82 years of Scripps College history
June 28th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

At Scripps College, the walls do talk

By Hannah Button and Michael Martinez, CNN

Claremont, California (CNN) - Every year since 1931, students graduating from Scripps College have made their mark on the campus of the women’s college just before they say good-bye.

Every graduating class in the college’s 82 year history has painted a mural along the same wall, often signing all the graduates' names.
It’s known on campus as “Graffiti Wall,” and it embodies the changing styles and ideas of generations of students at the all-women’s liberal arts college, the zeitgeist of their era.

“Graffiti Wall is a mirror reflecting the bold, historical heart of Scripps College,” said Lori Bettison-Varga, the college's president. “The student-created pictures and words are powerful, authentic expressions of each graduating class.”

The mural is an ever-changing update to the campus’ colonial Spanish mission architecture, and a living history of the students’ experiences. What began as a whimsical show of school spirit is now a permanent fixture on the Southern California campus. The wall spans the length of a rose garden, creating a space of contemplation and relaxation on a campus, as well as a beloved spot for alumnae who visit.

“The value lies in the fact that the entire history of student life at the college is somewhat recorded on that wall,” said Scripps library director Judy Harvey Sahak, who describes herself as the school’s “unofficial historian.”

The earliest images evoke the genesis of Scripps, with paintings that show the construction of buildings and young women as scholars, or young women dancing.

By 1942, as World War II consumed the United States, seniors illustrated an angelic figure encapsulated by a dark cloud.

In the heyday of hippie culture, the class of 1969 drew a peace sign and wrote what became a signature slogan of the era: “Give peace a chance.”

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Students stand up: Empowering bystanders
June 26th, 2013
11:48 AM ET

Teens trained to spot drama before it turns dangerous

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - Lauren Astley knew her ex-boyfriend was having a hard time getting over their breakup.

Nathaniel Fujita hadn't wanted to end their three-year relationship. He made it clear in a long e-mail, asking her to give him a chance to find "a part of you that still loves me." But after several "negotiated truces," as her mother calls them, it was over in May 2011, a few weeks before their graduation from Wayland High School in Massachusetts.

But Lauren, 18, didn't stop worrying about Nate, especially as he withdrew from his friends. She was known for being kind, caring and deeply involved in the lives of friends - attributes her classmates lauded in her senior yearbook, along with her singing voice and warm smile. She discussed her ex-boyfriend's antisocial behavior with friends, and they decided together that she should be the one to reach out to him. After weeks of ignoring her texts, Nate, 19, finally agreed to meet her on July 3, 2011.

The next day, her body was found in a marsh about five miles from his home. He had strangled her with a bungee cord, stabbed her multiple times and slashed her throat. Her body was dumped in a nature preserve he knew from science class.

Nate had shown signs of jealousy in the past, but nobody suspected he would hurt Lauren. During his murder trial, his lawyer said he snapped mentally when he killed her. Prosecutors said it was a case of extreme dating violence, that he wasn't psychotic - just angry, hurt and humiliated by the breakup.

Nate was convicted of first-degree murder in March and sentenced to life in prison. But the quest for closure doesn't always end with a jury's verdict, especially in places like the couple's hometown of Wayland, which calls itself a "stable and progressive community, characterized by a legacy of civic engagement."

It's the kind of idyllic American suburb where "things like this aren't supposed to happen." In the wake of her death, community members pondered the warning signs. What did we miss? Could anybody have stopped this before it spiraled out of control?

Lauren's family saw new meaning in their "typical teen" drama: the fights, the constant cycle of breakups and reunions, the young man's retreat from social life after the breakup.

But as the couple's case shows, the line between adolescent drama and dating violence is a hard one to draw, especially in the moment.

Finding a new normal

Questions about what could've been done differently arose recently in Steubenville, Ohio, in Torrington, Connecticut, and in other communities where teen dating violence and sexual assault drew national attention. Blame bounces around the victim's clothes, the amount she drank, whether she "put herself in that situation," and to the perpetrators, parents and society for fostering a culture in which violence among teens - sexual and otherwise - makes regular headlines.

The Steubenville case, in which a teen was sexually assaulted as others watched, revived discussion around the importance of bystander education - teaching people to intervene safely in behavior that promotes sexual violence, said Tracy Cox with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

School violence prevention programs typically focus on risk-reduction by teaching girls not to be victims and boys not to be rapists, with no other roles to play. Even though bystander intervention not a new concept, some schools, advocacy groups and corporations are pushing it with renewed vigor in an effort to deter violence.

