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Monday Informer

The following article is from the Mankato Free Press

September 19, 2022

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In a 20 July 2020 article in The New Yorker, author Lawrence Wright wrote: “Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places.”

The X-ray taken of higher education during and after the pandemic likewise revealed several of the broken places in higher education in the United States.

This article will focus on two of the forever revelations about American higher education, post-pandemic: first, that there are fewer ‘traditional’ US students enrolling in ‘traditional’ US colleges and universities and, second, that there are fewer international students enrolling in undergraduate degree programmes in the US.

Drop in enrolments

According to data published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, since the start of the pandemic, there are 1.3 million fewer students enrolled in colleges and universities in the US. Enrolment across all sectors dropped from just over 17 million students in the spring of 2020 to just under 16 million in the spring of 2022 and the decline in community college enrolment was 20%.

According to a report by the ECMC Group, the proportion of 14- to 18-year-olds who consider education necessary beyond high school has dropped from 60% to 45%. And more than half of the high school students surveyed revealed they are open to something other than a four-year degree.

A Strada survey found that fewer than four in 10 people with an associate degree or less believe that further education will help them with future employment.

Jason Wingard, author of The College Devaluation Crisis: Market disruption, diminishing ROI and an alternative future of learning, interviewed several employers about why they were hiring students straight from high school and was told that “the college degree had ceased to be a guarantee that employers were going to get the employees they want”.

COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain, revealing that some of the ‘guarantees’ of a college degree are questionable.

COVID-19 also pulled back the curtain on the inability of future students to reconcile the cost, debt and time it takes to obtain an undergraduate degree with their future educational and lifestyle goals.

Alternative credentials, including apprenticeships, digital badges and short-term courses now allow Americans to enrol in cheaper and shorter programmes that may better prepare them to meet the needs of a new and different American economy. Employers like Amazon, Google and IBM have adopted skills-based hiring practices. And 100 million projected job openings over the next decade across nearly 300 occupations will not require a four-year undergraduate degree.

Perhaps the greatest reason for the decline in the number of ‘traditional’ students enrolling in ‘traditional’ colleges and universities is what a recent Gallup poll found. Higher education has a trust problem. According to a survey by the Federal Reserve, only four in 10 bachelor degree holders under 45 believe that the benefits of an undergraduate degree are worth the cost.

Fewer international students

Despite the encouraging number of applications from international students for the 2022-23 academic year, and despite the fact that the US remains the number one destination for international students, I believe that the US will continue to lose market share of international students in the future.

Consider the following: in 2017, I published a book, International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder. The premise was simple. International student mobility and enrolment will be defined in the future by political, economic, societal and technological trends. Today I would add the impact of COVID-19 and the potential of future pandemics to this list of disruptors.

Students from China make up 72% of the international student population in the US. During the pandemic there was a 14.8% decline in the number of Chinese students enrolled in the US.

There are many factors contributing to this decline, but we cannot underestimate the impact of the geopolitical tensions and rivalry between the US and China, exacerbated by the pandemic.

The future enrolment of Chinese students in the US is not encouraging. The number of US student visas issued to Chinese nationals plunged by more than 50% in the first half of 2022 compared with pre-COVID-19 levels.

According to data from the US State Department, 31,055 F-1 visas were issued in the first six months of 2022, compared with 64,261 for the same period in 2019. It is unlikely that Chinese students will return to study in the US in the numbers they have for the past 20 years.

The economies of many countries have made it more difficult for international students to afford enrolling in a country with the most expensive tuition costs.

Growth in international branch campuses and the ability of international students to study virtually at many institutions of higher learning will also contribute to the decline in the number of international students studying in America, post-pandemic.

Higher education alternatives

Many Asian governments have initiated robust international recruitment initiatives and have launched higher education programmes that are both less expensive and more flexible than many programmes offered in the US.

During and since the pandemic, many Latin American universities have increased their international partnership agreements and improved their capacity to deliver online courses.

Safety is a chief concern of all parents, but especially the parents of future international students. Daily reports of violence and shootings in the US resonate with international families.

