Social Investigaion: The Importance of Knowing Your Audience

I heard through the grapevine (aka facebook status updates) that El Camino will be the new outreach site for PTSP next year. This is great news and I am happy that the organization's work is progressing. Congratulations to all those who made it happen!!

With that said, I want to stress the importance of knowing the population you serve. Though we our exposed to great diversity at UCLA, the community college takes diversity to a whole 'nother level. Remember, the majority of CC students do not have the mentality of a typical university student or university bound student. Many of them were students who did not do so well in high school. Many are not sure of what they want to do. Then you have elder students who are returning to school and may not take so well to younger students trying to help them out. These students have a different mentality and may not be very receptive to certain practices or ideas.

Knowing the needs of the population you are serving is crucial. You can't just go some place, set up shop, and expect things to go smoothly. Remember that the methodologies we are trying to share with others are very unfamiliar to them. There is an idealism that comes with being student leaders/activist which sometimes causes one to assume that everyone will take heed to the knowledge you are trying to share. Sometimes we take for granted the fact that the people we are serving have not been exposed to the knowledge we have. Know the people you are trying to reach, do your best to put your self in their shoes, relate to them and know their situations before trying to share your knowledge with them.


"Non-Traditional" Student Mother says more...

As I watch candidate speeches for the new USC Social Work Student Org, I can’t help but feel a little bias as to how a man running for president will address issues that address the needs of parents or women. To my surprise, Nelson Calderon, a candidate running for Social Work Student President, was posed with the question, how would you resolve conflict as student president? Like most candidates, he spoke about mediation, communication, coming to a common ground where both parties are satisfied, compromise and so forth (which are a quality of any good leader). What stood out to me, was the fact that as former undergraduate sociology president at his former university, he took the initiative to address the needs of student parents who complained that they needed childcare in order to go to school. Thus, Nelson Calderon helped to implement a Head Start Program, which is a program funded by the government for low-income parents to take care of their children while parents go to school. That’s a beautiful thing folks.

From what I’ve researched, I understand that a head start program does exist at USC, but I believe it’s still part of the childcare system at USC that had outstanding prices even when subsidized, since I called one time to figure out where the head start program was at USC and was directed right back to where I started.

Graduate students are older and currently life cycling through life. Meaning some are married, balancing a family, or like my colleague, is at the hospital having her first son. The reason I want to emphasize help for the parents is because parents face the additional challenge of taking care of another life, while balancing a career, a family, and school. It’s an additional challenge. They can’t do this if no sufficient support is offered and when people don’t feel supported, there is less motivation there. Let’s face it, graduate school is hard. I’ve heard the “I can’t imagine how you do it” words from other students, but maybe people just have to--to realize and ultimately feel the reality of the situation.

Just in the past two months, I’ve had to call students affairs and talk to the vice president in order to see if subsidies could be available, for example, for part-time students. It took them about a week to finally respond and what they said is, “No,” There are certain guidelines to what is considered a part-time student. For example, they’d have to be a research or teaching assistant... As I was talking to the vice president, who was actually wonderfully polite, I asked her, first of all, there is a reason that part-time students choose part-time, it’s because they are juggling a professional career, graduate school and family. I don’t know about you, but that sure does sound full-time to me. I said, so you expect them to be a teaching assistant or research assistant on top of everything else they do. Unfortunately, “it is what it is.” They expected part-time students to pay $800 for two days per week. How reasonable is that, seriously?

And it’s just the challenges that you face, I found myself writing in my field placement “reasons” to prove why I need a stipend for my internship. I wrote things like “I have a child and I have to pay for his food, clothing, and shelter.” I mean, duh, should I really be writing this right now. I feel that parents should also have priority in regards to reserving open slots for stipend opportunities for field placement at our school since it is basically stipends appear to be awarded to anyone based on need. I couldn’t help but think what were the other justifications of students wanting the stipend? Possibly a sick family member and so forth, which are just as equally important.

