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College Counselor: Why does college cost so much?

Written by Dr. Jane S. Gabin Wednesday, 02 September 2015 23:26

Q: Over the summer, we took our daughter to visit a number of colleges. We saw a lot of impressive things: beautiful buildings, nice dorms, modern labs, and so forth. But the cost! We have heard our friends telling us how much college is costing them, but we never actually realized it until now. The cost of going to college is more than many people even make in a year! Why is it so expensive?

A: It costs a lot to run a college. What students pay covers some, but not all of the cost. There are the faculty salaries (plus benefits like health insurance), generous administrators’ salaries (the college president, vice presidents, provosts, vice-provosts, deans, associate deans, assistant deans, and so forth), and staff salaries (the department managers, administrative assistants, librarians, admissions staff, student services directors, and so on). What about infrastructure? Buildings have to be maintained by the buildings and grounds crew, heat and electricity must be provided, buildings painted when needed to keep a fresh look. Libraries must stay current by ordering the latest books and renewing subscriptions to journals. Maybe the Classics Department doesn’t have to order many new items from year to year, but the Biology and Chemistry Departments need new equipment all the time.

You get the picture. A school’s budget is enormous.

And yet…

The cost of attending college has risen much higher than the cost of living. What could account for that? Those of us who went to college some time back remember that dorms were kind of crummy (some still are), but we put up with because it was college. The cafeteria food wasn’t great (remember “mystery meat”?), but hey, it was college. These days, everything has to be state-of-the-art to entice the applicants: dorms rooms that are more like hotel suites, varied cuisines displayed alluringly at dining hall food stations and top-notch equipment in the student recreation center.

And today’s colleges advertise—a lot. There was little of that 30 or 40 years ago. Back then, if you were interested in a college, you wrote to them and they mailed you a catalog that listed all the courses offered and if you were lucky, there were two or three photographs included. Today colleges have websites, glossy recruitment brochures and videos—all produced at high cost. They also pay the College Board for names to add to its mailing and e-mailing lists. True, a number of high-profile colleges do not advertise—because they do not need to. But they are in a tiny, elite minority. Most colleges are in a competitive scrum to fill their seats.

I am just raising issues for you to consider. But this does not help you with planning for your own family’s expenditures. So here is some practical advice:

Think seriously about public colleges and universities. Their tuition, and therefore overall cost, is usually at least $10,000 less than private colleges of comparative size and value.

Your best value will be your own state university. Save the pricey schools for professional or graduate school.

Remember that the projected cost you see is the “sticker price”—what is charged before financial aid and scholarships are offered. If your daughter is a good student, more financial incentives might be forthcoming from a school that is eager to have her enroll. Make sure to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) on time to improve your chances of getting some financial aid. You can learn more about completing the FAFSA at www.understandingfafsa.org.

Lots of us worked our way through college and we did fine. See if you can find schools offering “work-study” arrangements.

These ideas may help you and your family contain the high costs of college. Today’s market pressures are making many schools adopt a business model for their operations. You too can use this strategy. You are consumers looking for high quality and solid value and schools that want your money need to be accountable for their costs.

 

 

Students who are new to New York City public schools, or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, can enroll in school at temporary registration centers set up across the city beginning Sept. 1.

The centers are open Monday–Friday, 8 am–3 pm through Sept. 18, with the exception of Sept. 7, Labor Day, and Sept. 14-15 for Rosh Hashanah. Family Welcome Centers will be closed until Sept. 21.

All high school students as well as elementary and middle school students who do not have a zoned school must go to a registration center to enroll in school.

Elementary and middle schools students who have a zoned school, including special education students who have a current New York City–issued IEP (individualized education plan), should wait until the first day of school, Sept. 9, to register directly at their zoned school. Regardless of whether or not you have a zoned school, new students with IEPs from outside of New York City should go to a registration center.

Students with more restrictive or specialized needs may also visit a Committee on Special Education (CSE) location. For more information, including CSE locations, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/schools.

Our advice: Do your research before you get to the registration center. Read our school profiles on Insideschools and look at Insidestats. If you have doubts about your zoned elementary or middle school, know that there are alternatives. Search for "unzoned" schools, including charter schools, or look at the DOE's elementary and middle school directories online.

