Blog: Higher Ed Beat
“Word on the Beat” is a regular feature of The Educated Reporter, breaking down the buzzwords and helping you understand the issues of the day.
Word on the beat: First-generation students
One of the rare areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans these days might surprise you: Leaders of both parties are critical of a financial aid program that provides jobs to about 600,000 students.
If you missed EWA’s webinar, It’s Greek to Me: How to Report on Media-Averse Fraternities, the two speakers had plenty of resources to share with reporters looking to beef up their stories with experts and nationally culled data.
Michele Siqueiros recalled the day she arrived on a college campus.
“I thought I had arrived on another planet,” she told a recent gathering of journalists who attended the Education Writers Association’s fourth annual convening for Spanish-language media. “There were very few Latinos.”
Siqueiros, now the president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, a California nonprofit organization, said she was a straight A student in high school, but in college “I felt for the first time I wasn’t prepared.”
In 2006, Georgia State University had a problem. The graduation rate was an abysmal 41 percent. And in many cases, the dropouts were seniors who just needed a few credits more to earn their bachelor’s degree.
Unlike many other colleges struggling with high dropout rates, Georgia State took (in many cases, expensive) actions that seem to have actually worked. Today, 53 percent of their freshmen graduate within six years.
The often secretive and arbitrary-seeming acceptance and rejection decisions by elite colleges have long sparked controversy and, thus, news stories.
But new complaints by high-achieving students of Asian descent are raising questions about a kind of racism that may well be surprising to most Americans, as well as challenges to long-standing affirmative action policies, according to a panel of admissions experts who spoke at the Education Writers Association’s Higher Education conference Oct. 2-3.
Not Every Student Survey Deserves Coverage
Look for sample size, question bias in poll-based press releases.
Every higher education reporter gets peppered with public-relations pitches like these: Some new survey shows your local university made the list of preppiest, nerdiest, or even ‘most ratchet’ colleges.
“Most are for entertainment value,” said Steven Shepard, a Politico reporter. “They are fun and harmless.”
Finding the surveys that offer real value to readers can be a minefield for reporters, according to experts gathered at an Education Writers Association seminar in Atlanta Oct 2-3.
Covering the New Reality of Adult Learners at College
Non-traditional students account for almost half of undergraduates.
In the last year, newspapers published more than 100 stories focused on admissions to Harvard University, an institution with fewer than 7,000 undergraduates.
Meanwhile, a Nexis search over the same time period turns up fewer than 50 articles using the phrase “adult undergraduates.” The U.S. has 7.6 million undergraduates aged at least 22 – more than 1,000 times Harvard’s enrollment. These older students account for fully 44 percent of the population on the nation’s college campuses.
Free Speech on Campus Sparks Legal Battles, Safety Concerns
Controversial speakers present "teachable moments" and risks.
Campus racial conflicts, sports corruption scandals, and a new partisan divide over the perceived benefits of college are among the biggest potential storylines for journalists covering higher education these days, according to Inside Higher Ed co-founder and editor Scott Jaschik.
Your editor has just assigned you a story — students at a local university are planning a demonstration calling for the removal of a Confederate statue. Do you know what to bring, who to talk to, and how to cover it in a way that is balanced and contextualized?
Long the site of sit-ins, protests, and acts of civil disobedience, college campuses have, once again, become flash points for broader debates around race, free speech, and other highly-emotive issues.
Lisa Pemberton, an award-winning journalist and news team leader for The Olympian, knows well the challenges of covering protests, having spent much of her time recently covering racial tension and student protests at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.