The goal is to challenge perceptions of "normal behavior" and make teens aware of the nuanced interactions that create a hostile climate

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Filed under: Counselors • High school • Massachusetts • Mental health • Parents • School safety • Students
'Debt relief' firms misleading student loan borrowers
Some 'debt relief' firms are charging fees to secure services that borrowers could get for free, a new report says.
June 25th, 2013
11:36 AM ET

'Debt relief' firms misleading student loan borrowers

By Melanie Hicken, CNNMoney

New York (CNNMoney) - Firms offering student loan "debt relief" are deceiving borrowers into paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for access to free government programs, according to a recent consumer watchdog report.

With student loan debt soaring to record levels, many graduates are turning to companies that claim to help reduce or manage their debts. However, some of these firms are charging borrowers initial fees as high as $1,600 and monthly fees as high as $50 to secure services that these borrowers could otherwise get for free, according to the report from the National Consumer Law Center.

While the government offers several relief programs free of charge, such as repayment plans based on a borrower's income level, getting through the red tape is "rarely easy," according to the report. And many borrowers are unaware that the programs even exist in the first place.

To conduct its investigation, undercover NCLC "mystery shoppers" contacted 10 randomly selected student loan relief companies, analyzed websites and reviewed a variety of actual contracts and consumer complaints. They found that the majority of firms surveyed didn't inform potential clients that the products they offered - most frequently loan consolidations - were actually free government programs, or the companies buried that information in the fine print.

Read the full story on CNNMoney

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My View: Big debt for students, big perks for university elites
While NYU students accrue debt, NYU helps its executives and star faculty buy vacation homes.
June 25th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Big debt for students, big perks for university elites

By Claire Potter, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Claire Potter is a professor of history at the New School for Public Engagement. She blogs at Tenured Radical for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

(CNN) - New York University's 2010 graduating class owed a total of more than $600 million in student loans. It's unlikely the university will forgive them. But NYU has forgiven portions of mortgages they have extended to President John Sexton, other university executives or star faculty - money that has been used to buy properties in Manhattan or vacation homes in the Hamptons.

Does this shock you?

Or, how about this: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, a former executive vice president at NYU, received an "exit bonus" of $685,000. Just to put this in perspective, Lew's NYU exit bonus alone would have provided free tuition for 275 undergraduates, or a little more than 17% of the incoming class.

The revelations about lavish compensation packages at New York University (my alma mater) have raised a firestorm of criticism. Faculty critics have already publicized NYU's top executive salaries: Sexton takes home nearly $1.5 million, Vivien Lee, the vice dean of science gets $1.1 million, and Robert Grossman, the dean of the medical center, makes a whopping $3.5 million.

Read Potter's full column

June 24th, 2013
10:54 AM ET

High court avoids larger ruling on university's affirmative action admissions policy

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court side-stepped a sweeping decision on the use of race-conscious school admission policies, ruling Monday on the criteria at the University of Texas and whether it violates the equal protection rights of some white applicants.

The justices threw the case back to the lower courts for further review.

The court affirmed the use of race in the admissions process, but makes it harder for institutions to use such policies to achieve diversity. The 7-1 decision from the court avoids the larger constitutional issues.

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Transgender first-grader wins the right to use girls' restroom
The Colorado Rights Division ruled in favor of Coy Mathis in her fight against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District.
June 24th, 2013
09:47 AM ET

Transgender first-grader wins the right to use girls' restroom

By Ed Payne, CNN

(CNN) - A transgender first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl has won the right to use the girls' restroom at her Colorado school.

The Colorado Rights Division ruled in favor of Coy Mathis in her fight against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District.

Coy's parents had taken her case to the commission after the district said she could no longer use the girls' bathroom at Eagleside Elementary.

In issuing its decision, the state's rights division said keeping the ban in place "creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive."

Coy's mother, Kathryn Mathis, said she's thrilled that Coy can return to school and put this behind her.

The first-grader has been home-schooled during the proceedings

"Schools should not discriminate against their students," Mathis said. "All we ever wanted was for Coy's school to treat her the same as other little girls. We are extremely happy that she now will be treated equally."

