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Delivering the greatest IT outcomes

September 8, 2017

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The following article is from CIO Review.

ECMC Group's Dave Goff shares his insights into how an organization can provide the greatest IT outcomes.

IT, as a business function, supports multiple business units, each with its own opportunities and challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge, though, is establishing IT as a strong partner that delivers the greatest outcomes and benefits, while at the same time being connected to, valued by and appreciated by business partners and the entire organization.

One way to address this challenge is to create a partnership between individual functions and the IT team by developing ongoing dialogue to build rapport and trust. Start by identifying the key people within each business unit who can affect positive change. Personal experience has shown that it's not always the highest-ranking person in the business, but often the one or two people within a team who can link strategy, prioritization, resource allocation, timing, and decision making. Working in conjunction with IT, that individual should understand and be able to clearly articulate what success looks like for his/her group.

A Shared Definition of Success
Business units are accustomed to driving toward specific objectives or outcomes—typically metrics that focus on customer outcomes and satisfaction. IT organizations place a great deal of pride on using attainable schedules and budgets to contribute to the business objectives. High-performing IT organizations aspire to make a meaningful difference and see a direct correlation between their efforts and the company's success.

It is important to be open-minded, listen to feedback, and continually refine the approach on IT projects to remain aligned to desired outcomes.

Once the business unit and IT teams agree on what success looks like and have earned each other's trust, the next step is to continue the open dialogue and discuss how to improve the organization's prioritization and execution of technology projects.

Admittedly, this is easier said than done—leaders change, businesses evolve, market conditions shift and priorities compete with each other. Within this ever-changing landscape, a healthy dose of empathy, listening, transparency, and sincerity can help ensure that these ongoing discussions shape the right decisions and expectations. It is also important to be open-minded, listen to feedback, and continually refine the approach on IT projects to remain aligned to desired outcomes.

Using "Interlock" Meetings to Align Business and IT
Once this foundation is established, a 13-week recurring quarterly calendar should be developed that includes meetings with each function twice per quarter. For example, a quarterly calendar could include meetings with the operations team on the second and eighth week of the quarter, and meetings with the product development team on the third and ninth week of each quarter. This schedule allows IT to meet with a different business function each week and to meet with each business area twice per quarter. These functional "interlock" meetings are a way to check and ensure that each team's expectations, including resource allocations, are united and aligned. The agenda for each interlock meeting should include items that resonate with each function, such as the business unit's IT priorities, status of existing projects, 12-month rolling roadmaps, new projects, and a discussion on the cause-and-effect on new and/or shifting priorities.

Each functional interlock meeting should start with a display of the previously agreed upon priorities and a discussion of the progress that's been made on IT projects since the last interlock meeting. These meetings allow the IT organization to take pride in demonstrating its abilities to meet commitments and show results, and also enable business partners to better understand and appreciate how the IT team is helping them meet their business goals and deadlines. The 12-month rolling roadmaps should be organized into logical swim lanes around specific imperatives or by department; these are helpful to determine a thoughtful and well-synchronized set of projects. And, when projects invariably hit speed bumps, earlier interlock meetings and the related efforts to build trust and transparency will be useful in gaining mutual understanding and resetting expectations.

Next on the interlock meeting agenda should be new initiatives or project requests. The discussion should focus on how these new initiatives affect the existing top priorities and the 12-month rolling roadmap to understand cause-and-effect on the current IT project portfolio and resources.

Establishing a regular cadence to these discussions between IT and the business units is key. Since project teams are probably meeting more frequently, the functional interlock meetings should be strategic and focused on larger objectives and outcomes. The functional and IT teams will benefit by demonstrating consistent and material progress on the initiatives that matter most. By adjusting and updating the priorities, roadmaps, and expectations on a regular and predictable basis, the IT team will be viewed as responsive, agile, and trusted to deliver and quickly focus on the most pressing matters.

A Holistic, Organization-wide View that Delivers Great Outcomes
If your IT operation supports multiple business units, the functional priorities and 12-month rolling roadmaps should be used to create a composite view of the enterprise's priorities and roadmaps. In the fourth and tenth week of each quarter, a business alignment team should be responsible for verifying the composite priorities and ensuring that initiatives and projects across the enterprise are well coordinated and synchronized. These composite views increase the awareness and appreciation of your team's efforts and contributions, and also ensure that executive leadership has an organization-wide view into the enterprise technology priorities and timelines.

During the 13-week recurring calendar quarter, IT is consistently meeting with each functional team and the IT business alignment team is meeting twice per quarter. Each discussion and update provides an opportunity to report progress, adjust priorities and roadmaps, and align on go-forward priorities. With this process, high-performing IT teams can see how their work is aligned to the company's strategic imperatives, and how they are contributing to the company's success, and the business teams will embrace and respect an IT team that is listening to their needs and consistently helping them to meet their objectives. Maintaining ongoing conversations and shared focus enables teams to achieve amazing results and deliver the greatest outcomes together.

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ECMC Group appoints Jeremy J. Wheaton as new president and CEO

August 31, 2017

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MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 31, 2017) — ECMC Group today announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Jeremy J. Wheaton as president and chief executive officer (CEO) effective Aug. 31, 2017. Wheaton also was elected to the Board of Directors of ECMC Group, ECMC Foundation and Zenith Education Group, effective Aug. 31, 2017.

"We believe that with his combination of professional experience and personal skills, Jeremy is the perfect leader to become ECMC Group's new chief executive officer," said ECMC Group Chairman John DePodesta. "His proven abilities to excel in dynamic and complex environments, create and execute strategic initiatives, and accelerate the pace of positive change are invaluable and an excellent match for the rapid changes underway in the education and student finance sectors. In Jeremy, the Board has selected a very strong and experienced leader at a time when ECMC Group has dedicated substantial resources to pursue innovative opportunities to execute on our charitable mission of helping students succeed."

Wheaton joins ECMC Group from Triumph Higher Education Group/Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, where he served most recently as president and CEO. In that role, Wheaton and his executive team set the strategic direction to recognize Escoffier Schools' vision of becoming the world's premier culinary and hospitality education provider, worked with the U.S. Department of Education to secure Title IV funding for Escoffier's innovative online program, and presided over industry-leading student and employee satisfaction and loyalty scores. Previously, Wheaton served as chief operations officer at Meritas, an international organization comprising 10 college preparatory schools in the U.S., China, Switzerland and Mexico, with more than 2,000 employees educating more than 11,000 students annually. Wheaton also held executive positions at Colorado Technical University, Pearson Embanet and Career Education Corporation, where he focused on building superior teams to develop and deliver innovative offerings and exemplary student services and outcomes.

"I am excited to join ECMC Group, where I believe the possibilities are limitless," said Wheaton. "ECMC Group's deep and longstanding commitment to student success, student outcomes and financial literacy is inspiring, and I am humbled and exhilarated by this opportunity to lead ECMC Group into its next chapter."

"Jeremy is clearly the person to lead ECMC Group into the future, and he has the unanimous support of the Board of Directors," said DePodesta. "With Jeremy joining our deep and experienced management team, the Board is very confident that ECMC Group has the leadership to drive its success going forward."

ECMC Group is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. All companies in the ECMC Group family work together to fulfill this mission. ECMC Group and its affiliates invest heavily in programs promoting financial literacy, college access and college completion. ECMC Foundation, an ECMC Group affiliate, invests in improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. ECMC Group affiliate Zenith Education Group is one of the largest nonprofit career education providers in the U.S., dedicated to promoting the long-term success of its students and graduates measured by program completion and job placement rates. Zenith schools operate under the Altierus and WyoTech names. Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is a nonprofit ECMC Group affiliate that provides support for the administration of the Federal Family Education Loan Program as a student loan guaranty agency. For more information, go to www.ecmcgroup.org.

