Monday, December 24, 2012

Reflecting on my Higher Education Goals

In case this is your first time visiting my blog, I am currently pursuing a master's degree in higher education.  Previously, I recently completed my master's degree in social work (emphasis on macro practice, i.e. working with communities and organizations to effect social change). Although my original career interest was community interest, I began to explore diversity issues in higher education during my social work field placement. I had a strong desire to return to my educational roots (my undergraduate degree is in K-12 education policy) and decided to switch my career interest to higher education administration. I finished my first term in the higher education master's program with a 3.85 GPA (hoo-ray!). I am proud of this accomplishment because it made me realize that education could become my niche. My research and policy interests so far focus on these six areas:

  • Access and equity
  • Civic engagement
  • Institutional diversity
  • Social capital and social mobility
  • Social justice pedagogy
  • Student retention and success

Once I graduate, I want to work in student affairs as an academic advisor, project coordinator, or program manager at a four-year institution. Later, I will become an education policy expert on issues affecting access and equity among socially disadvantaged and underrepresented students. I may even pursue a PhD in Education and/or Sociology along the way to explore these areas in greater depth. If there are social work students who are strongly considering a career in student affairs, I will also try to obtain my full license in macro social work practice so that I can become a mentor to these students. I know the social work profession needs more licensed macro social workers who can train the next generation of social reformers!

To end on a good note, I am proud of myself and look forward to a good year in 2013. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Creating a New Profession: The Beginnings of Social Work Education in the United States (2000)

Creating a New Profession: The Beginnings of Social Work Education in the United States (2000), by Leslie Leighninger, is the first monograph of its kind that gathered primary sources to narrate how the social work profession began in the United States. He gathered essays by the leading social work pioneers in the last century and the origins of social work centers in urban cities -- Boston, New York, Chicago, St. Louis and so on. Early social workers focused on organized training, scientific knowledge, the importance of field work, the significance of race and gender, the search for balance between client-focused and social reform perspectives, and attempts to keep up with technology and new techniques.

Selections included Anna L. Dawes, Mary Richmond, Jeffrey R. Brackett, George E. Haynes, Forrester B. Washington, Abraham Flexner, Edward T. Devine, Edith Abbot, Ziplpha Smith, and Mary Richmond. While these names are briefly mentioned in most standard social work textbooks, Leighninger allows readers the full flavor of social work pioneers' ideas, aspirations, and enthusiasm for a new profession. For instance, Mary Richmond is identified with the client based (social casework) perspective and Jane Addams is identified with the social reform (settlement house) perspective. Social casework provided a coordinated system of philanthropy where "friendly visitors" identified which families needed assistance, whereas the settlement house provided a community center in the heart of the neighborhood where workers and residents could engage together in social reform activities.

This book was insightful in three ways. First, I developed a deeper appreciation for the early social workers who developed a profession in response to many societal factors at the time (immigration, urbanization, industrialization, concentrated poverty, discrimination, and so forth). The Progressive Era (1890-1913) enlightened middle-class women and men to address the causes of poverty and reform the nation at the local, state and federal levels. Second, the philosophical perspective (client-based vs. social reform) in a particular city determined the direction of the social work curriculum (the Northeast adopted a client-based model based on social work casework whereas the Midwest adopted a social reform model from the settlement house movement). This perspective is still reflected today in the contemporary social work schools.

Finally, I was delighted to learn about the social work profession from an African-American perspective. The authors (Haynes and Washington) argued that black social workers were needed to "uplift" the African-American community since no one else would or could help black families. This mindset followed W.E.B. Dubois' approach to communal empowerment (also known as the Talented Tenth, the most talented and educated would give back and provide leadership to the African-American community during times of racial unrest and discrimination).

Overall, I am very happy that I read this book because it gave me a better understanding of the origins of social work education in the United States. I highly recommend it to social workers and social welfare scholars who want a grounded understanding of the theories that led to the development of the social work profession in the early twentieth century.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

InsideHigherEd: Many highly-talented, low-income students never apply to top colleges

I found this article on, and it begs this question: why don't highly-talented, low income students never apply to highly selective colleges and universities?

The nation's most elite colleges and universities have in recent years added numerous programs to help students from low-income backgrounds enroll. And at many such institutions, low-income students would not need to pay anything, or would have to make only very small contributions to the annual tab. So why, at some of these institutions, is one more likely to find a student with a second home than one with a Pell Grant?

