College Access & Admissions

Overview

College Access & Admissions

Covering Americans’ access to college is nothing less than covering the American Dream.

Getting into college opens the door to more knowledge and skills, of course, but also better jobs and other advantages, including a longer, healthier life.

Covering Americans’ access to college is nothing less than covering the American Dream.

Getting into college opens the door to more knowledge and skills, of course, but also better jobs and other advantages, including a longer, healthier life.

But access to college isn’t universal or equitable. Approximately 40% of all American adults — and about 30 percent of those aged 18-24 — haven’t taken a single college course.

Then there’s the question of what kinds of colleges students in different demographic and socioeconomic groups have access to. When low-income students do attend college, they’re more likely to go to less selective and less well-funded institutions. Less selective institutions tend to meet fewer of students’ financial needs, offer less counseling and support, and have higher dropout rates.

Investigations into such inequities, such as admissions preferences given to wealthy students and “legacies,” have drawn a great deal of attention (and important journalism prizes).

The topic of college access offers plenty of territory for journalists to explore, including the quality of students’ K-12 courses; admissions tests such as the ACT and SAT; the process of completing applications; and the challenge of paying tuition and other expenses. (Navigating the notoriously complicated and underfunded financial aid system is an entirely separate genre of coverage.)

The modules below provide resources to help reporters cover college access, including:

  • A glossary of terms commonly used in the college admissions process

  • Data sources, key experts and leading organizations in the college access world

  • A curated collection of recent stories on college access

Updated March 2020

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in a controversial case to grant in-state tuition benefits to some undocumented immigrant students. 
Source: Flickr/ via peoplesworld (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Georgia Supreme Court Considers Whether DACA Students Pay In-State Tuition

In-state tuition for undocumented immigrant college students is again in the spotlight this week in a case that’s made its way to the Georgia Supreme Court. Central to the arguments the justices will hear is whether students living in Georgia who have been granted federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals should be considered lawful state residents. 

Twitter/@YahooNews
Blog: The Educated Reporter

CNN Debate Aside, Ed. Finds Way Into Presidential Race

Education didn’t exactly make a splash in this week’s Republican presidential debate — barely a ripple, actually — but the issue has gained considerable attention in the 2016 contest for the White House, from debates over the Common Core to proposals on higher education access and affordability.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Morris Jeff Community School in Louisiana, an  International Baccalaureate school. (Source: Flickr/Bart Everson)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Schools With Tough Tests Send More Low-Income Kids to College

Schools that that teach low-income students a notoriously demanding curriculum are almost twice as likely to see those students enroll in college, a new report shows.

This news comes on the heels of growing research suggesting that challenging assessments, which are a staple of the International Baccalaureate program featured in the report, help students develop a deeper understanding of key subjects like math and history. That “deeper learning,” in turn, may lead to more college opportunities. 

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas
Webinar

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas
Back-to-School Webinar

For education reporters, coming up with fresh angles for back-to-school stories is an annual challenge. Two veteran education journalists—Steve Drummond (NPR) and Beth Hawkins (MinnPost)—share smart tips for digging deep, and keeping ahead of the curve on the latest trends. We discuss new ways of approaching the first day of school, ideas for unique profiles, strategies for data projects and how to make the most of your publication’s multimedia resources. 

Speakers

A mock schoolhouse outside the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. (Flickr/elonjoned)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

NCLB Rewrite Survives Senate Vote

It’s been a hugely busy week for education reporters on Capitol Hill, as the Senate plowed its way through the Every Child Achieves Act, one of the leading contenders to replace No Child Left Behind as the nation’s framework for funding public schools.

The Senate approved passage of the bill Thursday with 81-17 vote. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Money Magazine’s College Rankings Examine How Much ‘Value’ Students Get

The folks at Money magazine are largely doing the work the White House sought to do but hasn’t: rate colleges and universities by the extra boost they give students in landing financially rewarding careers.

Released this week, Money’s rating system ranks more than 700 schools according to an in-house rubric for measuring how much value a college offers students given its price of attendance. 

New Insights on State Funding for Higher Education
Multimedia

New Insights on State Funding for Higher Education
2015 EWA National Seminar

The Great Recession saw most states drastically cut their spending on public colleges, leading most of those colleges to increase their tuition. As the national economy continues to recover, how has state funding for postsecondary education fared and what does it mean for students and their families?

  • Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post (Moderator)
  • Daniel Hurley, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Laura Perna, University of Pennsylvania
  • Ray Scheppach, University of Virginia
The Impact of International Students in Higher Education
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The Impact of International Students in Higher Education
2015 EWA National Seminar

At one flagship public university, the number of undergraduate students from China jumped from 37 in 2000 to 2,898 this year. As public universities recruited more international students, what impact has the increased diversity had on students’ academic and social lives?

  • Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed (Speaker)
  • Peggy Blumenthal, Institute of International Education
  • Gil Latz, Association of International Education Administrators
  • Nicole Tami, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Can FAFSA Be Fixed?
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Can FAFSA Be Fixed?
2015 EWA National Seminar

How many questions does the crucial federal financial aid form really need? Proposals to simplify have ranged from trimming the form’s dozens of questions to replacing the form with just few queries on a postcard. This session illuminates how key questions can affect how much aid a student receives.

EWA Radio

After Pushback, White House Yields on College Ratings
EWA Radio: Episode 28

After nearly two years of public debate, and vociferous pushback from the higher education community, the White House announced it is pulling back on plans to rate the nation’s colleges based on a complex matrix of performance measures and student outcomes. Paul Fain, news editor for Inside Higher Ed has been following this story closely since the beginning, and he helped break the news that the Obama administration was scrapping the most controversial parts of its original proposal.

He spoke with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about who’s surprised by the decision (hint: not a lot of people), and the role played by aggressive lobbying against the rating plan by much of the higher education community. Fain and Richmond also discussed college ratings and consumer tools already available, and how to answer parents and students who ask for advice on choosing a school.

(Flickr/Wolfram Burner)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Influx of International Students Spurs U.S. Colleges to Change

If you’re a student at an American college or university, chances are you’ll be living and learning in the midst of a more diverse student body than students who attended school a decade ago.

Recent years have seen an influx of international students to American colleges and universities. While the trend certainly isn’t new, it’s becoming more prevalent, according to a panel of experts at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar.

Game Day at the University of Iowa. Focusing on how athletic programs influence a university's operations is a smart story for reporters, says Inside Higher Ed's editor Scott Jaschik. (Flickr/Phil Roeder)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ten Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

Editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed Scott Jaschik’s panel “Top 10 Higher Ed Stories You Should Be Covering This Year” has attracted such a crowd every year that this year he began  his presentation  at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago by noting that he’d been asked in the halls whether he’d be charting new territory. Although some stories remain fixtures on his must-cover list, there are new trends that education reporters should track, he told the roughly 80 attendees.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

An ‘H’ for ‘Hispanic’ at Many HBCUs

Small class sizes, athletic scholarship opportunities and track records for serving low-income, first-generation college students could be what’s driving the growth of populations of Hispanic students at historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs

Johnson Gate at Harvard University. Researchers say low-income high school students with strong academic records aren't getting shut out of college opportunities. (Flickr/Wally Gobetz)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Opening the Door to Student College Success

In the conversations surrounding low-income students’ access to college, there’s one statistic that Harold Levy finds most worrisome: Among those students who are in the top quartile academically and also among the lowest quartile financially, 22 percent never take the ACT or SAT.

That means many very smart, very poor kids aren’t even getting close to college.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Suspended Mexican-Studies Program More Than a Major to Colorado Protesters

Protesters at the University of Northern Colorado argue it shouldn’t matter whether the temporarily suspended Mexican-American studies program only had two students in it.

The university stopped accepting applications for the program in March due to low enrollment. “Just two students are seeking a Mexican-American studies degree this year, continuing a downward trend since 2010-11, when the programs had 11 students,” The Denver Post reported. 

Source: Flickr/ COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hispanics More Optimistic Than Most About Higher Ed Access, Affordability

When asked in a recent poll whether education beyond high school is available and affordable to those who need it, Hispanic respondents were optimistic.

The results of a recent Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll reveal that while overall, Americans feel higher education is not affordable, the majority of Hispanics feel it is. And on the issue of access, Hispanics were also more confident than white and black survey-takers. 

Report

Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities
A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students

Year after year, in every state and community in our nation, students
from low-income families are less likely than other students to reach
advanced levels of academic performance, even when demonstrating
the potential to do so. These income-based “excellence gaps” appear
in elementary school and continue through high school. It is a
story of demography predetermining destiny, with bright low-
income students becoming what one research team referred to as a
“persistent talent underclass.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Vegas Campus Claims Nevada’s First HSI Title

On Monday, the College of Southern Nevada became the state’s first Hispanic-serving institution — a designation that two more Nevada colleges also might earn in the near future as the Las Vegas Valley’s Latino population continues to grow. 

Report

The Condition of Latinos in Education: 2015 Factbook
Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education is committed to using data to inform public policy and institutional practice to achieve our mission of accelerating student success for Latinos in higher education. We know college success does not begin at the college gates. Every educational experience from early childhood to high school and into the workforce influences the potential for college success.

Students at New York University work on a computer programming project. More interactive learning is expected to be a hot topic in the coming year on both the K-12 and higher education beats. (Flickr/Matylda Czarnecka)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months: 

Revamping No Child Left Behind

Gymnasiums like these can be sites for explaining to families the process of applying for DACA. By Tedder (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

For Undocumented Immigrants, High Schools Can Play a Key Role

As many as 3.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which sets aside the threat of deportation and grants work privileges to eligible residents. Among the several conditions necessary to qualify for DACA approval is a high-school degree or its equivalent. That’s where schools enter the picture.

