Why Doesn’t the US Adopt a FREE College System…like the rest of the Western World!?!?!?!

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So….I know this is a topic that has been, in many senses beaten to death, but there has been no headway made, so I guess, what could the harm of me putting my two cents into the ring? I have a sort of odd association that first comes to my mind when thinking about this topic. I have a subscription to Time Magazine (mainly because it’s a weekly for only $20 a year and yes, I am one of the few 20 somethings who actually enjoys reading the written word on paper and owns not one product from Apple! But, once again, I digress…) In one of the recent issues of Time, there was a two page picture of a newborn, and the title said, “Hi! My name is Sophia and I was born in January, 2012 and I can already tell you some things about myself.” One balloon that really jumped out at me stated: by the time I am 21, my parents will have spend $150,000 on a private college education, if I was born in Germany it would be free. How can this be? In the greatest free country in the world, the champion of freedom and equality, a college education, and therefore, a pathway to a better life and advancement can cost so much, yet, across the ocean it costs a citizen absolutely NOTHING?!?!?!? What’s wrong with this picture!?!?!? As someone with over $50,000 of student loan debt, I speak from personal experience. At the end of day, unless you are extremely wealthy or extremely poor (qualifying for the ludicrously low standards for grants set by the Feds), in order to attend college you will have to agree to put yourself into a significant amount of debt. I basically just try to never think about it, and optimistically assume that, one day I will be able to make a dent in paying it back.

I think at the heart of this issue is the fact, that student loans were originally set up by the Feds as a way for low and middle income students to afford a higher education. They were NEVER EVER supposed to be a for-profit industry. However, industry giants like Sallie Mae, EdFinancial, and Great Lakes, are literally making millions on interest and repayment at the expense of US college students. Why? Is it because they donate millions to political campaigns and have lobbyists with extremely deep pockets in our capital? I cannot definitively prove it, but I would put good money on it.

So, as a country what are we suppose to do? Obama has attempted to make sweeping legislative change, but as basically with everything he has tried to do since 2008, the GOP has fought him tooth and nail for every inch. So, I guess it’s up to us, ordinary Americans. We simply have to bring this to the attention of our elected representatives. We put them there and they work for us, we must hold them accountable for their votes! This means insisting financial aid for a college education go through some drastic changes! Let’s start with a fixed interest rate throughout the lifetime of the loan, expanding the Federal Work Study Program, Pell Grants, and other grant programs. Additionally, how about making majors where there is an immense demand, such as science and engineering, cheaper for students who agree to work an agreed upon number of years in these fields. Most importantly, a ten year limit, if you have not been able to pay back any of your debt by then, the loans will be forgiven!

If Europe, can make a free higher education system work, it is to the benefit of all Americans if we do so too! Demand reform and accept nothing less!

What do you think would work and should be used to fix this immense problem?

Thanks for your ideas and for reading! Have an awesome weekend!

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How did I end up here? My Educational Journey..Bonus: How to Succeed in College and Earn As!!!!

I have spent much of my adult life in college. I completed the traditional track, finishing my BA in History Minor in African American Ethnic Studies from Adelphi University at the age of 21. I loved Adelphi so much, that I stayed on another two years to complete my Master’s in Secondary Social Studies Education in 2009. As you may or may not know, from 2009 until the present, has to be one of the worst times in history to try to land a job in the education system! So I bounced around, worked retail and a telephone sales job at a Manhattan IT school which I absolutely abhorred! So after endless resumes sent out, applications, and countless interviews. I started to search for another answer. I knew what I wanted, I want a career, I do not need to be rich but my husband and I would eventually like a family and a house one day and I would like to be able to afford both. (We are sick of paying the absolutely ridiculous rental rates in Brooklyn!) Equally important, I needed a job that would be intellectually stimulating, offer excitement, variety, and NOT be in a cubicle! I started to research which sectors of the economy were still hiring even in the recession.

A little research revealed, that the Health Care industry was one of the few sectors that had still shown significant growth in the past few years. I knew I was not ready for the seven year commitment required to complete an MD. So, I looked for another answer, I attended an information session about the Physician Assistant Program at Pace University. I was thrilled, it was a perfect fit and it would only take 27 months to complete! As I did not have any science courses yet under my belt, I did have a significant amount of prerequisites to complete before being eligible to even apply. So I came to a crossroad, I did not know what to do. I had already dedicated a significant amount of time and accrued significant student debt, that I had yet to pay, did it make sense to go back to school, for something entirely different? It was a huge dilemma for me but with the support of my husband and family, I decided to take the plunge!