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Local business supports veteran patients at Sac VA

August 31, 2017

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The following article is from the Grapevine Independent

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) employees collected more than 500 donated toiletries and personal items for veteran patients of their neighboring Sacramento VA Medical Center. The staff used the items to assemble 100 ditty bags that included hand-written notes of thanks and appreciation.

On August 10, twelve ECMC volunteers traveled to the Hospital to personally deliver the bags and visit with some of the veteran patients. ECMC commits to making a positive impact on its communities through service, charitable giving and good corporate citizenship. ECMC Group is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed through programs promoting financial literacy, college access and college completion.

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Why one freshman turned down thousands to attend Elon

August 29, 2017

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The following story is from Elon News Network

It was a month before "College Decision Day" and Shekinah Reese was between two schools.

She knew which one she wanted more. And this school — Elon University — had a tuition and fee value that was almost $9,000 less expensive than its competition.

More important than low tuition costs, however, was the amount of financial aid each school could offer to subset the cost. When a private liberal arts school in New York offered Reese a $168,000 four-year scholarship — which would cover almost all of the $42,884 per year tuition and fees — it seemed like an opportunity she couldn't pass up.

But, this fall Reese will instead join Elon University's incoming Class of 2021.

Accepting admittance to Elon would guarantee the opportunity to study cinema and television arts, as well as dance, at which she'd geared her academic and extracurricular pursuits to all throughout high school. But a $34,273 price tag — the cost of Elon tuition and fees — was firmly tied to Reese's dreams of the future. And this price was nonnegotiable and considerably out of her reach.

An answer came Reese's sophomore year at Woodbridge Senior High School in the form of a man named Kevin Jenkins, The College Place-Virginia director, whom she met at an Advanced Placement meeting at school. Jenkins works with high schools like Reese's throughout Virginia, as well as community-based organizations, to provide presentations and workshops aimed at helping students and families plan for college.

"When assisting students through the admissions process, one of the things I do is help them 'stick out' and separate themselves from the pack," Jenkins said.

Reese began meeting with Jenkins regularly at The College Place branch at Northern Virginia Community College. It was there that Reese received free college admissions and financial aid counseling, which she credits with making the opportunity for her to attend any private, out-of-state institution a reality.

Reese's mother, Danna Reese, was with her every step of the way.

"She helped me apply to so many colleges even though she was not sure if we could afford the ones out of state, especially since they didn't fit in our price range," Reese said.

Danna Reese believes a college degree is a critical to success.

"I have tried to teach Shekinah about the bigger world after high school, and that a path to a higher education is the key to open all your doors," Danna Reese said.

After crafting over thirty college essays, taking SAT and ACT prep classes, preparing for mock interviews and filling out application after application, Reese was awarded $3,200 in outside scholarships from the National Naval Officers Association, Washington, D.C. and Quantico chapters, and the Fairfax Library Foundation that could be applied to her Elon education. In the end, Reese was able to combine these scholarships with an awarded $89,200 in scholarship money and financial aid from Elon for four-years, allowing Elon to contend with the other school's $168,000 offer.

Even with the proper tools and a healthy support system, not just anybody can turn academic guidance into over $260,000, the combined scholarship and financial aid offered by both schools and outside scholarships.

Since the age of three, Reese has been formally training in dance, and throughout her young life could have been caught twirling as the "Nutcracker's" Mouse Queen or heel-tapping through "Footloose." Reese's talents contributed largely to where she would apply for aid, and later, why she would choose Elon.

Reese will avoid the pain of wearing-in ballet slippers and tap shoes as she begins an Elon dance minor this fall. She's graced the stage with jazz, ballet, tap, hip-hop and contemporary dance at both the Metropolitan School of the Arts — where she was a member of the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble — and in the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts dance program at Woodbridge Senior High School.

"My dream is to share my passion for dance with young people," Reese said. "I want to give back and teach others what I have learned in the art of dance…A minor will help me acquire the skills and knowledge to tell stories through the art of dance and create documentaries."

Reese will be able to pair dance with documentaries by complementing her minor with a major in cinema and television arts. Reese spent three weeks last summer at another prospective university learning about filming and editing, and from then on, her interests were piqued. The state-of-the-art School of Communications, as well as the opportunity to participate in study-USA in Los Angeles, further convinced Reese that Elon was the place for her. And, she knew she was the girl for the place.

"I'm bringing diversity to a campus where I am the minority," Reese said. "I am bringing my talent and knowledge in the artistry of dance. I am bringing my leadership skills to share with other leaders."

Reese originally shared her story with the PotomacLocal.com, an online news outlet for Prince William and Stafford counties. Reese was disappointed by errors in the article, but happy her journey was made public.

With hopes of clearing up misinformation, as well as inspiring other young women who are considering applying to college, a first-person account of Reese's story has been pitched by The College Place's public relations firm, Glover Park Group, to national outlets including Seventeen, Refinery29 and Teen Vogue. This new piece will focus on the college application process, financial aid resources and the road to Reese's success.

"My goal has been to teach Shekinah to make wise choices when no one is watching," Danna Reese said. "Be the you that will make you a better person where you can make an impact in the world today. The future belongs to Shekinah and Elon is now a part of that journey."

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Students get ECMC scholarships

August 23, 2017

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The following story is from The Farmville Herald

Ten students from Buckingham County High School (BCHS) are qualified to receive up to $6,000 to support their postsecondary education from the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC).

The students are among 88 high school seniors in Virginia who completed the ECMC Scholars program and qualify for college scholarship aid this year, according to a press release from ECMC.

The BCHS students who completed the program and were awarded the scholarships are Briyonna Johnson, Endya Glover, Julia Moore, Daphne Turner, Paula Chambers, Mya Chambers, Hope Simmers, TreQuan Young, Jessica Haskins and Alyssa Roach.

The ECMC Scholars program is a two-year mentoring program that allows students to access financial aid up to $4,000 for their first year of college, then qualify for $2,000 the following year following completion of all requirements, according to the release.

The scholarship is not solely awarded to students for academic merit or test scores, but for students who showed promise and, in the program, spent their junior and senior years "building social and study skills and actively preparing for success in college," the release cited.

ECMC is a nonprofit that provides students with access to financial literacy programs, scholarship access and resources for student loan management.

The organization is set to provide $540,000 in college scholarships to the 88 recipients who completed the program this year, according to the release.

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The value of simplicity in estimating student aid


August 22, 2017

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The following story is from Inside Higher Ed

Many colleges are confusing or discouraging low-income students with overly complicated net price calculators, said a report issued last week by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The report praised simple tools that perform some or all of the functions of net price calculators, which federal law requires colleges to provide as a means for prospective students to figure out their aid eligibility.

But the report noted that 30-plus elite colleges block College Abacus, one simple tool, instead insisting that students instead use the colleges' own aid calculators. And one tool that the report did praise was a calculator used at Wellesley College that turns out to have much in common with College Abacus and that is now being used by other colleges as well. The issue raised by the report is, in effect, would simple be best for providing aid information to the students at the lowest income levels?

Many net price calculators aim for precision, and they tell prospective students to gather their parents' tax records, information on family income and assets, and more. For middle-class families (and upper-class families who qualify for aid at plenty of colleges), this may make sense.

