Tag Archives: college

House Republicans Pose Threat to Pell Grants

The election night results from the previous November have left many wondering what the implications would be.  We now seem to have an answer to that question as House Republicans are in the news.

In a recent budget proposal, the GOP has proposed cuts to Pell Grants.  Pell Grants are federal financial aid monies given to qualifying students attending college.   Unlike loans, these grants do not need to be repaid.   According to Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid, the cuts would mean a reduction in Pell Grant amounts by as much as $845.  The cuts, if they were to pass, would be the largest cuts to financial aid funds in the history of the Pell Grant program.  President Obama previously increased the payout for Pell Grants.

House Republicans point to their proposal as a downpayment on their pledge to cut more than $100 Billion from the budget.  It is believed that House members will begin discussion on the budget proposal as early as this week.

Time will tell how many GOP Senate members come out to support the measures put forth by their House colleagues.

How do you feel about these proposed cuts?  Are they a necessary evil or should they be the last resort?

Stay with Desperate America Report for the latest!


Special Comment: Seizing the Moment

Cross-Posted with Young Writer’s Block
The calendar has flipped to the new year yet we are stuck with the same issues facing America’s young adults.  The past two years have been a brutal one for every American.  Jobs are scarce, homes are being foreclosed, and the economy is moving at a snail’s pace.  What are we to do?  The answer may be simpler than we all want to admit.  Millions of 20-somethings are nearing the end of college or have become newly minted graduates.  To those whom have finished school, my congratulations.  My girlfriend is one of these new grads.  She is faced with uncertainty in the job market and the chance her nursing degree will be relegated to a care home rather than a hospital.  For those of us still in school(myself included), we are scratching for money at every turn and desperately trying to keep from drowning in course work.
So how do our problems offer a solution to fixing our lives?  The answer is two-fold.  The first hurdle requiring our attention is the enthusiasm gap we are seeing in the political arena of our country.  Sure, 2008 was an amazing time for young voters as we rallied behind the Obama campaign.  However, where were we this past November?  Perhaps too busy with the new Call of Duty or Grand Turismo game?  We sat on our hands while the noisy few got their way.  Politics too confusing?  Shut it!  Politics is nothing more than a tug of war between differing views.  Politics too dirty?  Please!  Nothing in life is pristine.  Politics are the epitome of our lives.  Your vote doesn’t count?  How about you say that to the candidate in Hawaii who lost by less than twenty(not a typo) votes!
The fact of the matter is our generation has the potential to make a huge impact on the direction of the country.  The last time any generation had the opportunity was the baby boomers.  This generation must take the lead to bring the country out of the duldrums and into the strong wind of success.  With this power, we can make tremendous gains in health care reform, immigration reform and education reform.  There is no telling the possibilities of this generation.  Don’t believe me?  Just log into your Facebook and remember the 20-something Harvard student who created the whole thing!  If we do not pressure our elected officials, if we do not stand up and fight, we will lose our best chance to move our society forward.
The second hurdle goes hand in hand with the first.  Taking part in elections is great.  Everyone should exercise they right to vote.  However, during those times between elections, we must always keep an eye to our communities.  It is imperative that we stay connected with those around us and understand the needs of everyone within our community.  This means knowing what types of businesses are needed, what areas require road work as well as other issues requiring our attention.  Too difficult for you?  It really doesn’t take much to do your part.  Most areas have a monthly neighborhood board meeting.  If you can’t attend them in person, at the very least try and subscribe to meeting minutes which can be emailed.  These meetings are where citizens have the chance to share their concerns or complaints regarding their community.  Another way of getting involved is to pick up a copy of the local paper or other publication.  Many times these papers have listings of community events as well as important news regarding the area.
Seems simple enough right?  It is amazing how simple tasks can add up and make a difference.  We must not sit idly by as the country moves along.  Now is the time to step up and take control.  Now is the time we take ownership of our actions and take responsibilty.  Once we have done that, the rest will fall into place.  It is easy for us to be complacent and do nothing.  It requires us to care if we really want change.  However, the simple act of caring can do so much.  If we fail to seize this opportunity, there will be nothing left for us to hold on to when we are old and gray.
Ryan Adverderada
Founder, Desperate America Report

Five Questions with Tara D. Coomans

I recently was asked to put together an article for the Honolulu Community College student newspaper, The Ka La. The article’s focus was on social media and its implications on politics and how it would affect young, college voters. It was interesting to see how many college students participate in some form of social media on a daily basis. The article will be posted towards the end of the month of October. I’ll be sure to post it on here when it goes to print. However, while researching for the article, I was able to speak to Tara Coomans.

