Our reporters want to hear your thoughts on the return of student loan payments. And, a look at the messy ways first-generation students are tallied in California.

‘It’s time to prepare’

Our local reporters are preparing coverage about the October return of student loan payments. We have stories in the works that will center borrowers’ voices about how the expense will weigh them down and what they did during the three-year payments pause. And, we’ll try and answer questions about other options for relief, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness or income-driven repayment. Have a student-debt story idea or question for our team? Email me: colleen@opencampusmedia.org.

This week, Lisa Philip at WBEZ Chicago explains how to prepare for the return of loan payments. A few of her tips:

  • You might qualify for reduced or zeroed out monthly payments, through what’s known as an income-driven repayment plan. Apply here — and know it could take some time to move through the system.
  • Check if you’re eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. (The Biden administration has worked to speed up this process: More than 615,000 people have had their federal student loans canceled since October 2021.)
  • Don’t ignore reality. Interest starts accruing again in September. “It’s time to prepare,” Kristin McGuire from Young Invincibles, a nonprofit that advocates for young adults, told Lisa.

We want to talk to borrowers. Want to participate in our coverage, or know someone who would? Answer our reporter callouts in ChicagoClevelandPittsburgh, and Texas.

We’re headed to Pittsburgh

Sara and I will join Emma Folts, our reporter at PublicSource, in Pittsburgh next week to talk to people about what they find confusing about college. (You might remember we made a similar trip to Cleveland a few months ago.)

Want to meet up with us? Have ideas of where we should go? Email me. 

Stats check

We had two stories this week that dug into some of the metrics that colleges are commonly peddling: the number of first-generation students and the transfer rate from community colleges.

  • The University of California boasts a higher percentage of first-generation students compared to the community college system, writes Adam Echelman, our community colleges reporter at CalMatters. That’s because the institutions tally those students in different ways. In the UC system, a first-generation student is anyone whose parents didn’t get a bachelor’s degree. In the state’s community colleges, it’s anyone whose parents never went to college at all. (And, it’s more than semantics — first-generation students can receive extra support and funding from their college.)
  • And Emma at PublicSource dug into the transfer rate at the Community College of Allegheny County. Students who aim to transfer from the college “accomplish that goal more often than the average transfer student,” she says. About 45% of those CCAC students enroll at a four-year university by the next academic year — that’s better than the national average. Plus, two local universities — the University of Pittsburgh and Chatham University — have strong graduation rates for CCAC transfer students.

Thanks to our editorial assistants

Maddison Hwang photographs a “Making an Exoneree” class for our College Inside newsletter. (Photo: Charlotte West/Open Campus)

Welcome to Lily Barajas, who’ll be working with us as an editorial assistant. She’s a fellow at The Humanities Institute at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she’s majoring in anthropology and literature.

And congratulations to Maddison Hwang, our previous editorial assistant, who also worked with us through The Humanities Institute. (Read a short feature about Maddison’s work on our prison education reporting.) They graduated this spring with majors in philosophy and education.

Maddison told The Humanities Institute that they were especially excited about the chance to experience the concepts they had been learning about in the classroom in real-world contexts.

“I’ve learned a lot about education that I haven’t learned about in my major,” Maddison said. “I’m getting an understanding of how difficult it is for [people who are incarcerated] to get an education… and how sentencing plays into that; how gender or sexuality or gender identity can play into that.”

— Sara Hebel

Elsewhere on Open Campus

Kathleen McElroy, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Journalism and a graduate of Texas A&M, in her apartment in Austin. (Photo: Joe Timmerman/The Texas Tribune)

From Texas: Last month, Texas A&M University announced that Kathleen McElroy, a longtime journalist, would be a tenured professor and director of its journalism program. Then, amid what has been described as “DEI hysteria,” the university walked back the deal and offered McElroy a one-year contract instead. Kate McGee, of the Texas Tribune, spoke to McElroy about what happened. (This story was cited in The New York Times yesterday!)

From Indiana: The state’s college-going rate for high schoolers in the class of 2021 held steady from the year before — about 52.9% of students went directly from high school to some form of college.

The college-going rate for Black high schoolers was 45%, an increase of two percentage points from the previous year, writes MJ Slaby, our reporter at Chalkbeat Indiana.

And one more from us: Naomi Harris, our reporter covering race and equity, had a story co-published with Capital B this week. She wrote about a Howard University professor’s effort to strengthen the pipeline of Black and Latino social workers in D.C.’s public schools.

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