But aid experts have long said that for low-income, first-generation students, these kinds of questions can be intimidating -- and scare people off. Further, they say that once you establish that someone is very poor, that may be all the information you really need. And that's the idea behind College Abacus, which is sponsored by ECMC Group, a nonprofit educational corporation. (ECMC Group is the nonprofit owner of Zenith Education Group, which purchased some of the Everest and WyoTech campuses formerly under Corinthian Colleges.)

Abril Hunt, outreach manager for ECMC, said it's all about the questions you ask. With the right questions for low-income students, you don't really need tax records, she said. In five minutes, with just a handful of questions, you can get the necessary information, she said.

For example, a key question is: Are you eligible for reduced or free lunch at school?

For those who answer yes, there is no need for more information to tell them that they will almost certainly qualify for Pell Grants, other forms of federal aid, institutional aid and various government-backed loans, Hunt said. Of course, they will later need to complete formal aid applications, Hunt said. But this stage is about showing students what is possible and encouraging them to take the next steps in applying to college and for financial aid.

"The whole focus here is on the first-generation students who are intimidated by the process," she said. The other key part of the tool is its ability to allow students to specify all the colleges that intrigue them and to be told of eligibility at all of them (including varying levels of likely aid).

About 50,000 students or counselors have used the tool this year. It is also available in Spanish. The typical time required to answer the questions and get an estimate is five minutes.

Some colleges that have blocked access to Abacus have said that they fear there could be privacy issues or that someone could try to sell student data. But Hunt said that Abacus doesn't save the files. In fact, except for a minority of students who ask to save files so they can return and check on more colleges, most students' data are never saved at all. Students find out they are eligible for aid (typically a lot), are encouraged, and proceed.

She said that Abacus "doesn't have anything to sell," so the idea of selling data is a groundless worry.

MyinTuition

Also gaining traction is a similarly simple approach (again, with the idea of a few questions and no tax forms) called MyinTuition.

It is the system from Wellesley praised by the Cooke Foundation. It doesn't take the place of a net calculator or a full aid application. But it does encourage low-income students that they qualify for lots of aid.

The system was created for Wellesley by Phillip B. Levine, the Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics. He has since created a nonprofit to expand the tool, which is now in use at 15 colleges, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Colorado, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke and Pomona Colleges.

Levine reports tens of thousands of unique sign-ins to the system in the last year. And he too argues that educators should start off with a basic tool and worry about tax returns and precision later. "I like to think about it like a financial aid funnel," he said via email. "Enter little information, get a quick ballpark answer (note we present a range of estimates). Enter more information, get a more precise answer."

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American Student Assistance selects ECMC as third-party guarantor servicer

August 4, 2017

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A clean slate


June 2017

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The following story is from Collector Magazine

Student loans have a reputation of being extremely difficult to discharge in bankruptcy, but several recent court cases have shown that it's not impossible. Are the winds of change blowing through the bankruptcy courts? ECMC's Dan Fisher is interviewed.

Click here to access the story.

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KSTP's Summer Harvest for Kids Campaign continues

June 8, 2017

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The following story and video are from KSTP-TV

One in six children in Minnesota lives at risk of hunger.

Roughly 307,000 Minnesota kids receive free or reduced-price lunches at school, but that's just during the school year.

With summer vacation starting, about 250,000 children won't have access to meal programs.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS will be live all day at the Mall of America, as we team up with local leaders in hunger relief this summer.

You can provide lunch for a child throughout the summer for just $25.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS is collaborating with four local nonprofits for Summer Harvest for Kids: Urban Ventures, The Food Group, YouthLink and Matter.

Matter's mission is to increase access to healthy food.

At Mall of America on Thursday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS got a look at how one volunteer is making a big difference for Minnesota kids this summer.

For Matter volunteer Laura Welby, giving back is personal: "Growing up in the city, I know how important it is for kids to have healthy meals," Welby said.

Welby said she knows healthy meals give a different, powerful kind of energy: "They can use that for energy during the day," Welby explained.

Laura and her team are organizing Go Fuel packs and putting them into MatterBoxes.

Joe Newhouse, vice president of strategy and innovation for Matter, said, "They're all single-serve, ready-to-eat meals that are really healthy."

Matter will get that food to Minnesota children in need, especially those involved in sports who don't have access to enough healthy meals and snacks.

Whether Laura Welby was at the phone bank answering calls during Summer Harvest for Kids or getting healthy meals wrapped up for children, Matter staff said they refer to Welby as a "super volunteer" because she's so helpful.

"Laura has been amazing," Newhouse said. "She comes in three days a week to volunteer. She just is always willing to help out, is always coming to events."

Welby said she wants to make a difference with Summer Harvest for Kids because she's been very fortunate in life and wants to give back.

You can find more information on how to donate here, and be sure to watch 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS throughout the day for updates on the Summer Harvest for Kids campaign.

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ECMC congratulates 2017 ECMC Scholars graduates in Oregon, awards $468,000 in college scholarships

June 8, 2017

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PORTLAND, Ore., June 8, 2017 – Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is proud to recognize the 78 high school seniors from Oregon who this spring have completed the ECMC Scholars Program, qualifying each of them for up to $6,000 in scholarships for postsecondary education. These students attended eight high schools throughout Oregon and will be attending colleges across the state in the fall, including all seven public universities in Oregon, 11 of the 16 community colleges in the state as well as three out-of-state schools.

"College is a major financial investment for most families, which is why ECMC created the Scholars Program—to help ensure students who make the investment in their higher education are successful in that effort," said Paula Craw, ECMC vice president of student success and outreach. "In recognition of their hard work and completion of the program, the aid they receive will help defray the cost of attendance for students at any accredited college, university or technical school they choose."

For the past two years, these students have participated in the ECMC Scholars Program, a rigorous two-year mentoring program that allows select students to access up to $4,000 in scholarships their first year of college and, pending completion of all requirements, qualify for an additional $2,000 for their second year. Western Oregon University (WOU) has also committed to match the $6,000 ECMC Scholars financial award with an equal WOU scholarship amount offered to those students from the ECMC Scholars Program who attend WOU.

Unlike a traditional academic scholarship, these students weren't selected solely for their academic merit or test scores—instead, they were chosen for their potential. Working with an ECMC Scholars advisor, they've spent their junior and senior years building social and study skills and actively preparing for success in college.

"I have seen great strides from all of the ECMC Scholars I have worked with over the past two years," said ECMC Scholar Advisor Alexander Gonzalez. "They have demonstrated a commitment to preparing themselves for the next step in the educational careers, and I'm excited to see where that journey takes them."

Since 2008, ECMC has provided $4.74 million to 790 ECMC Scholars students in Oregon alone—on average, 80 students per year from eight high schools across the state. Over the past 13 years, ECMC has provided more than $15 million in financial aid to 5,080 students in Virginia, Oregon and Connecticut. ECMC has committed to supporting an additional 470 students with nearly $3 million in scholarships through 2019.

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ECMC congratulates 2017 ECMC Scholars graduates in Connecticut, awards $468,000 in college scholarships

June 8, 2017

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn., June 8, 2017 – Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is proud to recognize the 78 high school seniors in Connecticut who this spring have completed the ECMC Scholars Program, qualifying each of them for up to $6,000 in scholarships for postsecondary education. These students attended eight high schools throughout Connecticut and will be attending numerous colleges in the fall, including Central Connecticut State University, Delaware Valley University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Hofstra University, Johnson and Wales, Morgan State University, Quinnipiac University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Sacred Heart University, University of Bridgeport, University of Connecticut, University of New Haven and Western Connecticut State University.