A new study finds that a majority students with low incomes but high academic ability never apply to a single competitive college. Further, the study finds that many colleges are searching for these students at a very small number of high schools --and in the process are missing lots of other talent. The study -- by Caroline M. Hoxby, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and Christopher Avery, a professor of public policy at Harvard University -- was released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (An abstract is available here.)

In their conclusion, Hoxby and Avery say that their work shows there are more low-income students of high academic talent out there. Broadening recruiting would cost more in time and money than the current system, they write. But colleges today appear to be "searching under the lamp post" for the small number of students that are visible, ratherthan searching "where the students are."

I also want to post another poster's comment about why low-income students do not apply to highly selective institutions:
If I am admitted to an elite school, and "everything is paid for", I am far away from family and my support network. I may not have the resources to go home over breaks, or for family to visit me. I may not have the resources to dress as my peers at elite school dress, or the funds to socialize as do my peers. There are many many outside of the classroom issues that are not addressed...and these are significant barriers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Truth about Student Loan Debt in America

As someone with student loans, I dread the day when I have to repay my student loan debt. Below, I provide fifteen facts on why student loan collection is sadistic and needs major reform. Next year, Congress should act immediately on this financial aid crisis as well as remove the ban on student loans in bankruptcy.

  1. There is no way to escape student loan debt.
  2. Nearly one in every six borrowers with a loan balance is in default.
  3. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education spent over $1.4 billion to hire collection agencies to hunt down these defaulters.
  4. Government debt collectors can seize almost any kind of asset.
  5. In 2011, the government recouped more than $2.67 billion using these methods.
  6. High recovery rates have meant that less is done to prevent default.
  7. Penalties on loan defaults can be as high as 25% of the balance.
  8. Debt collectors hired by the government rarely explain the options debtors have for repayments.
  9. Debt collectors are rewarded for collecting as much of the money owed as possible regardless of the hardship that causes debtors.
  10. Collection agencies have little incentive to change because many receive huge commissions.
  11. Student loan collection contracts are gold mines for collection agencies.
  12. The average defaulted loan is worth about $17,000.
  13. If a debt collector hasn’t found a defaulting borrower in six months, the case gets passed on to another agency.
  14. Debt collectors are the subject of thousands of complaints every year.
  15. Loan collections have increased by 18%.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

CHE: On Students' Paths to College, Some Detours Are Desirable

I am a strong advocate of career and technical education in both secondary and postsecondary education. Sometimes, I think the growing emphasis on obtaining a college degree misses out on the fact that some students may want to pursue careers in the trades. Educators and policymakers need to provide greater postsecondary options for high school graduates. This Chronicle of Higher Education article reiterates my opinion about this issue.
The higher-education establishment in the United States has been obsessed with raising graduation rates ever since the Obama administration and two major foundations, Gates and Lumina, vowed to see that the country soon has the world's highest share of adults with college credentials. Getting students who start college to eventually finish is a noble goal. But we focus too much time, effort, and money on pushing students through a narrow, simplistic view of higher education—one that starts three months after high-school graduation and ends two or four years later with a degree. That vision doesn't reflect either the reality of today's students or the higher-level skills our economy needs in its workers to compete on the global stage.

Monday, December 3, 2012

14 Tips Before You Start the Graduate Application Process

Many education and social work programs have priority deadlines around this time of year. The New Social Worker posted 14 tips on how to effectively prepare your graduate application. (This advice is also applicable for admission into education master's programs).

1. Don’t just download applications!

2. Read the application carefully, and follow directions!

3. Attend a pre-admissions meeting or ask to meet with a faculty member to talk about the program and your fit.

4. Give yourself ample time to think, write, revise, edit, get feedback from an impartial reviewer, revise, edit, and submit!

5. If you aren’t confident about your writing skills, during the application process, you might consider taking a writing class or working with an editor to improve your writing skills.

6. If you are applying in your senior year or are a new graduate, keep in mind that the coursework, volunteer experiences, and field practica you completed have increased your knowledge and skills.

7. If you have been out practicing at the bachelor’s level, use your educational and work experience to highlight what you have accomplished, where you are headed professionally, and what you will contribute.

8. Some programs request that a résumé be submitted along with your application.

9. Be honest in your application, your résumé, and your professional statement/essay.

10. Write your professional statement or essay for a specific program.

11. Do you have specialized experience related to a specific part of the program mission?

12. References are always required!

13. Avoid anything that can make your application and or professional statement or essay difficult to read.

14. Carefully review what should be mailed or done online, and by whom.