News + announcements

ECMC Group Hosts a "Doing Day" at Minneapolis Office

The following videos are from KSTP

February 19, 2019

Read more >

More than 50 ECMC Group employees assembled hundreds of care packages for local charities as part of their annual "Doing Day" event.

ECMC Group was featured in the 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. news segments. Both clips can be found here: https://youtu.be/QOQrYPjOcqs

DeeDee Gorman, Senior Community Relations Specialist, was interviewed.

Close >

We are all revolutionaries

The following article is from Forbes

February 4, 2019

Read more >

You are a revolutionary. We are all revolucionarios. You just don't know it yet.

No one ever told me this when I was young. When I was young, I was told not to speak my family's native language. I was led to believe that college was not for people like me, and that quiet people like me are better off remaining silent and staying out of the way. I am not here to simply tell you that you are a revolutionary but to help you realize your strengths, examine areas for growth, and to help you develop skills so that you can move forward with your dreams and make a revolutionary change for yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

I see you out there:

I know you have insecurities about your struggles to be bilingual and bicultural. 30% of Milwaukie students are Latino, and I know you've asked the questioned: should I be more "white"? Should I be more "Latino"? What does that mean anyhow? Why can't I just be me? I have that same struggle too—still to this day—but I am learning, too, that we are perfect the way that we are even if our Spanish isn't perfect. That struggle is the reason why we created Ascensión Milwaukie, a Latinx/Chicanx leadership group dedicated to creating and promoting positive academia, cultura, and lifestyle. It's a group that won 3 of 4 categories at the statewide Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference in its first year; a group that placed 50 percent of its graduates in 4-year universities and 100 percent in a community college or university, both exceeding our school's averages.

I know that equity and diversity is more than the color of your skin or your biological birth sex. I know that it is the combination—the intersectionality—of these things, and so much more. That's why your story is important, and making time to listen to each other is valuable and needed. Especially now, when it appears that society lacks empathy towards individuals that don't meet the standard definition of caucasian, heterosexual, male or female, and why we have worked so hard to produce school-wide lessons to make diversity, intersectionality, equity, and respect a part of our daily conversations.

I know that your introverted nature makes it a daily struggle to operate in class like a "normal" student. Society tells us that we need to be loud, be confident, be open (exposed), be able to speak in front of an audience, and get straight A's while doing it, if we want to make it in life. I know because I was just like you. I didn't get straight A's. I'm still learning how to embrace my inner introvert and how to be an extrovert when needed. I know that you will make it in life and be even greater because you will have the "bi-cultural" gift, skills, and talents of an ambivert.

I know you are uncertain about your future because you will be a first generation college student. I know because only 20 percent of our graduates go on to a 4-year university and fewer than 60 percent of our graduates will attend any type of college. We know you have the capability, but that you lack the familiarity. That's why it's part of the comprehensive counseling program to do a Myers Briggs inventory with each of you when forecasting and exploring future options. It's why Milwaukie has the largest college and career fair in our district. It's why I coordinate college field trips for AVID and the ECMC Scholars programs and have volunteered to drive the minibus to various campuses. No one ever showed me what the future could be like, but we make certain you have the ability to access this information.

Not only do I see you. I believe in you and work hard with you. When you needed space and time, I shared my office with you. When you needed to fundraise, I worked next to you. When you marched in demonstration, I marched with you. When you needed to dance, bailamos. Because together we are creating the revolution of making our world a better place and bringing pride to our community in the process.

Close >

SD-WAN: Today's networking technology

The following article is from CIOReview

February 1, 2019

Read more >

A few decades ago, Sun Microsystems coinedthe phrase "The Network Is the Computer" to define its product strategy. In today's world of complex applications, sophisticated data analytics, pervasive use of multimedia and a widely dispersed workforce,the network is increasingly the lifeblood of any corporation.