"College is a major financial investment for most families, which is why ECMC created the Scholars Program—to help ensure students who make the investment in their higher education are successful in that effort," said Paula Craw, ECMC vice president of student success and outreach. "In recognition of their hard work and completion of the program, the aid they receive will help defray the cost of attendance for students at any accredited college, university or technical school they choose."

For the past two years, these students have participated in the ECMC Scholars Program, a rigorous two-year mentoring program that allows select students to access up to $4,000 in scholarships their first year of college and, pending completion of all requirements, qualify for an additional $2,000 for their second year. Unlike a traditional academic scholarship, these students weren't selected solely for their academic merit or test scores—instead, they were chosen for their potential. Working with an ECMC Scholars advisor, they've spent their junior and senior years building social and study skills and actively preparing for success in college.

"I'm so proud to have worked with these ECMC Scholars over the last two years," said Ashley Coleman, ECMC Scholars advisor in Connecticut. "They've worked tremendously hard to get to this point, and I look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish as they take the next step in their educational careers."

Since 2012, ECMC has provided $2.88 million to 480 ECMC Scholars students in Connecticut alone—on average, 80 students per year from eight high schools across the state. Over the past 13 years, ECMC has provided more than $15 million in financial aid to 5,080 students in Virginia, Oregon and Connecticut. ECMC has committed to supporting an additional 470 students with nearly $3 million in scholarships through 2019.

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ECMC congratulates 2017 ECMC Scholars graduates in Virginia, awards $540,000 in college scholarships

June 1, 2017

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RICHMOND, Va., June 1, 2017 – Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is proud to recognize the 88 high school seniors from Virginia who this spring have completed the ECMC Scholars Program, qualifying each of them for up to $6,000 in scholarships for postsecondary education. These students attended nine high schools throughout Virginia and will be attending colleges across the state in the fall, including Radford University, Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Old Dominion University, Longwood University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and many others.

"College is a major financial investment for most families, which is why ECMC created the Scholars Program—to help ensure students who make the investment in their higher education are successful in that effort," said Paula Craw, ECMC vice president of student success and outreach. "In recognition of their hard work and completion of the program, the aid they receive will help defray the cost of attendance for students at any college, university or technical school they choose."

For the past two years, these students have participated in the ECMC Scholars Program, a rigorous two-year mentoring program that allows select students to access up to $4,000 in scholarships their first year of college and, pending completion of all requirements, qualify for an additional $2,000 for their second year. Unlike a traditional academic scholarship, these students weren't selected solely for their academic merit or test scores—instead, they were chosen for their potential. Working with an ECMC Scholars advisor, they've spent their junior and senior years building social and study skills and actively preparing for success in college.

"With much persistence and assurance, it is my hope that the students find the fortitude to stay the course as they enter college. While obstacles will distract, deter and cause them to question their plan, hopefully, and with continued counsel from ECMC, they will become the person they want to be," said Olaniyi Lucas, ECMC Scholars advisor in Virginia. "I have seen great strides from all of the Scholars with whom I have worked. They have demonstrated a commitment to preparing themselves for the next step in their educational careers, and I'm excited to see where that journey takes them."

Since 2005, ECMC has provided $7.6 million to nearly 1,500 ECMC Scholars students in Virginia alone—on average, 100 students per year from ten high schools across the state. Over the past 13 years, ECMC has provided more than $15 million in financial aid to 5,080 students in Virginia, Oregon and Connecticut. ECMC has committed to supporting an additional 470 students with nearly $3 million in scholarships through 2019.

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Helping students succeed through ECMC's College Nights

May 30, 2017

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This spring, ECMC's annual college planning events, College Nights, were held at a record number of sites—134—in Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut, California and Tennessee. This is the 11th year for Virginia and Oregon. College Nights were added in California and Connecticut in 2013, and 2017 marks the inaugural year in Tennessee.

We reached more than 14,000 students and families in 2017, and several participating high schools had impressive attendance numbers:

  • James Logan High School, Union City, California—424 attendees
  • Jefferson County High School, Dandridge, Tennessee—374 attendees
  • White County High School, Sparta, Tennessee—333 attendees
  • Louisa County High School, Mineral, Virginia—330 attendees
  • Willamette High School, Eugene, Oregon—300 attendees

These events help students and their families understand how going to college can change their life, how to choose the right college, how to navigate the financial aid process, and how to find scholarships and avoid scholarship scams. Our focus is on reaching the highest need students and families. College Nights are traditionally held at high schools where eligibility for free and reduced lunch is 50 percent or greater. In addition, we sponsor the events at a few community colleges in rural, high-need areas where it makes sense for the events to be centrally located.

We also have a desire to help students earlier in the college-going process. As a result, ECMC's College Nights have been moved from the fall to early spring (February 1-April 30) and primarily target high school juniors and their families. The evening's program complements the Opportunities booklets, which are updated and published annually to help students and families prepare for college.

Tennessee's 30 Advise TN high schools were a great addition to College Nights this year. Our collaboration with Advise TN—a program developed by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the governor of Tennessee to place advisors in 30 state high schools in hopes of helping students enroll in postsecondary education—allowed us to quickly expand to help students and families across the state.

In Virginia, ECMC's College Nights are part of a collaboration with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) on the "1, 2, 3 Go! Virginia's Road to College" initiative. The program is a series of events including:

  • "1" College Nights to help students and families understand the process of applying and paying for college.
  • "2" Virginia College Application Week to encourage students to submit at least one college application.
  • "3" Super FAFSA Project to get hands-on help to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  • "Go!" which is Decision Day in Virginia, to recognize and celebrate all seniors and their plans for postsecondary education.

Students and families who attended were very appreciative of College Nights. The following is a sample of the great feedback we received.

"The presenters told me about so many different things about college that I never knew before. As a freshman this year, College Nights really opened my eyes on what I need to do to go to college. It was a great experience! I can't wait to come back next year!"

"I liked the handouts and the Opportunities workbook the most—very helpful!"

"The event went well, I thought it had great information. I really enjoyed the presentation and the speakers were very clear."

We also received great feedback about holding an ECMC College Nights event from our site hosts:

"The staff was exceptional when I had questions or made requests. I am thankful for this, because it helped me remember that I was not in this alone. Having a team, even if distant in location, was motivating. With each event, we are all winners, including the students."

As the sponsor, ECMC provides each site with posters for marketing the event, an event presentation, welcome posters, evaluation forms, scholarship entry forms, pens, balloons, volunteer T-shirts, reimbursement for pizza and refreshments (up to $600 per site), and three $500 scholarships that are given in a random drawing at each event.

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ECMC Foundation awards $1.45 million to 72 organizations working to improve educational outcomes in employees' local communities

May 23, 2017

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Los Angeles, CA, May 23, 2017 – ECMC Foundation announced today that it has awarded $1.45 million across 72 organizations spanning 19 states, as part of its 2017 GO! Program. The program is designed to involve employees under all affiliates of its parent company, ECMC Group, in recognizing organizations that align with the Foundation's mission of improving educational outcomes among underserved communities.

Employees across ECMC Group's seven major office locations—Minneapolis, Minn.; Mather, Calif.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Batavia, N.Y.; Nashville, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla.; and Santa Ana, Calif.—as well as its 24 campus locations under Zenith Education Group, nominated organizations for consideration.

This year's level of employee engagement was unprecedented: 264 nominations were received across 31 sites and nearly 2,000 employees voted to decide the winning nonprofit organizations.