Students must be present to register, and you will need to bring some documents including proof of address, a birth certificate, passport or record of baptism, immunization records and the student's latest school transcript or report card. Visit the DOE's New Students page for more details on how to register and a full list of which documents you will need to bring.

Also, bring something to read or entertain a younger child. The registration centers can get very crowded and you may have a couple of hours' wait time.

The centers are designed for new students and students who aren't yet assigned to a school, but in the past, the enrollment staff has been able to help some students who needed to transfer to a different school or who were applying to attend a school outside of their zone (known as a placement exception request.)

See the DOE's website for more information. If you have additional questions, you can call 718-935-3500.

Here's a list of the centers:

Bronx

Walton Educational Campus
2780 Reservoir Avenue

Herbert H. Lehman High School
3000 E. Tremont Avenue

Brooklyn

Edward R. Murrow High School
1600 Avenue L

Boys and Girls High School
1700 Fulton Street (enter at Schenectady Avenue)

Brooklyn Technical High School
29 Fort Greene Place (enter at South Elliot Place)

Manhattan

The High School of Fashion Industries
225 W. 24th Street (enter at West 25th Street)

Queens

Long Island City High School
14-30 Broadway

Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School
165-65 84th Avenue

Staten Island

The Michael J. Petrides School
715 Ocean Terrace (Building A)

Harlem parents blast District 5 superintendent

Written by Clara Hemphill Tuesday, 18 August 2015 11:36

For years, central Harlem's public schools have been among the worst in the city—and parents have felt powerless to do anything about it. Now, activist parents in District 5 are organizing to demand change.

Community Education Council meetings in District 5—once sleepy, sparsely attended events—have become a forum for parents' anger over the state of their schools. "Parents realize that they have a voice," said Rashidah White, a District 5 parent and former president of CEC 5.

A majority of the newly elected District 5 CEC members, who took office in July, are vocal critics of longtime superintendent Gale Reeves. And, while their role is largely advisory, council members hope that casting light on long-standing problems will force school officials to act.

New York City students performed slightly better on state standardized tests in 2015 than they did in 2014, but about two-thirds of test-takers in grades 3–8 still failed to meet state standards on either the ELA (English language arts) or math tests, according to figures released by the state education department today. The so-called "opt-out" movement gained momentum this year with nearly 2 percent of eligible New York City students refusing to take the tests, the city said; statewide some 20 percent of 3rd–8th-graders sat them out. 

Math scores continue to be somewhat higher than ELA, with 35.2 percent of students meeting the standards—scoring a 3 or 4 on the Common Core–aligned exams, as compared to 34.2 percent last year. Only 30.4 percent of students passed the reading exam, up from 28.4 percent last year.

Parents can find their child's test scores on their NYC Schools parent account. If you don't yet have an account, you can contact your school, or local school district, to help you set it up. Scores for individual schools and districts are now posted on the Department of Education's website.

The gap in scores among ethnic groups remains large throughout the city and state. "Black and Hispanic students face a discouraging achievement gap," said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in a conference call with reporters. Similar to last year, more than 50 percent of white and Asian students in the city scored 3 or 4 on the English test, while only about 19 percent of black and Hispanic students did. In math, 67 percent of Asians passed, compared to 57 percent of whites, 24 percent of Hispanics and 19 percent of black students. [See the chart above].

Students with special needs and those learning to speak English fared the worst: Only 4 percent of English language learners passed the English test and 14 percent passed the math. Of the students with disabilities, nearly 7 percent scored a 3 or 4 on English and 11 percent on math, down slightly from last year.

For more coverage of the 2015 exams and the opt-out movement, see Chalkbeat New York. The DOE's press release about city scores is here.

 

 

As September looms and school waitlists clear (or don't), many Brooklyn families with rising pre-kindergartners approach a time of reckoning. Maybe you’ve been holding out for a popular neighborhood program but the waitlist hasn’t budged, maybe you just moved to a new area, or maybe something about the program your child was assigned to doesn’t feel quite right.

Have hope, Brooklynites: Established programs have expanded in the borough, while many religious schools, child care centers and free-standing pre-k centers are offering pre-k for the first time and still have open seats. Information on some of these programs is scarce, but we’ve done our best to recommend available pre-k's for your 4-year-old based on insights from our school reviews, Department of Education data and interviews.

