CalMatters, our California partner, welcomes a new community colleges reporter. And, our reporter in Pittsburgh spoke to students at one of the 60 high schools nationally piloting AP African American Studies.

The Dispatch
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A newsletter about role of higher education in society — plus Open Campus developments.

Are California community colleges reaching their potential?

Meet Adam Echelman, the new community colleges reporter at our partner newsroom, CalMatters. We’re super excited to work with Adam as part of our Local Reporting Network. Adam was previously the equity reporter at the Modesto Bee in California’s Central Valley and is a Benton Institute for Broadband and Society fellow, writing about technology and equity.

Adam’s got an important job: California’s 116 community colleges serve 1.8 million students. The system is so large that one out of every 12 undergraduates in the country is a California community college student.

Adam said he wants to make sure to capture the scope of the system in his reporting — a student in Los Angeles will have a different experience from a student living on a Native American reservation near Oregon, for example.

“Community college students come from every walk of life. They are veterans and parents, high school students and formerly incarcerated adults – the list goes on and on. I want to find more ways to represent the real picture of California’s student body and the experiences they have. “

While covering equity issues at the Modesto Bee, Adam realized that community colleges are often themain driver of social mobility. “This job is a chance to zoom into that very idea and figure out if and how California’s community colleges are reaching their potential,” he says.

Send Adam a warm welcome.

— Colleen Murphy

Our new intern

This week we’re also welcoming Lynn Yunfei Liu, a graduate journalism student at Northwestern University, where she’s focused on politics and foreign affairs. Lynn will be working with us as an editorial intern this spring.

Lynn’s particularly interested in covering higher education, she says, because of its important role in helping people pursue personal development. As a student she puts a lot of time and money into college and that, she adds, creates high expectations for how it advances her skills and career. You can send Lynn a note here.

‘What about Black history bothers you?’

Allderdice High School students (from left to right) Syd Kaplan, Quincy Peterson, Jamie Coles, Amaya Dorman (sitting), Lena Gay and Natalie Lund in the school library. (Photo by Clare Sheedy/ PublicSource)

AP African American Studies has become a flashpoint in recent months. Florida’s education department initially rejected the course, chalking it up to “woke indoctrination.” And officials in four other Republican-led states — Arkansas, Virginia, Mississippi, and North Dakota — haven’t decided whether to teach the course.

One of our local reporters went beyond the politicking and headlines to see how pilot versions of the course are going. Emma Folts, our reporter at PublicSource, and her colleague Lajja Mistry sat in on the class at Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Several students they spoke to said the course has helped them deepen their understanding of American history and feel a greater sense of pride in their identity.

“I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in my whole high school experience in this pilot, with my class, because we’re just given the opportunity to speak on history that hasn’t been talked about,” senior Quincy Peterson said. When Emma and Lajja asked what he would say to critics of the course, he said: “I would pose the question: What about Black history bothers you?

  • Another story that cuts through the noise: As tenure comes under fire in Florida, Ian Hodgson at the Tampa Bay Times explains how it works, and why it matters.

We’re headed to Cleveland!

Scott, Sara, and I are going to Cleveland next month to talk with Clevelanders about college, and what about it they find confusing. We’ll be there the week of April 17, and we’re hoping to have lots of casual chats, with the help of our Signal Cleveland reporter Amy Morona.

Do you have suggestions of neighborhoods we should be sure to visit, or popular hangout spots? Drop us a line.

Elsewhere on Open Campus

Students on the campus of Cleveland State University. Credit: Cleveland State University

From Cleveland: The leaders of Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University are working closely to increase transfer numbers. The success of that effort could boost the economic future of Cleveland.

From College Inside: Charlotte West breaks down new Education Department guidance for bringing defaulted loans into good standing. And, a new book uncovers the truth of Indiana Women’s Prison.

From the HBCU Student Journalism Network: Fellow Jasper Smith spoke to Black women who went back to complete their degrees at historically Black colleges and universities after time away. They’re part of a broader trend of women of color with “some college, no degree” who are going back to finish up in higher numbers than men. The story was co-published with Capital B. Jasper talked more about her reporting process in the latest edition of our HBCU Spotlight.

From Indiana: A legislative proposal would auto-enroll eligible students into a state scholarship program that offers up to the equivalent of four years tuition and regular fees at an in-state public university.

From Mississippi: Nobody is talking publicly about what went wrong with the presidency of Thomas Hudson, who resigned from Jackson State University earlier this month. Molly Minta continues to hold officials accountable, as they proceed with a search to fill the position.

“Whatever it is, it needs to be discussed,” C. Liegh McInnis, a poet, short story writer, and retired Jackson State English instructor, told Molly. “Not only so it can be avoided, but because he (Hudson) was doing right in so many ways. He was a great fundraiser; he was a great face of the institution.”

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