"Through our company-wide GO! Program initiative, everyone in the ECMC Group family has the opportunity to connect the Foundation's mission of improving educational outcomes to organizations they care about in their local communities," said ECMC Foundation President Peter J. Taylor. "It provides employees the chance to give back and make a difference in a personal and meaningful way."

Awards were granted to education programs spanning from early childhood education through postsecondary education. Examples of grant recipients are:

  • Fathers and Families Center (Indianapolis, Ind.): $25,000 to support the Strong Fathers program, which works with at-risk fathers to obtain the skills and training certifications needed to secure employment that has the potential for a living wage and growth. This grant recipient was nominated by Ranee Jones from ECMC Group's Indianapolis, Ind., office.

    "The Fathers and Families Center equips inexperienced, willing fathers with the skills and tools they need to transform their lives," Jones said. "I respect this organization and the support it provides to dads who have had a difficult time in life but remain committed to being a father."

  • Avenues for Homeless Youth (Minneapolis, Minn.): $25,000 to support the employment of an education support specialist who will work with homeless youth. This grant recipient was nominated by Sandy Probst from ECMC Group's Minneapolis, Minn., office.

    "Avenues for Homeless Youth provides shelter and support services for homeless youth so they can reach their goals and transition into young adulthood while giving them hope for a future they wouldn't otherwise have," Probst said. "I'm proud to be part of an organization that contributes in a meaningful way to help homeless teens have an opportunity for a successful future."

  • Fairytale Town (Sacramento, Calif.): $25,000 to fund the Sacramento Adventure Playground (SAP) "maker" lab where kids use real tools and raw materials and bring their ideas to life, while keeping them out of harm's way. This grant recipient was nominated by Leslie Naake from ECMC Group's Mather, Calif., office.

    "I was happy to nominate Fairytale Town, which has been a landmark for years," Naake said. "There are few opportunities anymore for creative play, especially in underserved areas. This grant will allow Fairytale Town to sustain and expand education innovation, while building stronger ties in the community."

Since the GO! Program first launched three years ago, it has awarded a total of $3.55 million through 118 grants.

About ECMC Foundation
Based in Los Angeles, ECMC Foundation's mission is to inspire and facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. The Foundation makes investments in three focus areas: Teacher and Leader Development, College Success, and Career Readiness. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting www.ecmcfoundation.org.

About ECMC Group
ECMC Group is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. All companies in the ECMC Group family work together to fulfill this mission through product and service support and by funding its philanthropic activities through ECMC Foundation. Learn more about ECMC Group by visiting www.ecmcgroup.org.

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ECMC opens college access center in Moreno Valley

May 17, 2017

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The following article is from Inland Empire

Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) has opened its sixth college access center in order to assist students of all ages prepare for college.

The College Place-Southern California (TCP-Southern California), located on the Moreno Valley College campus, provides free information and assistance through in-person, telephone and online support. It also offers presentations, workshops, individual assistance completing applications for college admission, financial aid and scholarships.

"The College Place is an amazing resource for students who have a desire to attend college, but don't know how to start the process," Alise Clouser, director of TCP-Southern California, said. "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with families to help them navigate the process and put students on a path to achieve their education dreams."

Clouser has been active in the college access, student equity and student success movements for more than a decade. She has advocated for students on high school, college, and university campuses all over California in many capacities including serving as college and career liaison, adjunct professor, and academic advisor. She has also directed Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) equity grants as well as TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) programs.

TCP-Southern California's office is located on the Moreno Valley College campus at 16130 Lasselle Street Moreno Valley, CA 92551. To set up an appointment or to schedule a presentation, please contact The College Place at 1-866-326-2827 or southerncatcp@ecmc.org.

We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with ECMC and to host one of the five College Access Centers in the country is truly exciting," Dyrell Foster, vice president, Student Services. "The purpose of the Access Center is in line with the College mission. It also brings additional resources to our community to help better inform families about opportunities available at the College and the financial resources available."

ECMC has one other college access center in California. TCP-Northern California is located on the University of California-Berkeley campus.

Additional Resources in California
ECMC provides additional resources to help California students and their families. ECMC distributes college access and success curricula to support educators and community organizations in reaching underserved populations. Additionally, ECMC sponsors College Nights at multiple sites across California, and provides the Financial Awareness Basics (FAB) program as well as weekly webinars for financial aid administrators and other campus staff.

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Giving college applicants a helping hand at PDCCC

May 11, 2017

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The following article is from The Smithfield Times

For many students, applying for college can be daunting. There are forms to fill out, information to gather, strict qualifications and deadlines to meet.

"It's scary," said Paula Craw, vice president of student success and outreach for Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), a non-profit looking to simplify things for high school students approaching graduation.

On Tuesday, Paul D. Camp Community College hosted its first "College Night" at its Smithfield Center, an event sponsored by ECMC to encourage students to apply for college and educate them on how.

The event, incorporated as part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe's "1,2,3 Go!" college initiative in the state, is typically split into four different informational sections for students: outlining the benefits and "importance" of a college education, the admissions process, types of financial aid and how to avoid getting scammed, according to Craw.

Craw has said that, by far, the most challenging aspect of the overall process that students and parents experience is seeking financial aid. "It appears to students and parents to be very complicated," Craw said of the application process.

Craw said that the application for federal aid usually only takes about 23 minutes on average to complete.

"But it's still rather intimidating," she said, particularly for first generation college-bound students.

College Night mainly attempts to reach out to juniors in high school, but accepts anyone interested in attending, according to Craw.

Craw said that it's becoming increasingly common for high school students in Virginia to attend two years at a community college before transferring to a larger university.

"It's quite common and really a fantastic idea to do so," said Craw, who added that students could save on tuition through the community college, and still graduate with a full degree from a large institution.

White transferring credits from community college to four-year colleges used to have its difficulties, today the process is much smoother, said Craw. As Isle of Write County high school students prepare to dive into more Career and Technical Education courses next year, Craw said CTE courses could be advantageous for a college-bound student as well.

"We really love to promote the idea that it's a great idea to do a variety of things in high school," said Craw. "I think often there are a wide variety of attributes being considered [during the college appetence process]."

Craw said that there used to be a stigma around not attending a four-year college immediately after high school. However, that's not necessarily the case anymore.

"Things have changed dramatically," said Craw.

Craw said that there are a number of ways to spot scams when applying for scholarships, including phone calls announcing that you've won without having applied.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Craw.

Having to pay to complete a scholarship application is also a red flag, according to Craw.

"There are so many legitimate scholarships out there, so there would be no reason to that," she said.

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Coro Southern California honors Peter J. Taylor for his civic leadership and impact in higher education

May 8, 2017

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By ECMC Foundation

Peter J. Taylor, ECMC Foundation president and Zenith Education Group president and CEO, was honored at this year's annual Coro Southern California Crystal Eagle Awards Gala.

Marking Coro's 60th anniversary, the event on May 4 recognized high-impact individuals who have worked to create a significant and positive change in the region, and exemplify excellence in effective leadership and dynamic community involvement.

In addition to Taylor, other honorees of the event were Aileen Adams, former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and former secretary of state and consumer services; and George J. Mihlsten, partner at Latham & Watkins LLP.

"It is an honor to be recognized at the Coro Eagle Awards Gala. Truly, this would not have been possible without the thousands of students I have had the privilege to know and work with over the years," said Taylor. "Their dedication, hard work and commitment to their education—sometimes, in spite of the obstacles and challenges that life can bring—fuels my work each day."

