than half their courses online to qualify for grant aid and asked for relief from increasing textbook costs.
Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, outlined the benefits of postsecondary education – both to the individual and to society – and laid out policy options for the state to improve higher education access for all students. Benso said the state should create a scholarship program for low-income students that would cover all remaining costs to attend a community college or PASSHE university once other financial aid options have been exhausted, covering tuition and associated fees as well as necessary remedial education. Benso also suggested the state index tuition to a student or family’s income.
The Board will wrap-up its hearings on postsecondary education affordability in Clarion on November 3.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
High School Reform
Early Childhood Mental HealthThe Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare recently announced the release of a University of Pittsburgh study on the Early Childhood Mental Health Project. The report, “Evaluation of the Infant/Toddler Systems Building Initiatives: Final Report for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program,” evaluates the implementation of the program as well as key activities and program contributions at various pilot sites across the state from June 2006 to June 2008. According to the report, regional stakeholders believe the project makes valuable contributions to the state’s infant and toddler mental health system by increasing awareness of children’s mental health issues, knowledge of services, supports and child development. Increased access to educational materials, referrals, support services, training and collaboration between child serving systems has made a positive difference for children and their families. The study notes that there is still much work to be done and makes several recommendations in terms of program goals, activities and outcomes.
School SafetyThe National Center for Education Statistics released a new report on "Student Victimization in U.S. Schools: Results From the 2005 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey." The report provides estimates of student victimization as defined by the 2005 School Crime Supplement to the 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. This survey is the nation’s primary source of information on crime victimization and the victims of crime in the United States. The report examines the characteristics of non-victims and victims of school crime, conditions of school climate (such as the presence of gangs, weapons and drugs) and the impact of security measures such as metal detectors, security cameras, and security guards on averting school crime.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.