Cadets celebrate graduation at West Point. A USA Today investigation of  congressional influence over the nomination process at elite military academies was one of the year's most memorable education stories. Flickr/U.S. Army (Creative Commons)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

From the Beat: Memorable Education Stories of 2014

When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)

Attitude Adjustment: The Impact of Mentoring and Psychology
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Attitude Adjustment: The Impact of Mentoring and Psychology
2014 Higher Ed Semiar

Academics are just part of the story for many students entering college – a whole new culture of learning awaits them. But if they are first-generation college students, those cultural challenges can derail a promising postsecondary career. New research is exploring the effects mentoring programs and brief psychological interventions can have on low-income, minority and first-generation students. What can colleges do to promote resiliency and support student well-being for all students?  Are such efforts merely too much “coddling” of students by campuses? 

What Should the College Student Experience Look Like in the 21st Century?
Multimedia

What Should the College Student Experience Look Like in the 21st Century?
2014 Higher Ed Semiar

Can the United States continue to sustain financially the notion of residential college experience?  What are parents and students expecting when they choose a college?  How has the rise of the “value consumer” altered the landscape of the 21st Century college campus?  How will the changing demographics (e.g., increased calls for accountability in higher education, MOOCs, and other models for delivering education) affect the traditional residential experience? 

Ratings and Rankings: What They Really Mean for Colleges and Universities
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Ratings and Rankings: What They Really Mean for Colleges and Universities
2014 Higher Ed Semiar

As the higher ed community eagerly awaits the details of President Obama’s plan to rate colleges and universities and perhaps tie their access to federal funding to their performance, third-party rankings and ratings of colleges and universities continue to proliferate. What effects do these reports have on the priorities of these institutions and how should journalists interpret each new list of “bests”?

Fewer than half of Hispanic students who took the ACT this year met the college readiness benchmarks in math or science, according to a new report. Source: Hoodr/ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

The ACT, STEM and Latino Students

Fewer than half of Hispanic students who took the ACT this year met the college readiness benchmarks in math or science, but those who actually expressed interest in STEM fared better on the college admissions exam.

Veterans Day: Leaving the Battlefield for the College Classroom
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Veterans Day: Leaving the Battlefield for the College Classroom

Last fall at EWA’s Higher Education Seminar, we examined the challenges of military personnel making the transition from soldiers to students. Given today’s holiday, it seemed like a good time to re-share this post about the panel discussion, held at Northeastern University in Boston. 

Far more students seeking higher education degrees are part-time, older than the traditional 18-22 set and well into their careers. And colleges have been flagged for their lagging efforts to address the unique needs of these mature students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Reporting on College Financial Aid? EWA Can Help

Who deserves money for college more: students whose test scores and grades qualify them for “merit aid” or students with greater financial need who might be unable to afford college otherwise? New research suggests that colleges might increasingly be favoring less-needy students, in a quest to boost their schools’ rankings and help their bottom lines. Does that finding hold up to scrutiny? And how do colleges’ decisions on need-based versus merit aid affect college enrollment and completion?

Report

A Federal Work Study Reform Agenda to Better Serve Low-Income Students
Young Invincibles

Decades ago, a young person could graduate from high school, join a company, and receive all the training on the job that she or he needed for a successful career. Today, the world is different. A young man with only a high school diploma now earns 75 cents on the inflation-adjusted dollar his father made in 1980. Even worse, a brutal recession and sluggish recovery has young people confronting double-digit unemployment rates. Fierce competition for entry-level positions requires our generation to not only acquire post-secondary education, but also gain on-the-job experience and skills.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Higher Ed: Reporting on the College Student Experience

Our annual Higher Education Seminar took place in Dallas earlier this month — Southern Methodist University was our gracious host — and there have been some first-rate stories produced by EWA members who joined us for the event.

SMU 2014, Photo by Kim Leeson
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Data Might Help Colleges Sort Out the ‘Murky Middle’

Stephanie Dupaul of Southern Methodist University put the theme of EWA’s 2014 Higher Education seminar, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience,” to effective use during a session exploring the use of data by colleges:

Deborah Santiago shares information on financial aid at the EWA Spanish-Language Media Convening. Source: Jay Torres, Diario La Estrella
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Adding It Up: Financial Aid and Latino Students

“How will I pay for college?”

Sound familiar? I’m still asking myself this question three years after I graduated.

Though not unique to college-bound Latino students, this question is one many of them face – perhaps even more dauntingly than their peers.

Deborah Santiago of Excelencia in Education discussed the process of college finance as it particularly relates to Latinos at the Education Writers Association’s Spanish-Language Media Convening in Dallas Sept. 4.