Founded in 1942, Coro is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that trains leaders for civic life. It prepares fellows with skills necessary to lead effectively, as well as creatively and ethically deal with challenges of democratic self-governance. Taylor is a graduate of the Coro Southern California Fellowship in Public Affairs.

Prior to his current positions at the Foundation and Zenith, Taylor spent five years as the chief financial officer of the University of California, where he was responsible for $500 million of improved fiscal performance and advocated for policies that reduced the costs of providing higher education.

Active in the community, Taylor was recently appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Board of Trustees of the California State University system. He also serves on the boards of Edison International, Pacific Life and the J. Paul Getty Trust. Taylor previously served as president of the UCLA Alumni Association Board of Directors and as the alumni representative on the UC Board of Regents.

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ECMC Group receives "2017 Game Changer" award from the Corporate Volunteerism Council-Twin Cities

May 4, 2017

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MINNEAPOLIS, May 4, 2017 – ECMC Group received the 2017 Corporate Volunteerism Council-Twin Cities' (CVC-TC) "Game Changer" award on May 4 at the CVC-TC Annual Celebration. The Game Changer Award recognizes an employee-driven corporate initiative/program that demonstrates a best practice in employee engagement and volunteerism, while also being a "game changer" in which the program shows innovation and an impact on corporate culture or strategy.

The award recognizes ECMC Group's employee engagement volunteer initiatives, which include the GO! Program—a nationwide effort that donates funds to charities nominated and selected by employees. A total of 72 grants were awarded nationwide. In 2017, ECMC Group awarded $250,000 to charities in the Twin Cities and $1.45 million in grants to nonprofits around the country.

"ECMC Group believes in giving back to the community and our employees lead the way to ensure we provide support to each and every community we serve," said Iris Cumberbatch, vice president of corporate affairs. "We appreciate this honor and look forward to continuing to support the amazing work happening in charities here and throughout the U.S."

ECMC Group is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. All of the companies within ECMC Group work together to fulfill our mission through product and service support and by funding its philanthropic activities through ECMC Foundation.

"This award reflects ECMC Group's commitment to community involvement and recognizes the outstanding contribution that your employees make in their communities through volunteer service," said Susan T. Schuster, president of CVC-TC. "We applaud your efforts and the impact that you are having on communities nationwide."

About The Corporate Volunteerism Council–Twin Cities
The Corporate Volunteerism Council–Twin Cities (CVC-TC) is a professional organization consisting primarily of corporate members that also includes associate nonprofit members. CVC-TC advocates, supports, and grows workplace volunteerism to improve our community.

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Paying for college without taking on crippling debt

May 1, 2017

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The following article is from CBS News

I like to tinker with new tools that help families make better college decisions. The sooner you run the numbers -- meaning before junior year in high school -- the greater your ability to avoid debt.

But I'm always perplexed at how backwards the whole college decision process has become. Families are entranced by the "brand name" of the college or fancy new dorms, dining halls and recreational facilities. Most of that is irrelevant if you're stuck with college loans that will stay with you for decades.

So I like to apply meaningful metrics when talking to families about college financing. How much will a degree cost in terms of monthly payments when you pay off loans? What is your likely post-graduate salary? Will one major help you pay off loans quicker?

The superficial answer, of course, is majors that lead to better-paying jobs will make borrowing more acceptable. Higher salaries will allow you to pay off loans faster. But you have to crunch a few numbers to make this decision.

Services like Payscale give you some perspective on the best-paying majors and colleges based on return on investment (ROI) well after graduation. As you can imagine, engineering, actuarial science and computer science majors make the most money.

There are so many combinations of majors and colleges, though, that the optimal decision becomes muddled. Some degrees are worth more at some institutions than others. And for-profit schools may be a waste of money, having led to billions in college loans that can't be justified in terms of better-paying jobs.

Drilling down into the relationship between majors, colleges and future salaries is essential to making a rational college decision -- particularly if you're going into debt. So I recently started experimenting with a service called NitroScore to see if I could find out more about the ROI decision.

Let's see what happens with two very different college searches. Let's say you wanted to get a degree in engineering (as an in-state student) from the University of Michigan, a big public school with a respected engineering program. According to NitroScore, some 31 percent of your aftertax income would go toward paying off loans.

While that sounds high, the service said your aftertax/after-loan take-home pay would be a healthy $2,500 a month. Since engineering still pays pretty well, that's a good place to start if you have the aptitude and interest in the field. You can not only pay off your loans fairly quickly, you'll have money to save and income to spend -- if you budget wisely.

Now let's say you're an actor and you want to get a theater/drama studies degree from Northwestern University's highly regarded program. NitroScore reports that 126 percent of your salary will go toward loans, meaning you're in the hole for about $615 a month. That merits a NitroScore of "zero." Note: The higher the NitroScore number, the lower the debt burden relative to expected salary.

Yes, I know this is a grossly unfair comparison. Engineering has plenty of well-paying jobs, and theater is, well, risky -- unless you have parents willing to "subsidize" you while you're auditioning for that breakthrough role. Even then...

Also, I'm not making a value judgement about either school, profession or the social value of doing one thing over another. I truly believe that you should try to do what you love while also trying to pay your bills. You can be a theater major and still do lots of jobs to make a decent income.

Yet when I talk to parents and students, I don't hear them talking about the impact of loans. College debt can't be discharged in personal bankruptcy. It stays with you unless you're completely disabled. Graduates with payments that eat up a large portion of their salaries can't buy homes, cars or start families. That's a social burden that causes far too much anguish to the 43 million Americans carrying college loans.

As with all college information services, though, you have to keep in mind that to make an informed decision, you need to ask a lot of questions.

Is a state school a better fit than a private one? Which one is likely to leave graduates with the least amount of debt? I trust services like College Scorecard and College Abacus to help on these queries as first stops in the planning journey.

And I would never suggest that anyone get locked into one major. Most students switch their majors while in college. Just keep in mind that to understand how a career path can lead to prosperity, you have to be conservative with the numbers.

Look at multiple college-major combinations. And understand how monthly payments will affect your life. The difference between a reasonable and unreasonable debt burden could be resolved if you do a modest amount of homework.

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ECMC featured in Times Square

April 17, 2017

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ECMC was featured in Times Square on Monday, April 17, 2017

Time Square

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ECMC helps students succeed with tips to understand financial aid award letters during Financial Literacy Month

April 3, 2017

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Paying for college is one of the most important early investment decisions a student can make. Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is providing tips to help families understand their financial aid award letters during Financial Literacy Month.

ECMC is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. ECMC works to lower student loan default rates; sponsors college access and success initiatives, and financial literacy programs; and provides resources to support student loan borrowers to successfully repay their loans.

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ECMC opens college access center in Southern California

April 4, 2017

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Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) has opened its sixth college access center to help students of all ages prepare for college.

The College Place-Southern California (TCP-Southern California), located on the Moreno Valley College campus, provides free information and assistance through in-person, telephone and online support. It also offers presentations, workshops, individual assistance completing applications for college admission, financial aid and scholarships.

"The College Place is an amazing resource for students who have a desire to attend college but don't know how to start the process," said Alise Clouser, director of TCP-Southern California. "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with families to help them navigate the process and put students on a path to achieve their education dreams."

Clouser has been active in the college access, student equity and student success movements for more than a decade. She has advocated for students on high school, college, and university campuses all over California in many capacities including serving as college and career liaison, adjunct professor, and academic advisor. She has also directed Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) equity grants as well as TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) programs.