Traditionally, most corporations, including my own,have usedMultiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based wide area network (WAN) services to move vast quantities of data. A distinct advantage of MPLS has been its high reliability ensured via service level agreements (SLA) with service providers. Conversely, high bandwidth costs have been its biggest limitation, driving up operating expenses in the data-hungry world in which most companies live. MPLS networks are also notoriously slow to provision or upgrade.Initial setupscan take months and a simple bandwidth upgrade can be a weeks-long process.

Companies have long sought to address these hurdles by selectively migrating services to the public Internet, which is significantly cheaper and quicker to upgrade. However, the Internet still suffers from performance inconsistency, despite rapid improvements over the past decade. The upshot is that many companies have been living in a hybrid world, with mission-critical traffic being sent via MPLS and the rest via cheaper Internet services. This has created additional overhead since the appropriate routing of traffic becomes a manual process handled by network programmers and administrators. The quest to solve this problem of balance between performance and cost is leading many corporations to turn tosoftware-defined (SD)WAN technology.

In basic terms, SD-WAN is a software service that enables enterprises to dynamically route traffic across a hybrid network environment. The technology is rapidly gaining wide adoption. At ECMC Group, we are adopting SD-WAN capabilities as part of ourstrategy to migrateour entire application portfolio to the cloud, including Microsoft Office, custom-built transaction systems, third-party software as a service (SaaS) solutions as well as data warehousing and analytics platforms. In addition, our company relies heavily on virtual communication platforms for voice and video. Collectively, these requirements have underscored the criticality of reliable and cost-effective WAN services with minimal administrative overhead.

We see several key benefits from moving to this technology.

Performance Flexibility: SD-WAN solutions enable a hybrid WAN to react to changing network conditions automatically, a characteristic that provides unprecedented flexibility. Its routing appliances and algorithms evaluate the different transport options and distribute traffic accordingly. For instance, traffic with higher quality of service requirements will be routed via MPLS, while others leverage the Internet, providing higher bandwidth at much lower costs.

Lower Cost: This benefit is a natural offshoot of the above. With SD-WAN, we anticipate being able to rely more on less expensive broadband circuits versus our private links. This offers us the freedom to invest in the higher capacity broadband links and minimize the size of our expensive MPLS circuits. The dynamic routing features of SD-WAN solutions also mean that network capacity can match increases in demand without the need to invest in additional WAN infrastructure.

Security: While the inherent security limitations of the Internet are well understood, SD-WAN solutions compensate for this deficiency by using standards-based encryption to provide connectivity over any type of transport, thus establishing its own secure network.Any new SD‐WAN device has to first beauthenticated to this network and receive its assigned policy before being granted access. Policies can allow sensitive traffic to have its own encryption keys and be isolated from the rest.

Simplified Administration: Manually configuring a hybrid WAN is challenging.Routing protocols typically stay with the single best path between two points and don't react to changing conditions in the network such as packet loss, congestion, etc.Furthermore, any changes in traffic patterns must be accommodated by manually changing configurations. This drives administrative overhead from the IT staff. The SD-WAN model allows the routing logic to be pre-configured, but on an ongoing basis, relies on the software to evaluate and direct network traffic in real-time;thereby,limiting the need for further manual intervention.

It is worth noting that while implementation-ready, SD-WAN is continuing to evolve in its maturity. Coupled with performance improvements on the public Internet, it is possible that companies will completely eliminate dependency on private links in the very near future.

A second point of note is the implication for IT talent. Configuring SD-WANs will require IT staff to be more strategic and less tactical in their approach, much like a city planner, ensuring that the model defined at the outset can fully leverage the autonomous capabilities of the network on an ongoing basis.

SD-WAN is quickly becoming the preferred networking solution within corporations and, therefore, the conduit to efficient and effective systems—an exciting development for organizations and IT professionals as we look to enhance our technology environments now and into the future.

Close >

5 Tips for scoring college scholarships

The following article is from Consumer Reports

As spring deadlines approach, here's how to boost your chances of getting awarded money for school

February 1, 2019

Read more >

If you're a high school senior or college student hoping to land a scholarship to help fund the cost of school this fall, don't delay your search much longer.