Report

Gains and Gaps: Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion
Martha J. Bailey, Susan M. Dynarski

We describe changes over time in inequality in postsecondary education using nearly seventy years of data from the U.S. Census and the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth. We find growing gaps between children from high- and low-income families in college entry, persistence, and graduation. Rates of college completion increased by only four percentage points for low-income cohorts born around 1980 relative to cohorts born in the early 1960s, but by 18 percentage points for corresponding cohorts who grew up in high-income families.

Michelle Asha Cooper(L), director of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, speaks at the Higher Education Seminar put on by the Education Writers Association and hosted by Southern Methodist University (Credit: SMU 2014, Photo by Kim Leeson)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts: The White House Plan to Rate Colleges Has Major Issues

A new rating system backed by the White House aims to evaluate nearly all of the nation’s colleges and universities. Roughly 6,000 schools that educate around 22 million students are about to endure an unprecedented amount of federal scrutiny.

And though a version of the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System is scheduled to be unveiled in the fall, policy watchers are still unsure of what’s in store.

Source: Flickr/College of DuPage Newsroom
Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Help the 21st Century College Student

When Mark Milliron met with an advertising team to promote a new type of college in Texas, he wasn’t expecting fireworks. Still, the pitch floored him.

“The Texas Two-Step: Sign Up. Succeed.”

It was the sentence that would appear on billboards and in radio advertisements, enticing thousands of working adults to enroll in an online college – Western Governors University Texas. And it totally missed the point.

Lipscomb University's Competency Assessment and Development Center in Nashville, Tenn. 
Photo credit: Melissa Bailey
Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Chance to Earn College Credit for What You Already Know

A car salesman, a secretary and a military vet filed into a conference room for a new kind of high-stakes test – one that could earn them up to 30 college credits in a single day.

Post

Loyola Medical School Alone In Enrolling Undocumented Dreamers – In Other News – Crain’s Chicago Business

Seven undocumented medical students started classes at Loyola University Chicago on Aug. 4, but the school still is the only one in the state—and possibly the country—to intentionally enroll such students.

From Northwestern University to Southern Illinois University, no other medical or dental school publicly has embraced students who came to the United States illegally as children but have spent most of their lives here.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study Examines Performance of Hispanic Serving Institutions

New research challenges the assumption that Latino students who attend Hispanic Serving Institutions are less likely to graduate than their peers at other colleges and universities. HSIs have undergraduate enrollments that are at least 25 percent Hispanic.

Researchers examined the graduation rates of Latino and black students attending HSIs and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Texas from 1997 to 2008.

Prepping Our Kids for College: What Will the Next Decade Teach Us?
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Prepping Our Kids for College: What Will the Next Decade Teach Us?

David Coleman accepted the challenge to rethink our children’s core curriculum across the nation. Now the architect of the Common Core is tackling the SAT and the testing that measures our youth for higher education. What’s up?

Speakers: Jane Stoddard Williams, David Coleman

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: “Tough Love” Standards Should be Applied to Colleges

Low-income students are more likely to attend colleges and universities that do the poorest job of producing graduates.

And on the other end of the spectrum, many elite higher education institutions are doing little to enroll poor students. 

A new report from the advocacy group The Education Trust entitled “Tough Love: Bottom-Line Quality Standards for Colleges,” suggests that the government should impose quality standards on both sorts of institutions.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

How Will Starbucks Tuition Program Impact Latinos?

Starbucks made a splash Monday when the company announced plans to pay tuition for its employees to take online classes from Arizona State University. 

Employees who are admitted as juniors or seniors will receive full tuition scholarships, those with less will receive partial scholarships.

To qualify, employees must work at least 20 hours a week and qualify to be admitted to Arizona State.

While the program is not explicitly designated as benefitting minorities, it is clear that many of those Starbucks employees who stand to benefit are Latino.

Seminar

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience
2014 Higher Ed Seminar

For many college students — whether fresh out of high school or adults returning to school — their most serious obstacles to a degree won’t be homework or tests, but rather the challenges of navigating student life. Colleges are now being forced to face the longstanding problems that have often led to students’ flailing and failing on their own. 

Scott Jaschik addresses reporters at EWA's 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top 10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with  an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Live From Nashville: EWA’s 67th National Seminar

I’ve often made the case that there’s no reporting beat where the reporters are more collegial – or more committed to their work - than education. EWA’s 67th National Seminar, hosted by Vanderbilt University, helped to prove that point.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Arne Duncan: Educational Equity Is Federal Priority

Sixty years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, there’s still a wide gulf in educational opportunities for low-income and minority students and their more advantaged peers, including when it comes to access to rigorous coursework aimed at preparing students for college and the workforce, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the audience at the Education Writers Association’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville today. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hopes of “Dreamers” Rise in Two States

This week, the spirits of undocumented immigrant students were lifted in two large states: Virginia and Florida. 