I enrolled at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, mainly because of the affordable cost of the CUNY system and it is relatively close to our apartment. I was pretty terrified I had not taken any Biology or Chemistry courses in ten years….what if I was terrible at it?!?!?! I graduated with a 3.67 in my BA and 3.881 in my MA so I have always been an excellent student, but would I have the same success in science???? So it was with equal parts trepidation and excitement, that I found myself sitting in my first class at Medgar Evers College: Anatomy and Physiology, Part I. To my delight, I loved all my courses! It was A LOT of work but I was earning good grades! On a side note, I cannot more enthusiastically endorse Medgar Evers College, my experiences there have been absolutely amazing! All of my professors have been Ph.Ds and really know their topic area. Equally important, they always have an office door open for extra help and questions. I have also made some amazing new friends. If considering CUNY, please look into Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, you will not be disappointed, I can promise you that! At a total cost of $5000.00 per a year, you simply cannot go wrong!

The irony here is that all through high school if anyone asked, my career goals, I told them I was going to become a pediatrician! So it’s almost as if I have come full circle. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: “Life makes its’ own plans…you never know how things will turn out!” I am optimistic though. My only worry now, is that I will complete all my prerequisites and not get into any programs! I have almost a 3.8 (all As but one C in a summer chemistry course is killing me!) If God forbid, I do not get in anywhere, these past two years will basically be for naught! So please, keep your fingers crossed for me!!!

So, now on to the second point of this post, my thoughts on succeeding in college. I was prompted to write this post after something my professor said in my Anatomy and Physiology course this past term. I had done really well on a test, that a majority of the class had failed, so to my embarrassment (I blush a bright red very easily!), Dr. Stoddart announced to the class: “study with Kirsten!” So, after class, another student came up to me and asked me how I studied and what advice I could offer. I looked at her and said verbatim “I read the book.” That is the key, there are no gimmicks to earning good grades, just read your textbook! I was, and still am shocked, at the number of college students who do not read the textbook for the course! I know texts are ridiculously expensive, especially for the sciences, but every college library has all the textbooks on reserve for students, so, there are no excuses! The other key, is do not attempt to study the night before the exam! College work requires constant effort, reading, notes, and practice problems! I have found the rule for every hour of class, you should be putting in about 2.5 hours of reading at home! Ideally, the night before an exam should be spent on a short review, a good dinner, and most importantly, a full night’s sleep! That’s it, the key to good grades, it is as simple at that!!!

I have found I have difficulty getting studying done in my apartment. Between my hubby, TV, and housework there’s just way too many distractions! I have to place myself into an environment where there is absolutely nothing else I could be doing, except eating books! For me, this is the library, find a place that works for you!. I have also found that I must listen to either classical music or instrumental jazz like Miles Davis or Charles Mingus to really concentrate. Flashcards have also been immeasurably helpful to me, as a commuter on the NYC Public Transit System, whether waiting on the train or bus, or sitting on one of the two, I always have time to study my flashcards. I usually make them myself, but for Anatomy and Physiology, I finally broke down and purchased a set last term from Barnes and Noble. There are from Mosebly and I have found them to be extremely useful. The only complaint I have is that they do not list functions, so I have taken to writing directly on the cards themselves. They were about $30.00 and well worth it! Find something that works for you. What study tools have been worthwhile for you?

Can anyone relate to my story? What study tips can you offer?

Best of luck and Happy Studying!!! 🙂

“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.” ~Warren G. Bennis

How do I know it’s time to hire a tutor!?!?!?