Coomans is the Social Media Director for SEO and social media strategy company, ClearlyM, as well as the Head Brainstormer at Akamai Marketing.  She is part of the team of social media experts who have helped bring social media to the masses in Hawaii.  She is also instrumental to the success of the Social Media Club Hawaii.  It was at a SMCHI meeting when I initially met Tara.  She is well versed in the ways of online marketing and has been a tremendous source of information.  Unfortunately, my brief time with Tara was unable to make it on to the newspaper article.  Their loss is your gain.  Here is the five questions I put to Tara and some very interesting answers.  Enjoy!

Social Media Club Hawaii promotes engagement in social media.

Ryan Adverderada:  How far has social media progressed over the last 5 years?

Tara Coomans: Social media is really still in its infancy, look what’s happened in 7 short years: MySpace started in 2003. Facebook in 2004. Twitter in 2006. Gowalla in 2007. Foursquare in 2009. But to answer your question directly, the last five years have seen an explosion of platforms both on the web and on your phone. Mobile phone applications have done a lot for social networking because now you can be social in real life and still be social on your platform of choice. Think about it – before mobile apps we were all just being “social” while we were sitting alone at our computers. Kind of ironic, right? A lot of the current applications are all about location-based networking, letting your friends know where you are and when. What’s interesting about location-based social networking is that even businesses can see a very clear application for themselves using these tools; their application is more obvious to a non-social networker than say, Twitter. In 5 years you’ll look back on this article and there will be new platforms and new ways of using social media and the way we are using it now will likely seem very unsophisticated.

RA: How can social media help or hinder politicians/candidate in terms of connecting with the public?

TC: There’s no doubt that social media can both help and hurt a politician, just like any medium. The difference with social media is that you don’t just “set it and forget it.” Social media isn’t like advertising, its about engagement and conversation. Its an ongoing commitment of time, consideration and resources, just like any relationship. I think sometimes “conversation” makes politicians nervous – they like to set the agenda, not respond to it. Its also hard to put issues into context of in the (more) limited forms of social media. We’ve recently seen in Hawaii that simply USING social media doesn’t win elections. Engaging people (not audiences), is how to utilize social media. Using social media as a one-way blowhorn simply isn’t effective. However, for those that really learn how to engage an audience, communicate WITH not AT people the possibility exists to motivate core supporters to take action – outside of the social media format – particularly in the form of voting.

RA: How will social media change how we look at politics in America?

TC: I’m quite hopeful that social media will give more people a voice and direct access to our leaders. Social media has the potential to make our politicians more “real” to the public and thus allow the public to finally feel as though they actually know a politician, even if they haven’t “met” them. Consider our primary election – I saw a post-vote poll on why people voted for who they did, 4 out of the 5 people said they voted for someone because they met the candidate and thought they were “nice”. WOW. Imagine if a candidate could reach thousands, or millions of people in an intimate forum? Oh, wait – a candidate can, its called social media. But just like a candidate has to get out there and shake hands and kiss babies, a candidate has to get in there and start having conversations with people using social media. These conversations have to go both ways, and include listening and asking questions.

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps businesses become more visible and accessible.

RA: How will social media affect voters age 18-34?

TC: This is an interesting question. The biggest difference between younger people and today’s politicians within the context of social media is probably privacy vs. transparency. Younger people generally accept transparency as the “norm”, and they expect others to embrace transparency too. Despite (or maybe because of) intense media scrutiny, politicians strive for privacy, unless they can control the message and even then, transparency isn’t really all that common. I think this disconnect will be the most frustrating for younger voters. Younger voters who have grown up in an era of transparency (because of social media) could become very disillusioned with politicians who don’t seem to embrace this belief system. On the other hand, as politicians evolve in using social media as a two-way conversation, younger voters may very well embrace those politicians more enthusiastically. We saw this with the Obama campaign – younger voters were very excited because they felt they had a voice and someone who communicated with them. Social media has the potential to allow voters to better understand a politician and hopefully, increase the number of people voting. I’m also very excited to see how this generation of people uses social media when THEY start running for office.

RA: Ultimately, How will social media affect the everyday college student in Hawaii?