Perhaps that is why, according to a survey released by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, nearly 80% of the students polled chose Canada as their study destination because of the safety and stability in that country.

The pandemic forced countries and higher education institutions worldwide to improve the quality of the educational experience they offer students as well as to forge educational alliances that promote flexibility and credential mobility. The roadmap initiated by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and the 20 European Universities alliances are two examples of increased collaboration.

The statistics, surveys and trends listed in this article reflect a higher education landscape that has changed for US colleges and universities, post-pandemic. They reflect a re-alignment of priorities of both domestic and international students.

US college and university presidents and US international deans and recruiters should realise that fewer ‘traditional’ US American students and fewer international students enrolling are two of COVID-19’s forever legacies. I think this FedEx ad says it best: “Where now meets next.”

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Free virtual financial aid events for students

Press Release

September 14, 2022

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MINNEAPOLIS — Kicking off the new school year, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, Minnesota Department of Education, ECMC's The College Place Minnesota, and Minnesota Goes to College are launching a series of financial aid webinars for Minnesota students and families as they prepare for the college-going process. All sessions will have simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. Attendees will be entered to win a $500 scholarship.

The series, which runs September 27 through October 25, will focus on a variety of topics, including general financial aid information, details on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the Minnesota Dream Act for undocumented students, and other ways to pay for college.

September 27, 2022, 7 p.m. — Apply to College
October 4, 2022, 7 p.m. — All About Financial Aid
October 11, 2022, 7 p.m. — Prepare to Apply for Financial Aid
October 18, 2022, 7 p.m. — Complete Your FAFSA/Complete Your Dream Act Application
October 25, 2022, 7 p.m. — Scholarship Search

To register any of the webinars using Zoom, visit https://ecmc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pmaxFAWTTZuLV1DP6hO65g

"The cost of attending higher education is a significant barrier for many Minnesotans, which makes raising awareness about available financial aid a vital part of our outreach," said Minnesota Commissioner for Higher Education Dennis Olson. "Regardless of family income, numerous grants are available to help make college more affordable, and filling out the FAFSA is an important first step in accessing these funds and being able to pursue a postsecondary degree."

“As a first-generation college student, I am extremely passionate about sharing tools and resources to help students find their path to and through the postsecondary process,” said Tara Pribnow, director of ECMC’s The College Place Minnesota, who is helping to lead the virtual events. “Our goal with this collaboration is to help the most in-need students in Minnesota gain the knowledge and confidence to navigate the often confusing and intricate application and financial aid process.”

Visit https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/ for information about each of Minnesota's financial aid programs. Questions can be directed to the state's financial aid hotline: (651) 642-0567.

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The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is a cabinet-level state agency providing students with financial aid programs and information to help them gain access to postsecondary education.

The Minnesota Department of Education is a cabinet-level state agency that works to provide an excellent education for Minnesota students by striving for excellence, equity, and opportunity.

ECMC is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed by lowering student loan default rates, sponsoring college access initiatives and financial literacy programs, and providing resources to support student loan borrowers to successfully repay their loans. ECMC's The College Place locations are college access centers where students of all ages can get information, assistance and encouragement to achieve their educational goals. Free assistance is provided in-person and virtually.

Minnesota Goes to College is our state's effort to provide graduating high school seniors with the preparation, opportunity, and support needed to apply and enroll in college. It is a collaborative effort composed of K-12, higher education, and nonprofit partners.

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Going back to school on a budget: 5 ways nontraditional students can cut costs

The following article is from GO Banking Rates

August 19, 2022

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Back-to-school momentum is in the air, with big-box stores drumming up sales on educational essentials. But it’s not just tots and teens prepping for a return to the classroom. Adults who have been out of the game for a while or who are embarking on a college education for the first time are also gearing up for the school year.

How can these nontraditional students financially prepare for this new page in their lives? What can they do to budget for schooling expenses and cut back on costs?

Consider Community College
If you’ve not yet made your decision about what school to attend, there’s a strong argument to be made for nontraditional students to go to community college. You can always transfer to a university later — but save heaps of money along the way.

