Thursday, June 26, 2014

 

Friday Fragments


Ever the optimist, I’m glad to see the Republican and Democratic versions of the proposed next Higher Education Act both include restoring Pell to year-round availability.  If we want to decrease time to completion, making summer available should be a no-brainer.

The previous interlude of summer Pell was brief, and announced at the last minute; colleges didn’t really have time to ramp up programs to take advantage of it.  A longer-term commitment to a twelve-month calendar would provide a tremendous spur to innovation.

That may sound like special pleading, but on the ground, it’s real.  We’re trying to develop accelerated degree programs, but the lack of Pell in the summer presents a real issue.  It raises an obvious issue of equity, on one level, but it’s also a pragmatic issue.  Two-thirds of our students are Pell-eligible.  Take them out, and many classes would be too small to run even for folks who pay cash on the barrel.  The numbers only get viable if Pell-eligible students can attend.

It’s entirely possible that neither party’s version will pass, and a good idea will die of inertia.  But given that both sides see merit in year-round Pell, here’s hoping that at least that much makes it through.

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This week some faculty did a nifty presentation on technology they’d like to have in classrooms.  One popular one involved having Apple tv (or Chromecast, or something similar) connected to a flat-screen tv in the front of the class, so a professor or student could magnify something for the whole class to see.  Professors could even do “live remote” sessions from wherever, making field trips much more manageable for students with mobility issues.

Someone brought up the very real possibility of hacking, though.  If all it takes to put something on the screen is a device and a willingness to broadcast, then a student could easily prank a class by throwing inappropriate stuff up there.

Has anyone out there found a reliable, low-maintenance way to get the benefit of setups like that, without either opening up the system to hacking or relying on each professor to have do go through time-consuming manual logins every single time?

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The Boy and The Girl finally wrapped up their school years this week.  The Girl is moving up from elementary to middle school, so she had a “graduation” ceremony along with her class.

I have to hand it to the organizers; they really know how to tug at heartstrings.  They had a slideshow of candids, but the candids started with kindergarten and went all the way up.  There, up on the screen, was the five-year-old version of The Girl.  Seeing the kids move from kindergarten through fourth grade so quickly really brought home just how much they’ve grown.

I was okay, though.  There were a few “awww”s, but all was cool.

Then the music teacher came out.

He had the kids sing “Time of Your Life,” by Green Day.  Still, I maintained.  The Wife was dabbing at her face, but I was still fine.

I knew the new music teacher was good, but I wasn’t prepared for his next move.

He played a cover of “In My Life,” by a woman singer who really stretched it out.  He and the kids did a series of silent dance moves in time to the music, reacting to the lyrics.  Sweet, but I was still okay.

During the piano bridge, though, he motioned them to squat down.  They did, and came up with handwritten signs that they flashed to the parents.  Every sign was a variation on “I love you, Mom and Dad,” usually with something customized to the kid who held it.  TG used the nickname that only we call her.  “I’ll be your (nickname) for life.”

I’m not made of stone, people.

The Boy was with us in the audience.  He mentioned later that he was fine when TW was crying, because she cries at emotional moments.  But when he saw me dabbing my eyes, he had some trouble too.

As the bridge ended and the singer came back, the kids flipped the signs.  The signs on the left side of the stage said “I,” the ones in the middle had a heart, and the ones on the right said “U.”  The parents were reduced to quivering masses of jello.

The Girl is excited for her next school.  She’ll have her own locker, which means a lot at this age.  She’s more than ready.  She’s already looking forward to it.

We are, too.  But we’ll miss the little girl who blazed her way through elementary school.  She doesn’t know what the fuss was about yet.  She’ll find out when it’s time.

Congratulations, TG.  The fifth grade won’t know what hit it.

Comments:
About the time students got used to using Pell in the summer, it went away. Our enrollment projections that last summer, like the ones during the growth phase, were wildly wrong. Stability for, oh, five years would be nice.

Definitely agree about innovation, but there are also large groups of students that work too much to succeed while taking a full 15 hour load to stay on schedule. They really need the summer, and some could benefit by taking a partial load while only using up part of a semester of Pell if they allowed using it fractionally.

Most students, and particularly those most in need of Pell, are not "one size fits all".

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No advice on hacking that system, but it does raise two questions in my mind. One is whether those screens are now both cheaper and better (brighter) and longer lived than the combination of projectors and SmartBoards. The other is whether the theft problem would come back if we phased those into classrooms.

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Tell TB that it is OK to be emotional at emotional events.
 
It's official - your "About me" and blog roll need an update.

Your kids are the perfect age - it really doesn't get any better.
 
So glad about Summer Pell!

And I teared up reading about that program, and I don't even know you guys, haha!

Congratulations to The Girl!!! And to the whole family for making it through another school year!
 
I've been mulling over this post for a few months. I think the focus on summer Pell for CC students, is potentially looking at the wrong thing.

For one, even without 'year-round' Pell, part-time students typically do have 'leftover' Pell money to receive for summer. In the 4-year sector where full-time enrollment is the norm, 'leftover Pell' is less common.

While Pell can be an issue for full-time students in the CC sector, I think the bigger challenges for CCs are in other programs:

Direct Loans - for a summer trailer school on SAY (anecdotally the most common configuration?), typically none 'left' for summer. Matters especially for single parents paying childcare.
State Grants - no summer funding in most states
SEOG/Perkins - needless complicated rules on funding 'crossover periods' and would need a funding bump to cover summer

'Year round Pell' in some fashion would help (though dear Lord please make it much less convoluted than the mind-numbing rules Congress created last time around), but in terms of summer funding for CC students I'd say Pell is actually in relatively good shape compared to other programs, since at least part-time students can typically still access it, unlike other programs.
 
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