In Virginia, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring announced on Tuesday that students raised in the state but brought into the country illegally as young children could qualify for in-state tuition.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Stay Ahead of the Curve With EWA Webinars

In case you missed it, the recording is now available for our webinar on the approaching 60th anniversary of  Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision which outlawed segregation in the nation’s public schools.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Immigrant In-State Tuition Less Likely in Florida

Hope is fading that Florida will join other states in offering in-state tuition to certain undocumented immigrant residents attending public colleges and universities.

The Miami Herald reports that Florida Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, a Republican, cut off the bill’s progress by announcing that his committee would not hold a vote on it. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Fla. Governor Supports In-State Tuition Proposal

Despite having one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, Florida legislators have struggled for years to drum up support for a measure granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant college students.

Now the proposal is beginning to look more within reach. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, expressed support for the measure for the measure this week.

Key Coverage

Getting Into College — and Paying for It: A Teen’s First Adult Decision

 More than three-quarters of current college freshmen were admitted to their first-choice schools, according to a recently released survey from the University of California at Los Angeles, but only 56.9 percent chose to attend, an all-time low for the annual survey. Students cited high costs and financial aid as the reasons they declined their top schools.

Key Coverage

Wealthier Families Increasingly Benefit from Federal, College Financial Aid

It’s not just colleges and universities that are shifting their financial aid from lower-income to higher-income students.

Tuition tax credits and other tax breaks to offset the cost of higher education — nearly invisible federal government subsidies for families that send their kids to college — also disproportionately benefit more affluent Americans. So do tax-deductible savings plans and the federal work-study program, which gives taxpayer dollars to students who take campus jobs to help pay for their expenses.

Key Coverage

How Some Families Pay Less for College Than Others

The sticker price at Pennsylvania State University runs about $30,000 a year for in-state students. At Swarthmore College, it’s nearly twice that.

Yet Swarthmore ends up being cheaper for most students. That’s because this private liberal-arts college near Philadelphia offers many families a hefty discount, bringing down the average cost to even less than taxpayer-subsidized Penn State’s.

Nick Mills of McKinney and his twin brother received scholarships from the University of North Texas based on academic success and family income, which made the school within financial reach. As states have cut spending on higher education, public universities have raised tuition to make up the difference. (Tom Fox/Courtesy: Dallas Morning News)
Key Coverage

Data Show Poorer Families Are Bearing the Brunt of College Price Hikes

America’s colleges and universities are quietly shifting the burden of their big tuition increases onto low-income students, while many higher-income families are seeing their college costs rise more slowly, or even fall, an analysis of federal data shows.

It’s a trend financial-aid experts and some university administrators worry will further widen the gap between the nation’s rich and poor as college degrees—especially four-year ones—drift beyond the economic reach of growing numbers of students.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study: Latino Student Success Depends on Financial Aid

A new study examines the strategies used to improve Latino students’ access to financial aid in San Antonio, Texas.

The advocacy group Excelencia in Education conducted the study entitled “The Impact of Financial Aid on Student College Access and Success: The San Antonio Experience.”

The study highlights the importance of financial aid by noting that U.S. Census Bureau data from 2011 showed that only 12 percent of Latino adults in San Antonio have an associate’s degree or higher — in a city that is 72 percent Latino.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

California Universities Unite to Increase Minority PhDs

Four elite California research universities are pooling their resources to increase the number of Latino and black students earning PhDs in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles have pledged to work together to increase the number of underrepresented minorities earning doctorates in STEM-related fields. In turn, the universities hope to also increase the number of minority faculty members in those fields.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

STEM and Student Skills: Join Our EWA Seminar in Los Angeles

Are you an education journalist? Do you want to know more about how schools are preparing students for future workforce, and what changes are coming to your local classrooms when it comes to computer science and math instruction? Are you familiar with the latest research on how students learn, and whether current instructional methods are aligned with those findings?  Would you like to be a more confident writer when it comes to reporting on student demographics?

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Poll: Latinos Link Education to ‘American Dream’

The American Dream narrative is a storyline so deeply embedded in American popular culture that as writers, we use it often in our storytelling.

Most journalists who seek to write narrative stories have used this dream concept before. I framed a story about a young man, Luis Duarte, from El Salvador who went on to attend Harvard University, around this theme. He struggled with the decision to attend Harvard because he worked while in high school to help financially support his family and he was afraid to leave them behind.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

‘Dream Project’ Helps Undocumented Students

The Virginia-based nonprofit “Dream Project” provides counseling and scholarships to undocumented immigrant students so they can attend college.

The group is especially important because Virginia does not offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. The program offers mentoring, professional and academic activities and scholarships of about $1,000-$2,000 to deserving students.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Blog: The Educated Reporter

State of the Union: What Education Analysts Expect to Hear

The annual State of the Union address to Congress – and the nation – is President Obama’s opportunity to outline his administration’s goals for the coming months, but it’s also an opportunity to look back at the education priorities outlined in last year’s address – and what progress, if any, has been made on them.