Below you’ll find our best bets of available programs organized by district to help you get started, but don’t be shy: It’s always a good idea to call a program and visit yourself. When it comes to your child, you’re the expert. Need more information about districts? Click on our district maps on the homepage.

Still looking for pre-k? Here are our picks

Written by Lydie Raschka Tuesday, 11 August 2015 12:09

There are still pre-kindergarten seats available for the fall—not just in public schools but also in religious schools, child care centers and community organizations.

Some of the most popular programs are seriously oversubscribed, and there is a shortage of seats in some neighborhoods (such as the Upper West Side and Bayside, Queens.) Still, it doesn't hurt to put your name on a waitlist at a popular program while you check out others. Families who applied in the second round of pre-k admissions must decide by Aug. 21 whether to accept their offer.

The good news: Some well-established programs have expanded—and still have room. Many religious schools and child care agencies are offering public pre-k for the first time and haven't filled their seats.

Information is scarce on a lot of these programs, but we've done our best to identify a few we can recommend based on the data available. Be sure to visit: It's a bad sign if a program is unwilling to let you see the classrooms. Watch our video on "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten" and read our tips.

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald made his way to our dinner table earlier this summer, during a casual chat about the most essential books to read before entering college. We had plenty of recent New York City public high school graduates ticking off their suggestions.

Among them: Bronte's Jane Eyre, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Heller's Catch-22, Dickens' Great Expectations, James' Washington Square, Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Yet it soon became apparent that many of the "Must Reads" hadn't made their way into classrooms, much to my dismay. I pictured a fictional Fitzgerald looking at my younger son in amazement when he acknowledged he'd graduated from high school having never been assigned the author's masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.

Q: After I graduated from high school in 2006, I went to community college. But I wasn't prepared mentally or physically; I quit going to classes, gave up, and failed out. Now I am 24 and feel ready to take getting a degree seriously. I live in a town where there aren't any counselors who will give genuine advice because I am low-income. I am interested in psychology. I've always felt like I was made for helping people, and being a therapist is the career meant for me. Am I too old to get this degree, and how do I begin this long journey? Please help me—and be honest.

A: Honestly, it's not too late! Although it does not seem young to you, 24 is delightfully young and full of promise. But even if you were 34, 44, 54—I'd say the same thing: it is never too late to learn. Actually, you are in a good spot—since you have experienced the real world for a few years, you are mature enough to realize that education is a serious thing. On the whole, professors themselves find that older students are more dedicated, insightful, and full of purpose than many 18 or 19 year olds.

Algebra is a gateway course—the foundation for higher-level math and a critical hurdle that New York students must clear in order to graduate. Eighth- and 9th-graders who do well in it are steered to more advanced courses that prepare them for college and good jobs. Yet in New York City, nearly half of all students fail the Algebra Regents exam on the first try, and thousands end up re-taking the exam multiple times, caught in what educators call the "algebra whirlpool."

A new policy brief, the third in a series on math and science education by Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs, examines factors that fuel the algebra whirlpool. It also highlights what some schools are doing to help struggling students who lack the mathematics foundation to master algebra by 9th grade pass the course and move on to higher-level math.

Reporters from Insideschools visited more than 100 middle and high schools and found that with the rollout of the Common Core standards, many educators have been thinking about new ways to teach algebra and to structure class time so students fully understand the material. We also found that there is heightened attention in school to getting algebra instruction right, given the importance that higher–level math plays in college readiness and careers.

8th-graders train peers to get into high school

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 29 July 2015 14:47

Applying to high school in New York City can be a full-time job for 8th-graders and their families. Students who don't have an adult to help them have an even harder time navigating the system—and making the most of their options. Now, in two city neighborhoods, an innovative Department of Education program trains students to help each other through the process.

Modeled after a successful high school college access program, the Middle School Success Centers began as a pilot program on the Lower East Side and in Cypress Hills in late 2013, targeting neighborhoods where students could really use the help.

At IS 171 in Cypress Hills, counselors from the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation offer intensive high school choice counseling and training for youth leaders in one of the poorest communities in the city. The middle school youth leaders are trained in a summer program and commit to working with their fellow students during lunch hour and after school to help them understand the admissions process and make good choices on their high school applications. They apply for the job and are paid $50 per month.