It’s really hard to find student’s who are parents here. A classmate of mine who is pregnant actually expressed to me that her field instructor had told her when she got pregnant, “Why would you do something like that?” In addition, she feels that childcare is not even an option for her because of the costs. She is worried about next year as to how it will turn out. She is extremely smart, but I’m sad that she cannot even look at our own school for support when she is basically dedicating or sacrificing herself for the school, which in turn does nothing for her to help her situation. Instead, she feels “it’s her own problem” and even gets comments like that from an instructor? I found myself giving her referrals or baby sitter numbers in the area she lives only hoping they would given her an affordable rate. I felt the questions, her self doubts, and her feeling torn between school and her baby. Sacrificing time with her baby was the chance she was willing to take to go back to school and what was the school going to give her, inconsiderate comments and no childcare? I never really believed in the theory or had the mentality that when you have a child, your life is over. But it appears that institutions are really supporting this. I hate it because I’m at odds with my the institution that I thought I would be proud of.

There’s no better time to advocate for parents than now. It’s now a matter of finding them first in the social work school, then in the larger school. I did enough talking, it’s just time to shut up and do it.

Dom commented below on my earlier blog explaining the importance of personal experience. It's a powerful thing since you are integrating your personal experience to the realities of life. Everyone has personal experiences that makes them see through a totally different lens. It's one thing to complain, talk, read, or write about it, it's about having the guts to take action and actually do something about it. My GABNet sisters, who have really taught me this, have been so persisent with ACTION no matter how far the solution maybe, it's always working towards hope...So remeber that there is.

Goodnite. On a good note, I just came back from LA LIVE and had great spicy jambalaya creme brulee (I don't know how to spell that). It was heck good. Yummy.

--Aileen Malig


Paying In Full As The Ticket to College?

A friend sent me this article from the New York Times and I wanted to share it....
Source: New York Times By: Kate Zernike, March 30, 2009

Facing fallen endowments and needier students, many colleges are looking more favorably on wealthier applicants as they make their admissions decisions this year.
Institutions that have pledged to admit students regardless of need are finding ways to increase the number of those who pay the full cost in ways that allow the colleges to maintain the claim of being need-blind — taking more students from the transfer or waiting lists, for instance, or admitting more foreign students who pay full tuition. Private colleges that acknowledge taking financial status into account say they are even more aware of that factor this year.
“If you are a student of means or ability, or both, there has never been a better year,” said Robert A. Sevier, an enrollment consultant to colleges.
The trend does not mean colleges are cutting their financial aid budgets. In fact, most have increased those budgets this year, protecting that money even as they cut administrative salaries or require faculty members to take furloughs. But with more students applying for aid, and with those who need aid often needing more, institutions say they have to be mindful of how many scholarship students they can afford.

Colleges say they are not backing away from their desire to serve less affluent students; if anything, they say, taking more students who can afford to pay full price or close to it allows them to better afford those who cannot. But they say the inevitable result is that needier students will be shifted down to the less expensive and less prestigious institutions.
“There’s going to be a cascading of talented lower-income kids down the social hierarchy of American higher education, and some cascading up of affluent kids,” said Morton Owen Schapiro, the president of Williams College and an economist who studies higher education.
And colleges acknowledge that giving more seats to higher-paying students often means trading off their goals to be more socioeconomically diverse.
Some admissions officers and college advisers say richer parents are taking note of the climate, calculating that if they do not apply for aid, their children stand a better chance of getting in.
“They think their kids will have more options,” said Diane Geller, a college counselor in private practice in Los Angeles and president of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a nonprofit group that represents private academic counselors. “And anecdotally, it would seem that that’s the case.”
“I do think the colleges want to give aid where they can,” Ms. Geller added. “But we all know the economic realities.”

Only the wealthiest institutions traditionally have been need-blind, admitting students without regard to what they can pay. But the definition has often been fuzzy, and this year, it may be more so. Bowdoin College announced plans to expand by 50 students over the next five years, which Scott Meiklejohn, the interim dean of admissions, said would allow it to accept more transfer and waiting-list students, whose applications are not considered on a need-blind basis.