TC: Social media will continue to have increasing impact on the day-to-day life of more and more people. We’ll be more plugged into where our friends are, where they like to eat and what they think than ever before. We’ll accept that our messages/advertising are specifically targeted towards our likes and dislikes. Considering the potential of social media within University systems is very exciting, particularly on spread-out campuses as it opens doors for communication between professors, administrators and students.

New study finds strong high school curriculum helps close race and income gap in college

Educators and legislators have continually searched for solutions to the problem of race and income affecting college success.  Statistics have shown through the years a relationship between where someone is raised and the income level, and how well the particular student does in college.  A study coming from Iowa may shed some light on the issue.

From HawaiiReporter.com:

IOWA CITY, IOWA—Racial and income gaps in college success rates can be narrowed by ensuring that all students take a rigorous core curriculum in high school, according to a new study by ACT, Inc. The findings show that racial/ ethnic and family income gaps are reduced—in some cases dramatically—when entering students are academically prepared for college.

“Our country has allowed achievement gaps to exist for far too long,” said Cynthia B. Schmeiser, ACT Education Division president and chief operating officer. “The time has come to address this problem head on. The research tells us that academic preparation—taking rigorous coursework in high school—is a significant factor in eliminating these intolerable, longstanding inequities.”

The ACT report, entitled “Mind the Gaps: How College Readiness Narrows Achievement Gaps in College Success,” concludes that the best way to prepare underrepresented racial/ethnic minority and lower-income students for postsecondary success is through a rigorous high school core curriculum that focuses on the essential knowledge and skills for college and career readiness.

The study analyzed the postsecondary outcomes of tens of thousands of students who had taken the ACT college admission and placement exam in high school. The college outcomes considered included enrollment, need for remediation, first- to second-year retention, course grades, overall grade point average and degree completion.

ACT data show that gaps exist between underrepresented minority and white students and between lower family income and higher family income groups in each of those areas. However, the gaps are significantly reduced, in some cases by two-thirds or more, for students who are college and career ready as evidenced by their meeting or exceeding all four College Readiness Benchmarks (English, math, reading, and science) on the ACT exam.

ACT College Readiness Benchmarks specify the minimum scores needed on each ACT subject-area test to indicate a student is ready to succeed (50 percent chance of earning a “B” or higher or about a 75 percent chance of earning a “C” or higher) in a typical first-year, credit-bearing college course in that subject area. The benchmarks are based on actual student performance in college coursework.

The report calls for college and career readiness standards that are aligned among K-12, postsecondary education, and workforce training programs. It also suggests that student readiness for college and career should be monitored early and often.

“Our findings show that monitoring student progress in becoming college and career ready throughout K to 12 and identifying and intervening with those students who are off target are critical steps in helping to maximize their success in all forms of postsecondary education,” Schmeiser said.

The report makes three major recommendations to help close racial/ethnic and income gaps in college success.

  1. Ensure that all students take at least a core curriculum in high school.
  2. Focus high school core courses on the essential standards for college and career readiness.
  3. Offer all students rigorous high school core courses that cover the essential knowledge and skills needed for college and career in sufficient depth and intensity.

Social Media Opens Doors

Not long ago, Desperate America looked at the bleak reality that awaits college grads.  How would a recent graduate with little work experience use that degree to get a job in a relevant field?  Well with the rise of the social media outlet, reconnecting and networking has suddenly become a tweet or Facebook post away!  Twenty years ago it would have taken constant phone calls and letters to keep in touch with a former classmate across the country.  It would be nearly impossible to track down a former colleague with an entire ocean in between.  Today we can search for someone by typing their name in a Facebook search engine or even by using a Google search of the person.  In the age of the email, correspondence has become near instantaneous.  We have moved beyond the days of waiting a week from the time of mailing a letter to a response arriving in the mail.  An email sent in Hawaii will arrive at the intended inbox of an individual in Germany within seconds.  An entire conversation can be had using an instant messaging program that connects people on either side of the world.

Many college students take advantage of some sort of social media program.  The rise of Facebook and Twitter have allowed students to stay connected with former and current classmates without needing to meet face to face.  Constant contact helps improve the flow of ideas between classmates.  The ease of the system allows everyone to complete more tasks at a quicker pace.  Before the rise of the internet, a businessman would need to leave a phone message for a client.  If the client was not immediately available, the businessman would need to wait until the client returned.  Sometimes it would take a couple of days for a simple question to be answered.  Now imagine that the answer for that question is needed to continue or finish a project.  Today’s technology allows for these communications to take place in the matter of seconds.  Some of the most successful businessmen are some of the most tech savvy businessmen.