“Students may not realize that most of the first two years of college consists of general education requirements,” said Tomika Brown, student success director for ECMC, a nonprofit that provides free guidance and resources to help students get to and through college. “Community college is a great low-cost way to tackle those general education requirements while keeping costs down since the cost per credit is typically significantly lower at a community college than a four-year university. Just make sure the credits earned will transfer to the college of choice in order to reap the greatest savings.”

Put the Skills You Already Have To (Paid) Work
Fortunately, many adult students already have the upper hand because they’re older and wiser than those fresh out of high school. In short, they already have some experience in earning income and ideally, some honed skills that can put them one step ahead of the rest.

“Nontraditional students often bring real-world experience to the table,” said Andrew Pentis, a certified student loan counselor and student debt/higher-ed expert with Student Loan Hero. “So the top tip is for these students to leverage any skills they might be able to offer their new school.

“A technology whiz, for example, might apply for an IT job at the school they want to attend, particularly if that school offers tuition discounts to employees,” Pentis continued. “That’s one strategy for nontraditional students to cut down their cost of attendance and make room in their budget.”

Live Like a Student
You may be starting your higher education at a relatively advanced age, but you should still live like a traditional student does, meaning you should use the same money-saving hacks that all college students use.

“If you’re a nontraditional student returning to campus, you might be surprised to find that the cost of attending college has only continued to rise,” Pentis said. “As a result, cutting back where you can is a great way to help afford your tuition alongside living expenses.”

Here’s a look at a few things you can do to curb your educational spending, courtesy of Pentis:

  • Rent textbooks instead of buying them.
  • Cook instead of relying on expensive on-campus meal plans.
  • Consider halting your past life expenditures, such as new clothing or electronics, unless they’re necessary for your schooling.
  • Keep Boosting Your Earnings

You may have to take a break from making money (or at least, making as much money) when you go back to school, so it’s smart to have a solid nest egg built up.

“Saving up or increasing your income before switching to college life is a good idea, if possible, because it will give you some breathing room in your budget as you adjust to college life,” Pentis said. “That will allow you to feel financially ready for school so that you can focus on school, not stress over money.”

If you can continue to work while in college, that is, of course, ideal.

You Can Still Apply For Scholarships and Aid
“Age is not a factor when it comes to qualifying for federal financial aid, so all students should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), regardless of how long they’ve been out of school,” said Rebecca Safier, a former student loan counselor and senior writer with Student Loan Hero. “The FAFSA can unlock the door to federal grants, work-study and low-rate student loans. Plus, it may put you in the running for state grants or school scholarships.”

Work Part Time If Possible To Curb Student Loan Debt
While student loans can also be a useful tool, Safier advises incoming students to be careful not to spend too much loan money on unnecessary expenses.

“If you can cover living costs with income from work-study or a part-time job, you might be happier in the long run, since you’ll assume less debt and pay less interest overall,”  Safier said.

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Supporting low-income, first-fen college students

August 5, 2022

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“This week has been pretty tough, if I’m being completely honest. There has been a lot of work and tests and applying for scholarships. The earliest I’ve been able to go asleep is 1:30 a.m. and I’m pretty sure I’m starting to lose it from lack of sleep.”
-High School Class of 2022 and ECMC Scholar, Virginia

As the manager of the ECMC Scholars Program, a unique scholarship program that provides two years of mentoring in high school for low-income, first-generation college students prior to them receiving the funding for their postsecondary education, I would say students are not getting back to normal. Instead, they are getting back to “better” by realizing they are resilient, persistent and adaptable.

We know from studies that first-gen students need extra support and often lack the social networking capital needed to navigate life after high school. But we also know that more than 40% of college students are first generation, and when they do succeed, they can break cycles of poverty and bolster our economy.

Our approach to supporting low-income students who show potential — rather than focusing solely on academic merit — involves a comprehensive, two-year mentoring and college prep program that ultimately provides a $6,000 scholarship toward the postsecondary education pathway of their choice.