Most scholarships have spring deadlines, so now is the prime time to apply. And don't despair because you think you don't have the grades to qualify. There are thousands of scholarships out there, including many that don't depend on outstanding academic performance or even financial need. You could be awarded money based on your field of study, extracurricular activities, geographic area, or heritage.

"Scholarships are granted based on a wide range of criteria. You just need to know how to find the right one," says Abril Hunt, national trainings manager for ECMC, a nonprofit that provides financial literacy education to students in high school and college, and works to lower student-loan default rates.

In fact, the chances you'll win some type of scholarship are actually pretty decent. According to the 2018 Sallie Mae How America Pays for College survey, 3 in 5 college students received one scholarship or more.

But don't count on getting a full ride. Very few students get a scholarship that covers the entire cost of tuition, fees, room and board, says financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at Savingforcollege.com.

But if you apply and win a variety of scholarships, the awards can add up to a sizable amount. In the 2017-18 academic year, the average total amount awarded among those who had one or more scholarship was $7,760, according to the Sallie Mae survey. Families reported that scholarship funds covered about 20 percent of college costs.

Keep in mind that some schools and private scholarship organizations require you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for award money, even if the award is not based on your family's ability to pay for school. So, if you haven't submitted a FAFSA yet, do that too.

Smart Strategies for Finding Scholarships

Here are five ways to maximize your chances of getting a scholarship and making a meaningful dent in your college bills:

Look to your school. Colleges are one of the largest providers of scholarships, says Kathy Ruby, director of college finance for College Coach, an organization that provides admissions consulting services. Eager to get a diverse student body, colleges use "free money" to recruit students based on specific characteristics, such as their GPA, intended major, or where they live.

Generally, private colleges offer more merit scholarships than public universities because they have larger endowments. The average amount awarded per student in scholarships at four-year private colleges was $13,591, more than twice the $5,932 granted by four-year public schools, according to the Sallie Mae survey.

But many state schools, especially in the South and West, offer generous scholarships to out-of-staters with solid academic records. For example, the University of Arkansas' New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award covers a majority of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students from neighboring states who have a GPA of 3.3 or higher.

You can increase your chances of getting a scholarship by applying to schools where your test scores and grades place you in the top 10 percent of the class. Go to the College Board's Big Future website to see how your academic record compares with students accepted at the schools you want to attend.

As you research and visit schools, ask admissions officers whether you are a good candidate for a scholarship and what kind of profile students who get merit aid typically have. "The criteria colleges look for shifts every year," Ruby says.

Find your fit. Be strategic about applying. Prestigious scholarships or ones with very broad criteria can be a lot more competitive.

Spend your time searching for scholarships that really match your experience, background, and interests. There are free online scholarship search services that can help you find those that fit, including Cappex, the College Board, Fastweb, and Scholarships.com. You fill out a profile to identify what's unique about you, and the services match you with potential scholarships.

Make yourself stand out. Most scholarships require an essay. A compelling personal story can catch the judges' attention. Many programs value community involvement, for instance. But if you don't have time for community service because you're working, you're a single parent or a caregiver, or you have other challenges, explaining your situation is another way to set yourself apart.

Write about something you're passionate about or that shows special abilities. It could be baking cookies or being involved in your school's theater program. Scholarship granters also like to see people who've overcome obstacles or hardships and have learned from them. "They like to see how students face adversity, which can be an indicator of how they'll handle the challenges of college," says Hunt.

You can learn a lot from past winners, too. Ask for sample winning entries from the organization administering the scholarship program, which can provide insight.

Go big and small. National scholarships are often more lucrative than local community ones, so targeting a few of them is a good way to start.

But your odds of snagging a local scholarship may be better because you'll likely be competing against fewer students. Talk to the guidance counselors at your high school to see which organizations they work with. If you're already in college, go to your school's financial aid office to ask for a list of outside scholarships other students are getting, says Hunt from ECMC.