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I will graduate with $100,000 in loans
Kelly Mears has a lot at stake in the debate over government-subsidized student loan interest rates.
June 24th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

I will graduate with $100,000 in loans

By Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney

Washington (CNNMoney) - When Kelly Mears graduates from Union College in the summer of 2015, she will have $100,000 in student loans.

Armed with a political science degree, Mears will join more than a million Americans who have racked up breathtaking amounts of student debt.

Mears is also one of 7 million undergraduates caught in the middle of a debate in Washington over government-subsidized student loans, as interest rates are set to double to 6.8% from 3.4% on July 1.

"It just seems to be a part of the growing American experience to go to school, graduate and work off that debt for the rest of your life," Mears said.

Super-borrowers with $100,000 of student loan debt aren't the norm. The average student graduates with $27,000 of loan debt.

The New York Fed said those who borrow $100,000 or more are about 3.1% of borrowers nationwide. But it's easy to see how students get there, with four years of private college tuition running $116,000 on average, according to the College Board.

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Professors teach into their golden years
A Fidelity survey released Monday found many professors teach into their golden years.
June 20th, 2013
01:00 PM ET

Professors teach into their golden years

By Melanie Hicken, CNNMoney

New York (CNNMoney) –While most people dream of the day they can retire, many college professors plan to put it off or work until their final years.

The sluggish economy has made people in all professions question whether their nest eggs will get them through retirement. Professors are no different - plus many of them love their jobs too much to leave. But paired with the fact that colleges and universities are offering a smaller percentage of tenure-track spots, it's making it increasingly tough for aspiring professors to start their careers.

A Fidelity survey released Monday echoes prior studies and anecdotal evidence that found many professors are teaching into their golden years.

Fidelity polled several hundred faculty members between the ages of 49 and 67, and nearly 75% said they planned to retire after age 65. While 65% of those planning to delay said they were motivated by financial reasons, such as maximizing Social Security payments or hanging onto health insurance, more than 80% plan to stay for professional reasons.

"If I go several days without teaching, I long for it," said 71-year-old writing professor Donald Gallehr. "I miss my students. I wish I was in the classroom."

But many of these professors are holding onto coveted - and shrinking - tenure-track spots, which usually guarantee lifetime job security. Tenured and tenure-track professors made up about a quarter of instructors in 2011, compared to nearly 40% of instructors in 1989 and close to 50% in 1975, according to the American Association of University Professors.

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June 19th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Girl raised in Mumbai brothel wins U.S. college scholarship

(CNN) – Shweta Katti was raised in Mumbai's largest red-light district - the only place her family could afford to live. Men would sometimes ask her to sleep with them. But her mother always wanted her to learn to read and write, and Kranti, an organization that works with girls from Mumbai's red-light areas, helped her apply to college.

This fall, she's heading to Bard College in New York.

Learn more about "Girl Rising" and how girls of the world are fighting to get an education

June 13th, 2013
11:59 AM ET

Fighting for the 'throwaway' girls

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch it June 16 on CNN.

Detroit, Michigan (CNN) - A winter's thicket of weeds still choked the soil outside Catherine Ferguson Academy late last month when the old school's loudspeaker crackled on.

"Good morning, good morning, good morning," Principal Asenath Andrews belted out. "It's a bright, sunny, ready-to-garden day!"

For decades, this is where Detroit's pregnant teens and young mothers have come to earn their diplomas. It's the only school in the city that gives them space to study while their babies are cared for just down the hall.

For the 100 students at Catherine Ferguson, high school diplomas are the minimum expectation; college acceptance letters are the aim. It has a reputation for academic rigor and comprehensive study: Students might spend afternoons on internships, weeks traveling overseas and hours working small plots on the school's farm.

On the walls, there are posters encouraging condom use, photos of newborns and beaming images of Catherine Ferguson graduates, all in their gowns, caps and tassels.

"Remember," Andrews signs off her morning announcement, "smart is what you get, not what you are."

Girls trickle outside, grumbling about the heat and mess of the farm, but intrigued by the seedlings of basil, arugula and cabbage. They fling handfuls of dirt at each other as they paw through a season of overgrowth. Over the years, the school's abandoned playground evolved into a spread of apple trees, honeybees, chickens, goats and garden plots - creatures and greenery tended to by students and a pack of volunteers.

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