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”~Albert Einstein

So, how do I know it is time for me to hire a tutor? As soon as you realize the student is struggling and having difficulty grasping the concepts and completing assignments it is time to hire a professional tutor. DO NOT wait until the student is earning failing grades!!! A tutor should be utilized to push a student from a D to a B, a C to a B, and a B to an A+!!! Also, please, please, please keep in mind that a tutor is not Anne Sullivan, ie a miracle worker! I cannot tell you how many times I have received a call for tutoring two weeks or even a week before the SAT, SHSAT, ELA, Regents, Midterms or Finals! If a student is taking a test like the SAT or ACT which can help him or her earn important college scholarships, a tutor should be hired at least six months in advance, end of story. That being said, better late than never! Albeit late, some help is a million times better than no help! Please keep this in mind. A student does not fall behind over night, and it will take some time for them to catch up!

A tutor should have a lot of different kinds of teaching experience. Equally important is that they have a firm grasp of all intricacies inherent to the subject matter.The tutor you hire is someone the student should be 100% comfortable with. A tutor should always be punctual and open to suggestions. Another important point is that they are able to tailor the lesson to each students unique learning style.

Next step, I have hired a tutor, now what? Well, I must have given these speeches a million times and will likely continue to do so in the future: “you get out of life what you put in” and another classic jewel of mine is: “I cannot do everything all by myself, you will have to meet me halfway” and of course, I can not forget “Two hours with me a week is simply not going to cover it, you must be doing problems and work on your own, and have all your questions ready to go before I even get here!” Often I come across students who’s life motto is: “what..me..worry?!?” and this applies to school work! They seem to be coasting through their studies, not willing to dedicate the time and work required. While there is definitely something to be said, for not letting life stress you out, that does not mean there are not somethings in life that deserve some stress, sweat, blood and tears. Sometimes those things can be academic in nature!

The last decision is, how long should each session be and how many sessions do I need a week? For any student under the age of seven, I think one hour sessions are best, anymore and the student will be unable to focus. For ages eight and above, I believe a two hour session is best. In two hours, A LOT can be covered and accomplished. In terms of how many sessions to book a week, frankly that really depends on your finances and schedule. Obviously, the more tutoring sessions the student participates in the more prepared they will be.

A final thought, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, NEVER EVER hesitate to bring it to the tutor’s attention immediately! Likely, they are not even aware of your concerns.

Happy Searching!!!

“Education is the transmission of civilization.” ~Will Durant

What does Bloomberg’s 2012 State of the City Address mean for Education?

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg delivered his 11th State of the City Address, to a packed house at Morris High School Campus in the Bronx. I for one, immensely enjoyed the opening pageantry of the day. The Keltic Dreams Irish Dance Troupe, Celia Cruz High School Latin Band, and the PS 32 chorus were a pleasure to watch. Even the brief skit featuring Bloomberg and several guest appearances, such as Ed Koch, was amusing; if only for the awkwardness of Bloomberg’s acting skills and the corny jokes. But I digress, I want to get to what exactly this speech could mean for Education in NYC. Before Bloomberg even came to the podium, the current state of education in this city came to mind. He was introduced by Ishmael Kamara, a NYC public school teacher. Mr. Kamara, did seem a little out of his element in front of such a large crowd, but his story was touching nevertheless. Mr. Kamara escaped the 1990s Civil War in Sierra Leone, and found himself in the NYC public school system. He arrived barely speaking English, but because of amazing teachers went on to a successful college career and to become a public school educator himself. This got me thinking about the recently published statistics, that 75% of high school graduates of the NYC system need remedial instruction upon entry to college. Could Mr. Kamara’s touching story of success even happen today? The Mayor attempted to answer this question in at least part of his subsequent address. He noted that graduation rates have “risen 40% since 2005” and that we face the challenge of “building a 21st century public school system”  that can drive a 21st century economy. I could not agree more wholeheartedly with the latter sentiment, and with his assertion that a great free public education system is the key to eradicating poverty and keeping the US as a world leader. Where the Mayor and I differ are on some of the methods he wants to use to make a better NYC public education system. Throughout his speech he repeatedly blamed many of the system’s shortcomings on the UFT; insisting that resistance to a merit-based pay system for teachers is hurting our schools. I do not have a problem with a merit-based pay system but I do question whether it can be fairly implemented without bias. How can you implement such a system that ensures one hundred percent transparency and equality? A system where personal grudges and feeling will have no place. The mayor did not address that question. What do you think? How could such a system be put into place fairly? What would be the criteria? Can test scores, or even improvement on test scores, as many have suggested, be the primary measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, skills, and/or dedication?

Looking forward to your thoughts!

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