Churches, nonprofits, civic organizations such as Rotary Clubs, and local businesses frequently offer scholarships. Companies are another common source, so check with your local Chamber of Commerce or your parents' employers. Go the extra mile by looking up previous winners or going to awards ceremonies to see who scores the awards.

Focus on your career. Some professional organizations offer scholarships to entice people to enter the field, especially in hard-to-fill professions.

Check out the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop scholarship finder tool, which lists more than 7,500 scholarships for undergraduate and graduate school programs.

For example, the American Association of Equine Practitioners lists eight scholarships for students doing equine research or going into veterinary health careers. The Coyote Rock Ranch in Oregon awarded three scholarships for $75,000 each in 2018 to equine veterinary students. The American Concrete Institute offers fellowships and scholarships to students in a concrete-related degree program, such as construction management or industrial design.

Then there's the $5,000 John Kitt Memorial Scholarship from the American Association of Candy Technologists, for college students with a demonstrated interest in confectionery technology, including research projects, work experience, or formal study.

Close >

An innovative (and Milton Friedman-approved) way to combat the college-debt crisis

The following article is from Crain's Chicago Business

The idea isn't new—but it's being tested in Chicago even as it gains traction elsewhere in the nation.

February 1, 2019

Read more >

In 2005, Barack and Michelle Obama, in their 40s at the time, announced they were almost done paying back their student loans—nearly 20 years after graduating from college. Some Americans were shocked, but the Obamas' story is common: Both grew up in low-income families and as the cost of college continued to rise, they increasingly relied on loans to finance their education.

Considered the "great equalizer," higher education is the key out of poverty for students from underserved, low-income backgrounds, and is the gateway to family-sustaining jobs. Yet the rising cost of tuition, fees and expenses puts a college education out of reach for students with fewer economic means.

To cover college expenses, many students have turned to loans (both government and private) and are amassing more debt than previous generations.

The average 2017 college graduate owed $39,400, and recently, the total debt owed by students surpassed $1.5 trillion. The impact is most severe on low-income Americans: 12 years after graduation, 91 percent of students from low-income backgrounds still have student loan debt, compared to 59 percent of their wealthier peers.

These challenges have led some critics to question the value of a college education and its return on investment. Given that 65 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education in just two years, the question shouldn't be "Does college matter?" but rather, "How do we make it more accessible, affordable and equitable?"

Some education pioneers are turning to a potential solution—income-share agreements (ISAs)—which are employed in several Latin American countries. While the concept isn't new (it was first introduced more than 50 years ago by Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), the application of the model in the United States is. Only a handful of universities, including Purdue University, and coding boot camps are experimenting with them.

With ISAs, students receive financial aid in exchange for a defined share of their post-graduation income. Unlike loans, there is no principal to repay or interest to accrue, and there are thresholds and caps on the student's ISA payments.

ISAs are contingent on income. When students struggle financially, their payment obligation is negligible or nonexistent, and when they thrive, their payment obligation scales with their success.

Better Future Forward is spearheading efforts on ISAs and working to level the playing field for low-income students. In 2017, BFF launched pilot programs in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., and is currently scaling its efforts to the Chicago area with support from ECMC Foundation and two local Chicago foundations.

BFF will collaborate with several Chicago-based college success organizations (Bottom Line, OneGoal, One Million Degrees and College Possible) to serve roughly 60 Chicago students attending four-year universities in Illinois. These organizations will also provide ongoing wraparound support like college mentorship and coaching.

Eventually, BFF plans to grow the program so that every low-income student in Chicago has access to ISAs. And while the philanthropic sector can drive innovation by seeding new interventions, to make a system that works for all students and solve the student loan crisis, we need participation from businesses, policymakers and the public.

It's time to think outside the box. To make college costs more affordable and equitable, we need to test innovative financing solutions.

Peter J. Taylor is the president of ECMC Foundation, a funder of Better Future Forward, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the California State University system.

Kevin James is founder and CEO of Better Future Forward.

Close >