Among the big buzzwords in the 2013 State of the Union: college affordability, universal access to early childhood education, and workforce development.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Analysis Offers Peek at College-Age Student Demographics of Future

A new interactive tool created by the Chronicle of Higher Education offers some insights into the rapidly changing face of college students in America.

The publication took a look at the demographic profile of four-year-olds versus 18-year-olds in an effort to project what college-aged students will be like 14 years from now.

The takeaway: there will be far fewer young people of college-going age, more of that smaller pool of students will be Hispanic or Asian, and fewer will be black or white.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Reports: Universities Helping Close Achievement Gap for Latino Students

Two new reports by The Education Trust recognize universities that are making the greatest strides in closing achievement gaps for Latino students.

The first study identifies San Diego State University and the University of Southern California for significantly increasing graduation rates among Latino students.

According to the report, the six-year graduation rate for Latino students who began school in 1996 was 31 percent. The rate for students who began in 2005 improved to 58.8 percent.  At USC, the graduation rate reached nearly the same level as white students.

Report

Report Confirms Early College High School Students Much More Likely to Earn a College Degree

Early College high school students are significantly more likely to enroll in college and earn a degree than their peers, according to the results of an updated study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Some 23 percent of students received an associate’s degree within two years compared with 2 percent for those attending other high schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

States Balk as GED Gets More Expensive

Life for the nearly 40 million Americans without a high school diploma could be about to get harder as testing companies who create high school equivalency exams are rolling out tougher – and in some cases — more expensive

Veterans Day: Leaving the Battlefield for the College Classroom
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Veterans Day: Leaving the Battlefield for the College Classroom

At EWA’s Higher Education Seminar, held earlier this fall at Northeastern University, we examined the challenges of military personnel making the transition from soldiers to students. Given today’s holiday, it seemed like a good time to share a post from my EWA colleague Mikhail Zinshteyn.

Far more students seeking higher education degrees are part-time, older than the traditional 18-22 set and well into their careers. And colleges have been flagged for their lagging efforts to address the unique needs of these mature students.

EWA Radio

Obama’s Proposal: Will Performance Ratings Hurt Student Access?

Last month, President Obama unveiled an ambitious proposal to reform higher education by tying a college’s access to federal financial aid for students to a new set of ratings the government would produce. Would universities, forced to focus more on student outcomes, be less inclined to enroll students from backgrounds that traditionally have been underserved by higher education?

EWA Radio

Getting In: The Debate Continues

For many students, the first hurdle in their pursuit of a degree is the admissions process. As the debates swirl about whether colleges should offer special considerations—whether race-based or class-based—in choosing which students to accept, what is known about how much access students of all backgrounds have to higher education?

EWA Radio

The Changing Face of College

The next few years could be a turning point for higher education, as the traditional student population starts to shift dramatically. How long will the total number of new high school graduates continue to decline? Of that pool of students, what percentages will be black and Latino or from low-income backgrounds? What will these changes herald for postsecondary education?

EWA Radio

Black and Latino Males: Getting To and Through College

Shaun Harper, director of the Center for Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, previews new research on how New York City addressed the challenge of guiding more of its black and Latino male students to postsecondary success. Recorded Saturday, Sept. 28 at EWA’s 2013 Higher Ed Seminar, Guess Who’s Coming to Campus: What Demographic Changes Mean for Colleges and Reporters.

The Changing Face of College
Multimedia

The Changing Face of College

The next few years could be a turning point for higher education, as the traditional student population starts to shift dramatically. How long will the total number of new high school graduates continue to decline? Of that pool of students, what percentages will be black and Latino or from low-income backgrounds? What will these changes herald for postsecondary education?

EWA Radio

The Struggle to Fill Seats

With the total numbers of new high school graduates dropping while tuition prices rise, many private colleges and universities have seen their enrollment numbers decline. Because most of these schools depend on tuition revenue in order to operate, these shortfalls pose serious threats to their existence. Which schools are in jeopardy and why? Speakers: Jarrett L. Carter, Founder and Editor, HBCUDigest.com; William S. Reed, Chair, Davis Educational Foundation; Jon Marcus, Contributing Editor, The Hechinger Report (moderator) Recorded Friday, Sept.

For Good Measure: Assessing College Performance
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For Good Measure: Assessing College Performance

What’s the best way to determine how effectively a college goes about the business of educating its students? If popular college rankings in the media are flawed, what other models of crunching the data might deliver more illuminating comparisons? To what extent is a college’s success at graduating students dependent on the types of students it enrolls? This session offers insights on new approaches on how to use the data available to see a more complete picture of college performance.

Webinar

What’s the Price? ‘Pay As You Earn’ and Income-Based Repayment
57 minutes

Who will benefit more from the federal government’s new “Pay As You Earn” income-based repayment program for student loans: Recent graduates struggling to find jobs in a tough economy? Or high-paid professionals such as lawyers and business executives, who might be able to wipe away tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt? Why are the income-based repayment options so underused when as many as one out of five borrowers has fallen behind on payments?