However, the ECMC Scholars Program is not a “one and done” scholarship awarded in the fall term of the freshman year of college. Students can request funds from the $6,000 scholarship for up to six years after high school graduation. Most of our Scholars qualify for the Pell Grant and other federal grants/scholarships, and their ECMC scholarship may be used in addition to federal aid to pay for tuition/fees, books, food, transportation and living expenses to support persistence through postsecondary education. We believe this approach can help students address both the direct and indirect costs of receiving an education and help them overcome many of the unforeseen challenges that can hold first-gen students back from success.

It is essential to understand that simply accessing postsecondary education isn’t going to ensure a student achieves a credential. In addition to scholarship support, we connect our Scholars to near-peer college coaches for the first two years of their postsecondary experience through Beyond12, a digital coaching platform that helps provide students with academic, social and emotional support. This program has been widely appreciated, with our Scholars students not only meeting persistence rates in their home states but exceeding national persistence rates.

The support has been invaluable to our students, with many saying that it meant something not only to them but also to their family and that, with the program, they feel more prepared for college.

In their own words:

“This means so much to my family and me! You don’t even understand!”
-High School Class of 2021 ECMC Scholar, Connecticut

This program was very beneficial as a first-generation student. I feel I am prepared for college.”
-High School Class of 2021 ECMC Scholar, Connecticut

The program has prepared me in many ways for college and my knowledge about the world has grown because of it.”
-High School Class of 2022 ECMC Scholar, Oregon

“I feel like this program is an amazing way for students to learn about college-related topics and important things that need to be known when attending college, while still earning a scholarship towards college expenses, which is so worth all of the hard work to go through.”
-High School Class of 2022 ECMC Scholar, Oregon

“I honestly feel like words can’t explain how dedicated you were to stay the course in order for us to have success.”
-High School Class of 2021 ECMC Scholar, Virginia

Over the past 17 years, ECMC has awarded $20.1 million in scholarships to 3,355 students in Virginia, Oregon and Connecticut.

As we look to promote greater access for more students pursuing postsecondary education, we cannot forget that we need to empower the most resilient to persist, complete and achieve success.

Jan Smith is the ECMC Scholars Program manager

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ECMC awards $654,000 in college scholarships to 109 students in Connecticut, Oregon and Virginia

July 6, 2022

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Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is proud to recognize 109 high school graduates from the class of 2022 as ECMC Scholars. The students each earned a $6,000 scholarship and represent participating high schools in Connecticut, Oregon and Virginia.

For the past two years, these students participated in a comprehensive mentoring program designed to help build academic and life skills. Unlike a traditional academic scholarship, students were selected to participate based on their potential—not solely on their academic merit. Working in collaboration with school staff and the ECMC Scholars Program team, students spent their junior and senior years of high school actively preparing for postsecondary education.

“The ECMC Scholars class of 2022 has shown great resilience in returning to in-person instruction. They serve as role models for other students who may have felt a bit hopeless about college planning but now they see that education beyond high school is still a viable option,” said Jan Smith, ECMC Scholars Program manager.

The scholarship funds can be used for enrollment in a degree or certificate program at an accredited college, university or career and technical education institution. In addition, each class of 2022 scholarship recipient has been given the opportunity to receive personalized near-peer college coaching services provided by Beyond 12. This service provides academic, social and emotional support students need to persist in postsecondary education.

“The ECMC Scholars Program is designed to help students with financial need reach their educational goals. Many students will be the first in their family to attend a postsecondary institution,” said Paula Craw, vice president of student success and outreach for ECMC. “Now more than ever, it is important to provide students with a holistic approach to helping them get to and through postsecondary education.”

Over the past 16 years, ECMC has awarded $20.2 million in scholarships to 3,355 students in Virginia, Oregon and Connecticut.

Connecticut press release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ecmc-awards-222-000-in-college-scholarships-to-37-students-in-connecticut-301580709.html

Oregon press release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ecmc-awards-288-000-in-college-scholarships-to-48-students-in-oregon-301580605.html

Virginia press release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ecmc-awards-144-000-in-college-scholarships-to-24-students-in-virginia-301580816.html

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