How does the rise of social media help graduates find career opportunities?  Social media allows individuals to see the different organizations that are looking for help.  A charity’s Twitter account may publicize an upcoming volunteer drive.  The business management major may see that tweet and contact the organization about volunteer opportunities.  A blog site may feature an article about the Red Cross delivering aid to flood victims.  College students in the area may feel compelled to get involved.  Getting involved while in college will boost that resume even more.  Social media allows individuals to get more people involved with charities or causes.  The large user numbers mean that it has become easier to reach more people.

These sites also promote a sharing of ideas.  The best way to filter the quality of an idea is to have others consider them.  What better way to get a peer review than posting a blog question or a tweet?  One tweet that is seen by one hundred followers is easier than talking to the same amount of people in person.  The same tweet may reach even more people if the information is passed along.  The volume of feedback has the capability to grow exponentially.

At the end of the day, college graduates may be facing a tougher economy with fewer jobs.  However, it behooves them to learn and take advantage of the connectivity provided by social media.  The more connected a person is, the larger the chance that opportunities will be knocking.  Social media will continue to grow over time and the possibilities are endless.  The new age of doing business and connecting with others has arrived.  How will you get connected?

Get Informed and Get Involved.

I got a degree…now what?

Have you finished your college education?  This has become an all important question in today’s society.  As the job market remains scarce, many are turning back to school to get a leg up on the competition.  However, how do you get a leg up on the competition when they are sitting in the same classroom as you?  This is a reality that many are currently facing.  The more people that return to school, the more difficult it is for anyone to stand out from the pack.  Got a bachelor’s degree?  So does Maggie.  Got experience interning at a law firm?  So does Mark.  The grim reality is that it has become a literal fight for jobs.  Just 10 years ago a college degree meant a near certain ability to find a job in a desired field.  Yet with growing numbers, college graduates are seeing that maybe that nursing job is now located in Idaho instead of Hawaii.

Enrollment at UH Manoa has increased drastically since the economic crash of 2008.

We always hear about how someone with a college degree will out earn someone without a college degree.  That is a great commercial but what fields are actively hiring right now?  How many of those companies have openings and are willing to train new graduates?  New graduates are applying for jobs against college dropouts with a few years of experience in a similar career.  Look at it from a employers vantage point:  Your company deals with payroll operations for various companies.  You are looking to add on an additional accountant.  Sam is a recent finance major graduate with only 6months of experience working for a small law firm.  Jake has no degree, however he has worked for various accounting firms over the last 4 years and is heading back to school for more accounting classes.  Both men are 25 years of age.  Hiring either man will cost a salary of $45,000/yr.  Jake is able to start right away for you.  Sam on the other hand will need a few weeks or more of training for the position.  This training will force you to use an additional worker for the training process and will mean one fewer person to carry the load around the office.  Obviously the man that could do more help over a longer time is Sam.  He has been educated in the long term affairs of the business.  However, Jake will be more valuable and cheaper than Sam for maybe a couple years.  In this economy do what you can to stay alive for tomorrow!

Where does this leave someone about to graduate or still in school?  Well a few things are clear right now about this economy.  Job growth will be limited for the next couple years or maybe even more.  Don’t expect a sudden boom in jobs over the next few years.  Another point is that the more working experience you have, the better suited you are to step in right away and contribute.  This is a tough one for people working on majors that require a large amount of school related activities.  Internships and volunteering could help in closing the gap.  Also, don’t forget to try and find entry level jobs while still in school.  Looking to become a broadcaster in the future?  Why not work in the promotions department for a local radio or television station.  Working experience will help to enhance the knowledge gained through schooling.  The important thing is having the ability to practice what you have been taught.

Graduating from college is the first step in a long journey!

Is this a plea to stay out of school?  Of course not.  The great thing about getting a college education is the many avenues that it tends to open for an individual.  Maybe you can’t get that job straight out of school.  Maybe a year down the road that old classmate of yours lets you know of an opening at his job.  That college education will come in handy when you are trying to show your knowledge of the field when you’ve been working at Starbucks for the last 6 months!