10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering This Year
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10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering This Year

Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik talks to reporters about 10 stories he wants to see in 2013 (added bonus: three “don’ts” to observe while covering the higher ed beat).

This address was a part of “Degrees vs. Debt: Making College More Affordable,” EWA’s Nov. 2-3 2012 seminar for higher ed reporters at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

EWA Radio

Who’s Subsidizing Whom and Other Secrets of Tuition Pricing

When students pay different amounts to take the same courses, does one student’s tuition go toward another’s education? We take close look at this debate as part of a discussion of the factors that college and university administrators consider when they determine tuition prices. Panlists: Jon Marcus, Hechinger Report (moderator); Steve Hurlburt, Delta Cost Project; Paul Lingenfelter, State Higher Education Executive Officers; Richard Vedder, Ohio University/Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Buskin Lecture: Mayor Cory Booker
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Buskin Lecture: Mayor Cory Booker

The Mayor of Newark, NJ speaks at EWA’s 65th National Seminar on education inequality, innovation, and the need for tough questions in school coverage.

Webinar

Deciding Diversity: The Supreme Court Reconsiders Affirmative Action
53 minutes

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the issue of affirmative action in college admissions for the first time since 2003. The plaintiff in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin argues that her race was the deciding factor when she was denied admission to the school. Regardless of the outcome, this case will have major consequences for schools around the country for years to come.

EWA Interview: UCLA’s John Pryor on the CIRP Freshman Survey
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EWA Interview: UCLA’s John Pryor on the CIRP Freshman Survey

How can higher education reporters use CIRP survey data in their stories? How are educational institutions using the information? John Pryor, director of CIRP at UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, gives guidance in this interview conducted at EWA’s Higher Education Seminar on Nov. 4-5 at UCLA.

What Online Education Means for College Classrooms
Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Online Education Means for College Classrooms

Early registration is now open for EWA’s 2013 Higher Education Seminar, to be held Sept.28-29 at Northeastern University in Boston.This is a journalists-only  event, and you can register and apply for a scholarship here.In the meantime, EWA’s 66th National Seminar was recently held at Stanford University, and we asked some of the education reporters attending to contribute blog posts from the sessions.Today’s guest blogger is Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today.&

Report

ACT Research and Policy Issues

This website maintained by a leader in college admissions tests offers reports and data on issues such as “The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2011” and examinations of achievement gaps among students from different backgrounds.

Organization

The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI)

The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles offers a number of resources regarding issues of college access and admissions, the most notable of which is their annual Freshman Survey. The survey gathers a range of information — from their academic background to their social lives — from the incoming class of college student

Organization

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is the leading professional organization for university officials who manage the processes that award students financial assistance. Their advocacy and policy work on college affordability and student debt can serve as useful resources in reporting, and their national conference often highlights key issues regarding college costs.

Organization

The College Board

The College Board is known primarily for their SAT and Advanced Placement tests, which play critical roles in the college admissions process, both for students and admissions officers across the country. The College Board, however, does also have an Advocacy & Policy Center that actively researches key issues of college access and success. Their annual reports regarding trends in college costs and financial aid are key tools of the higher education beat.

Organization

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) offers guidance for those involved in various aspects of the college admission process, both at the collegiate and secondary school level. NACAC’s policies govern everything from how a college can represent and promote itself and its services to when a college should announce financial aid decisions to students. They also address appropriate and ethical conduct for high school counselors and college admissions officers.

NACAC also publishes data on trends in college admissions through an annual report called The State of College Admission. The report is based on surveys of high school counselors and representatives of colleges and universities.

Organization

The National College Access Network (NCAN)

The National College Access Network (NCAN) is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that provides resources and support to member organizations.NCAN defines a college access organization as “an entity that helps under-served students plan, prepare and pay for college.” An agency need not do all three of those things but must do at least one to be considered a college access organization.NCAN has a directory of college access organizations by state, and the leaders of such organizations are often eager to highlight their work or help shine light on issues within their field.

Key Coverage

In California, Push for College Diversity Starts Earlier

“ANAHEIM, Calif. — As the Supreme Court weighs a case that could decide the future of affirmative action in college admissions, California offers one glimpse of a future without it. California was one of the first states to abolish affirmative action, after voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996. Across the University of California system, Latinos fell to 12 percent of newly enrolled state residents in the mid-1990s from more than 15 percent, and blacks declined to 3 percent from 4 percent. At the most competitive campuses, at Berkeley and Los Angeles, the decline was much steeper.”

Key Coverage

Crowded Out

“In a paper presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, higher education professors Bradley Curs and Ozan Jaquette find that increased enrollment of out-of-state students at public research universities – often done to generate increased tuition revenue in the face of decreased state appropriations – is taking a toll on racial and socioeconomic diversity at the institutions.”

