Mapping Our Local Network

We’re continuing to build our local network, adding dedicated coverage of colleges to more cities and states. We’re thrilled to announce two new partners: Mississippi Today and Lookout Santa Cruz.

No reporter in Mississippi focuses on college as their main beat. With Mississippi Today, we’re going to change that. Their newsroom, a nonprofit started six years ago, has long focused on education coverage — and with our help, they’ll be adding a reporter specifically dedicated to higher ed across the state.

The coverage will include stories about colleges’ role in two major stories of our time: helping Mississippi communities recover from the pandemic and resulting economic downturn and helping the state confront racial injustice.

Divides are still growing, for example, in where Black and white Americans enroll in college — in Mississippi and across the country. At the state’s flagship, Black students have become even more underrepresented since 2000, according to this recent report from Education Trust. In 2017, only 13 percent of the University of Mississippi’s students were Black, compared with 45 percent of the state’s 18-to-24-year-olds.

In Santa Cruz, we’ll be helping Lookout Santa Cruz cover one of the region’s biggest players: the University of California at Santa Cruz. The public research university, a Hispanic-serving institution, employs more people (close to 4,300) than the next four largest employers in Santa Cruz County combined.

Lookout Santa Cruz is launching this fall. Its founder, Ken Doctor, a long-time news-industry analyst, has seen the power in collaborative models to reinvent local news. His simple intention with Lookout Local, he wrote: “To provide a valued source of trustworthy local news for the county that’s home. And then, to take that Santa Cruz-nurtured model out more widely to other communities that have become news deserts as well.”

Elsewhere in the Network

Our work with CalMatters’ College Journalism Network is getting underway. Through the network, which pays and trains student journalists to cover higher ed across the state, we’ll be leading a team of fellows focused on data-driven and investigative stories:

  • Julian Mendoza, the multimedia and podcast editor at The Orion, Chico State‘s independent newspaper.
  • Angie Orellana Hernandez, the Diversity and Inclusion Director at the Daily Trojan at the University of Southern California and the USC News Editor at Annenberg Media.
  • Omar Rashad, a community-college graduate who’s the data and investigations reporter at Mustang News, the independent student-run news organization at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
  • Katherine Swartz, the University News Editor of The Daily Nexus student newspaper at UC Santa Barbara.

Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about working with us and our partners in Pittsburgh, El Paso, Mississippi, and Santa Cruz. Sign up here to get job alerts. And please help us spread the word.

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A Matter of Wealth

The education world regularly talks about improving outcomes for low-income students. We talk a lot less about another measure of a family’s economic situation: wealth. At Chalkbeat this week, a smart story from Matt Barnum looked at research on how wealth matters in a separate way, and how we may be misunderstanding the situation by exclusively looking at income.

How wealth matters:

  • It’s a buffer. Wealth, as one recent paper put it, is “a private safety net,” helping families weather storms like divorce.
  • It shapes where people live, which in turns shapes educational opportunity.
  • It influences how much stress children experience, affecting their ability to focus on school.

A 2018 paper by Fabian Pfeffer, a University of Michigan sociologist, found that even controlling for income and other factors, children from high-wealthy families were 10 percentage points more likely to earn a college degree than those from low-wealth ones.

The story’s kicker — from a San Antonio school official — sums up well why using broader economic data matters. “When we rely on a single measure, we wash poverty in one shade.”

The Most Unequal Recession

Our current economic collapse is the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history, the Washington Post concluded in an analysis it published this week of job losses from the pandemic.

One of the most-striking graphics is this one, which shows job loss (and recovery), based on weekly earnings, in recessions going back to 1990. Our current crisis is notably different.

“A clear trend emerged,“ the Post wrote. “The less workers earned at their job, the more likely they were to lose it as businesses across the country closed.”

This jobs data has “everything to do with the future of community colleges in the US,” this Twitter thread, by James Murphy, argues. It helps explain, he wrote, why their enrollments are falling when, in the past, they often went up when the economy suffered.

The enrollment drops, combined with deep cuts in state funding, present a “dire threat” to community colleges, Murphy continued.

“In a nutshell, things are terrible,“ he concluded. “And they’re going to get worse.”

+ We’re holding a community forum this month with our partners at The Lens in New Orleans to help adults in the city navigate their job-training and college options in a broken economy. The free, online event will be held Oct. 15, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central time. Register here.

Spotlight

The Forbes Investigation: How The SAT Failed America
Interviews with more than 75 people expose the deep problems threatening the College Board’s billion-dollar testing monopoly. The great-granddaddy of standardized tests may not survive. (www.forbes.com)

It’s Time to Worry About College Enrollment Declines Among Black Students
The past five years of public college enrollment trends show an overall decline in undergraduate enrollment; but there are distinct differences across student populations. (www.americanprogress.org)

Harvard Economist Raj Chetty Creates God’s-Eye View of Pandemic Damage
The celebrated economist has built a data tool with a God’s-eye view of the pandemic’s damage — and soaring inequality. (www.bloomberg.com)

Enrolling the Class of Covid-19
Inside one college’s scramble to recruit and welcome a cohort like no other. (www.chronicle.com)

Calendar

Scott will be moderating two sessions at the ASU GSV Summit. Registration for the virtual event this year is free.

Keep in Touch

Interested in covering higher education? Sign up for our job alerts, add yourself to our talent pool, and see our latest openings with partner newsrooms on our Jobs page. Our partners are currently hiring in Pittsburgh, El Paso, Mississippi, and Santa Cruz.

Please share. Forward this newsletter to colleagues, family, and friends who might be interested. They can sign up for their own copy here.

And if you want to help us put more higher ed reporters on the beat, here’s where you can make a tax-deductible donation.

Thanks for reading!

Our Local Network Locations: California | Cleveland | Colorado | El Paso | Mississippi | Pittsburgh | Santa Cruz

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