TCP-Southern California's main office is located on the Moreno Valley College campus at 16130 Lasselle Street Moreno Valley, CA 92551. To set up an appointment or to schedule a presentation, please contact The College Place at 1-866-326-2827 or southerncatcp@ecmc.org.

ECMC has one other college access center in California. TCP-Northern California is located on the University of California-Berkeley campus.

Additional Resources in California
ECMC provides additional resources to help California students and their families. ECMC distributes college access and success curricula to support educators and community organizations in reaching underserved populations. Additionally, ECMC sponsors College Nights at multiple sites across California, and provides the Financial Awareness Basics (FAB) program as well as weekly webinars for financial aid administrators and other campus staff.

To learn more about ECMC's initiatives, visit www.ecmc.org/students.

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ECMC Group on WCCO morning radio

March 27, 2017

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Jan Hines was interviewed by John Hines on Friday, March 24, as part of ECMC Group's Good Neighbor of the Week award.

Click here to listen to the audio clip.

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36 apps that will save you money

March 27, 2017

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The following article is from MONEY

What's the best way to put your phone to work for you? A team of MONEY reporters checked out dozens of apps (and websites in places where apps were few) to find 36 top picks across seven areas of your financial life: travel, tracking your money, your home, retirement planning, shopping, college, and investing.
Whatever your circumstances, there's something here that can make your life easier and help you get more for your money.

Tools are free unless a price is indicated.

Rome2Rio
Rome2rio takes the guesswork out of planning your transportation from city to city. Plug in your origin and destination, and it lays out the choices—plane, train, bus, and car—along with the approximate time each route will take. Use it when traveling around Europe or when weighing Amtrak vs. a flight from, say, Boston to New York. The app factors in the total time it will take door-to-door using each type of transit.

SkipLagged
This app is similar to Kayak and Google Flights for finding airfare deals between specified cities. But SkipLagged can also help you save with a "hidden city" option—a one-way ticket from City A to City B to City C when the stopover is really your final destination. By ditching the second leg of the trip, you may save money and time vs. other tickets from City A to City B. Note that travelers looking for a roundtrip option will have to buy two one-way tickets to take advantage of these hidden-city fares.

Mobile Passport
Before you next head overseas, download this app authorized by the U.S. government. It can get you through Customs faster on your return. You plug in basic personal information and your passport data, along with a selfie, ahead of time. When you arrive back in the U.S. at one of the 21 participating airports (they include most of the major hubs), the app asks a few questions about your trip. It then lets you jump into a dedicated Mobile Passport line.

HERE WeGo
With this app you can download maps of the cities you're planning to visit and then use the offline mode to view them. That can save on phone charges overseas. And closer to home, the app's offline version of the New York City subway map makes it easy to double-check your route even when you're underground. Offline maps are available for 1,300 cities across 110 countries. They take a while to download, so make sure you allow time to get them set up before you take off.

Journy
$15 per day of travel
If planning vacation activities feels overwhelming, Journy can help map out your days and make reservations in more than 60 destinations. You specify your age, types of activities, and a price range. The app taps a network that includes chefs, travel writers, and photographers to help craft an itinerary from breakfast through evening entertainment. You can work with a member of Journy's concierge team to tweak that further. You get maps and directions, as well as reservation notifications, via the app.

Google Translate
There are several translation tools on the market, but Google Translate's features are still the best among free apps. You can write or even speak words and phrases that the app then translates into more than 100 languages. It even works offline (so you don't rack up data charges) for more than 52 languages. Bonus: You can take photos with your phone's camera to translate signs and menu options (although this works best with simple typefaces—it struggles with ornate script).

Level Money
Fight the temptation to overspend with Level Money, which shows you exactly how much you can responsibly spend on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It starts with your actual bank balances and subtracts essentials like rent and utilities as well as planned saving. What's left is your "spendable balance." You can set alerts for when you have, say, only 25% of that balance left. The app doesn't have access to your dollars; you'll have to manually roll the extra money that you accumulate over into savings.

Digit
This app makes saving effortless. It deducts money from your checking account, typically between $10 and $30 two or three times a week, setting aside only what it determines you can spare based on your spending habits. The money goes into a bank account from which you can withdraw funds at any time. Daily texts tell you your current checking balance, and you can text Digit to see your most recent debits. You can also instruct the app to become more or less aggressive with saving if you want.

Qapital
Like Digit, this app makes saving an easy, painless task, but Qapital gives you control over how much and how often you save by having you set rules. Keep it traditional by having Qapital transfer a set sum each week from your checking account to a bank account it sets up for you. Or use it like a change jar by telling it to round up all purchases to the next dollar and set the difference aside. Or craft a fun rule of your own, like transferring $5 every time you post to Instagram or buy a cup of coffee.

Mint
The classic budgeting app, Mint allows you to see exactly where your money goes when you link your banking and credit card accounts to it. Track your spending on everything from housing to groceries to coffee-shop pick-me-ups in a multicolored pie chart. The app will suggest a budget based on the average amounts you spend. You can set limits for certain expenses and receive a warning when you're approaching the max. Mint will also alert you when bill payments are due or your bank balance dips.

Prosper Daily
Spotting fraudulent or erroneous charges on your credit card accounts can be difficult. When you link your accounts to this app, formerly called BillGuard, it flags suspicious or duplicate charges for you to take a closer look. It also notifies you when there has been a data breach at a business you shopped at in the past.

Wallaby
Maximizing your credit card rewards feels almost like a job in itself. This app does the work for you by telling you which card to use at different businesses to earn the most bang on the transaction. For online purchases, download the Wallaby browser extension for the same service. The app also keeps track of how much of your credit limit you have used.

Houzz
Looking to redecorate? Rather than sift through piles of magazines and books for creative inspiration, check out Houzz to search millions of photos from product manufacturers and designers. You click on a photo to see a product's cost, and you may be able to purchase it directly through the app. Plus, you can store your best ideas in your Ideabook so you don't lose track of that perfect table or throw rug.

Dwellr
This resource from the U.S. Census Bureau can help you check out neighborhoods you are considering for a move. It uses the American Community Survey, an ongoing demographic study conducted by the bureau that uses 40 factors, such as median home price, total population, and the age and education of residents, to profile towns and neighborhoods. Tap the compass icon to get a reading on your current location. To start, the app asks you to answer 11 questions, and it then suggests your top places to live.

MagicPlan
From free to $9.99 a month
This app can help you figure out if the furniture you are considering is the right size for your room. With MagicPlan, you create a floor plan of a room by taking pictures with your phone. You can then add the dimensions of, say, a couch and chairs, either manually or by photographing them, to see how they would fit. The free version allows you to create a basic room plan and play around with what goes where. If you want to export the plan in a PDF, you pay $2.99 a plan.

HomeZada
From free to $5.95 a month
You probably know you should have an inventory of your possessions in case of a fire or other loss. The free version of this app makes it easy to check that off your to-do list: You upload photos of your possessions and add information on their value. You can also store warranties and other documentation. If you're doing a big renovation, like remodeling the kitchen, spend $5.95 a month and the app helps you keep track of all your tasks and stay within budget.

Zillow Real Estate
The much-used Zillow is a comprehensive resource to find your first home, upgrade, or keep hope alive for your dream house. See the site's Zestimate of a home's worth, check out the listing history, and view photos and, in some cases, a video tour. Zillow has the largest database of homes on the market, including those for sale by owners, according to business consultant Cultural Outreach Solutions. Other apps, such as Redfin, may have more up-to-date listings.