Brandeis University, which is need-blind except for international, wait-listed and transfer students, accepted 10 percent more international students than usual this year, and Gil Villanueva, the dean of admissions, said he expected that the university would take more wait-listed and transfer students, as well.

Middlebury, which is need-blind and pledges to meet students’ full financial needs, will require students on financial aid to contribute more of their work earnings. It has cut its financial aid budget for international students. It is not need-blind for those on the waiting list or for transfers, but the college has not yet determined how many of those students it will take.

“We consider being need-blind and meeting full demonstrated need one of our basic operating principles,” said Patrick J. Norton, the college’s treasurer. “That is one of the last things that we would consider going away from.”
Those colleges that are need-aware typically admit part of the class without regard to ability to pay, but begin to consider it when the financial aid budget runs thin.
This year, many of these colleges say they are more inclined to accept students who do not apply for aid, or whom they judge to be less needy based on other factors, like ZIP code or parents’ background.

“We’re only human,” said Steven Syverson, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. “They shine a little brighter.”
The advantage is not across the board; it goes to the students at the margins, the ones who would probably be “maybes” when the admissions committee considered applications. Those students are less likely to get in if they are financially needy and more likely to get in if they can afford to pay.
“This is not the majority of the class, or even the preponderance,” said Rob Reddy, the director of financial aid at Oberlin College. “But it’s a factor.”
Even though there is more financial aid this year, more students are vying for it, so resources do not stretch as far. “It’s not unusual to see families earning $200,000 applying for aid, especially if they have a couple of kids going to college,” said Rodney M. Oto, director of student financial services at Carleton College.

And some campuses are shifting more financial aid to merit aid, money that goes to highly qualified but not necessarily needy students; if tuition is $50,000 and the college offers an award of $7,000, it still gets $43,000, where a needier student might net the college nothing.
Some say it is time to reconsider the cachet that accompanies a boast of being need-blind.
“You can’t say someone should be need-blind unless they have the resources to fund it,” said Dr. Schapiro, at Williams. “It sounds immoral to replace really talented low-income kids with less talented richer kids, but unless you’re a Williams or an Amherst, the alternative is the quality of the education declines for everyone.”

At Carleton, which is need-aware, Mr. Oto said, “I do think we’d all be better off if we were honest with kids that you may not get in because you need assistance, or you need too much assistance.”
Mr. Oto’s fear — shared by many other admissions officers — is that being honest will scare off students who might, in fact, qualify for financial aid.

On the other end, Mr. Oto said: “I suspect it may be a strategy for some folks. We do get the sense that people are getting advice that if you can pay, then you should shoot for the highly selective school.”
Many admissions counselors ascribe the increase in early decision applicants this year to wealthier students’ seeking an advantage. Early decision requires students to attend if they are accepted, so those students give up the ability to negotiate financial aid, and tend to be wealthier.
“Those families in a position to afford the cost of attendance capitalized on that,” said Mr. Villanueva, at Brandeis.

Many colleges, in turn, accepted more students early decision, as a way of securing students in December. Some families have come back and tried to renegotiate aid after an offer of admission, but colleges caution that there is no guarantee: they have accommodated some requests, but told other students that their offers are firm, and in some cases, released students from early decision agreements rather than give a larger scholarship.
If endowments do not rebound, some colleges say that it will be harder to maintain commitments to the needier in coming years.

Tufts says it is reading applications on a need-blind basis this year, but may not be able to continue doing so. William D. Adams, the president of Colby College, told students in a letter that the college would continue its new policy of replacing loans with grants this year, but that he could not guarantee that future budgets would be able to afford to do so. Grinnell College in Iowa also intends to meet a promise this year that no student graduates with more than $2,000 a year in loans, but officials say it may be hard to sustain that.

“These are things you’ll have to pry from our hands,” said Seth Allen, Grinnell’s dean of admission and financial aid. “At the same time, you have to be realistic.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 1, 2009 An article on Tuesday about colleges looking more favorably on wealthy applicants referred incorrectly to a pledge by Grinnell College to limit the amount of loans that students must pay back after graduation. The college promises that no student will graduate with more than $2,000 a year in loans — not a total of $2,000 in loans.