Key Coverage

Out-of-State Enrollment Decreases Minority, Low-Income Student Enrollment

In a paper presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, higher education professors Bradley Curs and Ozan Jaquette find that increased enrollment of out-of-state students at public research universities – often done to generate increased tuition revenue in the face of decreased state appropriations – is taking a toll on racial and socioeconomic diversity at the institutions.

Report

College Board Advocacy & Policy Center

The College Board’s center offers a considerable amount of research regarding college access and admissions, including a “Young Men of Color Initiative” and a “Trends in Higher Education” series.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Who Decides What’s Off the Record?

To do their jobs, education reporters on the federal beat depend on access to congressional staffers. But what happens when those staffers want anonymity while discussing policy at a public forum? I asked two reporters – Libby Nelson of Inside Higher Ed and Eric Kelderman of The Chronicle of Higher Education – to explain why they’re pushing back against what they contend is an unreasonable expectation.

Key Coverage

Paying $2 Million to Get Your Kid into Harvard?

Harvard’s senior communications officer, Jeff Neal, told NBC News the college is skeptical of admissions consulting agencies.

“While it is certainly possible that in individual cases an admissions consultant can be helpful to an applicant, we have encountered no evidence to indicate that is the case generally,” Neal told NBC News in an email. “More importantly, our process — and the very wide range of information we collect about applicants — is designed to give us the broadest possible view of their qualifications, regardless of whether they used a consultant or not.” 

Report

Debt, Jobs, Diversity and Who Gets In: A Survey of Admissions Directors

At a time of increasing national concern about debt levels of college students, a plurality of college admissions directors in a new survey by Inside Higher Ed indicated that current average loan volume for undergraduates is reasonable — and 22 percent of all admissions directors and 28 percent of those at private colleges would be comfortable with the average student debt being even higher than it is now. 

Report

2012 Condition of College and Career Readiness

Using the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and ACT® test scores, the Condition of College & Career Readiness reports provide national and state snapshots of college readiness of the graduating seniors of the class of 2012 who took the ACT in high school.

Key Coverage

Battling the High Cost of Higher Ed

This article from May 2012 examines the struggles that many students and families have faced in financing the costs of a college degree. It emphasizes the consumer side of the issue, tracing a few families as they navigate the steps of picking—and paying for—their kids to enroll in college.

Key Coverage

Gains in Access, Less in Success

This May 2012 article looks at a recently released college access study from the National Association of System Heads and Education Trust. The study found that while the college enrollment rates for students increased, their graduation rates did not improve enough to close the graduation gap significantly.

Report

A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education

This is the third major report the Lumina Foundation has released to assess the nation’s progress toward Lumina’s goal “to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The report found that only 38.3 percent of working-age Americans held a two- or four-year college degree in 2010, concluding that “if we continue on our current rate of production, only 79.8 million working-age Americans (46.5% of those aged 25-64) will hold degrees by 2025…This will leave us more than 23 million degrees short of the national 60 percent goal.”

Key Coverage

Counting Justices

Written in February 2012, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to consider an affirmative action in college admissions case originating in Florida, this article examines the prospects—and potential consequences—of the pending ruling. The story offers a concise summary of some of the court’s previous rulings on the controversial practice.

Key Coverage

Lure of Chinese Tuition Pushes Out Asian-Americans

This December 2011 article looks at a side effect of an emerging trend. As public colleges as universities enroll more international and out-of-state students—who pay higher tuition prices—Asian-American students are alleging that they are being rejected and replaced with students from China and other Asian nations.

Key Coverage

Financial Aid Not Always Going to Neediest College Students

This November 2011 report looks at a key dilemma in many college admission/financial aid decisions: merit aid. As colleges compete to attract the students deemed most desirable—generally because of credentials such as high test scores or grade point averages—scholarship money that might have been directed to students with greater financial need often gets redirected to the more coveted applicants.

Report

2010-2011 Snapshot Report

The NSCRC examined its databases of information on college students to produce a series of reports that look at national trends in student persistence, mobility, concurrent enrollment, along with information regarding adult learners.

Report

The Case for Change in College Admissions: A Call for Individual and Collective Leadership

The Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice and the Education Conservancy gathered 180 leaders in admissions for colleges across the country to examine the practices they used to choose which students to enroll. The report concludes that the process is an “inwardly focused selective admissions system – one that has evolved to advance individual interests of colleges while falling short of serving the ideals traditionally associated with higher education.

Key Coverage

Application Inflation

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. With skyrocketing numbers of applicants and declining percentages of students accepted, how are admissions offices handling the multiple pressures they face? Are schools bringing in more and more accomplished students, or just the same kind of enrollment class compared to students from a decade ago?

Organization

The Institute for College Access and Success

The Institute for College Access and Success is an advocacy group that works to promote college affordability. Based in San Francisco, they can offer perspectives on various aspects of college costs, such as net price calculators, student debt, and income-based repayment of student loans.