NerdWallet Retirement Calculator
Many retirement calculators generate a big accumulation goal—$2 million, say—which can be intimidating and difficult to relate to. This NerdWallet tool, by contrast, looks at your retirement preparedness in terms of monthly income and spending. On the basis of just five data points—your age, desired retirement age, income, savings to date, and savings rate—it might say you'll need $6,000 a month to live on in later life and you're currently on track to have $4,000. It gives you suggestions to catch up. The simple design can quickly engage young people and get them thinking about saving for the future, but workers approaching retirement need a more detailed approach.

T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator
This detailed planning tool asks for information including your current income, savings, and asset allocation, and from them it projects your various sources of retirement income, from investments to Social Security. You can incorporate a spouse's information as well. The calculator runs Monte Carlo simulations, a tool frequently used by financial planners, to gauge the probability of your savings supporting your desired lifestyle in various financial market conditions. If you're coming up short, you can see how changes such as delaying retirement and increasing your savings rate will help.

BrightScope 401(k) Plan Ratings
Wondering how a prospective employer's 401(k) stacks up? This website uses details gleaned from plans' annual regulatory filings to grade nearly 50,000 401(k) and 403(b) plans against peers. It looks at factors including expenses, investment options, and the employer's generosity with matching contributions. Among the top corporate retirement plans based on 2015 data: Delta's plan for its pilots, and those at ConocoPhillips and Amgen. Note that you'll see few details on the individual 401(k) plans, and the data that BrightScope pulls from filings may be out of date. So also ask the company itself about the match and investment options.

Blue Zones
Although there are a number of life expectancy calculators on the web, this site's True Vitality Test is one of the most thought provoking. Blue Zones is a project of Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Society fellow who traveled the world to study the habits of people with the longest life expectancies. This online tool asks a series of detailed questions—how many servings of unprocessed grains you ate in the past week and how many religious services you attended, for instance—to give you a more nuanced sense of your life expectancy based on your age, gender, and lifestyle. (Be honest.) Note: You have to register to see your results.

Paribus
Many stores offer refunds if the price of an item drops soon after you purchase it. But no one wants to keep shopping around after buying something, so many potential refunds go unredeemed. Enter Paribus, which not only tracks items you have purchased online but automatically requests refunds if the price drops. Customers don't pay for the service, but Paribus takes a 25% cut of the refunds it retrieves.

Flipp
Far fewer people get the Sunday papers these days. But all the ads, sales, coupons, and other special offers from the Sunday circulars can be browsed with Flipp. The app covers weekly ads from some 800 retailers, including supermarkets, dollar stores, pharmacies, and big retailers such as Target and Walmart. If you add your loyalty-program numbers, some discounts will automatically be applied when your loyalty card is scanned at checkout, without any physical coupons.

Amazon
The world's largest e-retailer sells nearly everything you might want to buy. Its app is handy too. You can see prices and product information for items you scan, take a photo of, or say out loud to your phone. In a store or on the go, you can access Amazon's massive volume of user reviews and side-by-side product comparisons. You can check your Amazon order history, update your Wish List, and browse the retailer's short-lived Lightning Deals too.

RetailMeNot
Smart shoppers consider the list price merely a starting point that they'll inevitably be able to beat with a few clicks of a mouse or swipes of a smartphone. The RetailMeNot app is a must-have for savings, with promotional codes, coupons, and other discounts at 50,000-plus restaurants and major retailers, and deals for physical stores and online purchases alike.

ShopSavvy
The ultimate "showrooming" tool, ShopSavvy allows you to inspect merchandise in the store and scan the bar code to compare prices from dozens of online competitors and local stores (but not Amazon, unfortunately). The app offers special cash-back deals from major retailers, and you can set up notifications to alert you when a desired product goes on sale.

Walmart App
If you're a Walmart shopper, the giant retailer's app is invaluable for no-effort savings. Simply scan store receipts, and the Savings Catcher feature checks whether competitors offer lower prices. If they do, you'll get the difference refunded to you in the form of Walmart credit. The app's newest feature lets you skip store lines for picking up prescriptions.

WayUp
This job and internship search tool is for current college students—you need a .edu email address to sign up. To be matched with openings for summer and post-graduation employment, you create a WayUp profile that includes your academic accomplishments and career interests. You can also search for opportunities based on location and industry type. Apply straight from your phone or save jobs you're interested in to pull them up later on your computer.

Common App onTrack
High school seniors may apply to many of their picks online via the Common App, accepted by 700 colleges. The website's companion app is a handy organizational tool, and it allows teens to access much of their application information from their smartphones. You can search colleges' writing prompts, keep track of deadlines and the status of your applications, connect with teachers who are writing your recommendation letters, and set up reminders for your personal to-do list.

Schoold
Schoold takes on the role traditionally filled by college guidebooks and search websites and spins it into a sleek, easy to use app. You can search lists of colleges curated by major, careers, or locations, and quickly browse details about costs, student body demographics, and scholarships at individual schools. One of its most engaging features is the "coach" function, through which students can text admissions questions and get responses from experienced counselors.

College Abacus
Colleges are required to provide an online calculator that helps students estimate what they would have to pay after scholarships and grants are subtracted from the school's sticker price. But those calculators can be hard to find—and to compare colleges, you have to submit the same personal information on multiple websites. College Abacus makes it easy: It incorporates information from the net price calculators of roughly 2,600 four-year colleges so you can check out multiple schools at once.

Get Schooled
You know Mary Poppins's old trick about the spoonful of sugar? This website uses gamification to teach high schoolers about the college admissions process. Students earn points toward rewards like a backpack or calculator as they prep for standardized tests or learn about financial aid forms. This site was set up by a nonprofit group working to boost college enrollment among underserved populations, but it could be just the ticket for any student who needs a little extra motivation.

BrokerCheck
It's an investor's worst nightmare: working with a financial advisor who turns out to be a crook. It's easy to do a background check at this site run by industry regulator FINRA. You'll see how long brokers have worked in the industry, a list of past employers, and any black marks—identified as "disclosures"—on their records. You can research firms as well. If you look up someone who is a "registered investment advisor" or an investment advisory firm—which are overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission or a state regulator rather than FINRA—BrokerCheck will take you to the SEC site for the same type of information.

Betterment
At least 0.25% of assets a year
Are you or someone you know looking to get started in investing? Betterment and other so-called robo-advisors ask you a few questions and then invest your money in a low-cost portfolio of exchange-traded funds. You can watch the progress of your account online, while your holdings are periodically rebalanced back to a target mix of stocks and bonds. Betterment's fee—which works out to $125 a year on a $50,000 nest egg—is on top of expenses averaging 0.13% of assets a year for the underlying ETFs. Investors with at least $250,000 at Betterment can pay higher fees (up to 0.5%) for unlimited calls with a team of certified financial planners.

FeeX
Not sure about the costs of your 401(k) or other investments? Link your accounts to FeeX and it will check what you are paying your advisor or retirement plan directly, as well as the cost of individual investments like mutual funds. Each investment portfolio receives a grade—from A+ for total fees of 0.05% of assets a year or less to F for fees of 1% or more. FeeX will also suggest lower-cost alternatives to your current holdings or recommend a rollover if your 401(k) plan or IRA offers what it considers a subpar menu of options. While FeeX's fee checkup is free, the company receives referral payments from investment companies when it recommends a rollover.

Personal Capital
Free (for the basic tool)
This service's free "dashboard" lets you see all your investment and other financial accounts—including your 401(k)—on one screen if you share your login information. That means you can check that your overall mix of stocks and bonds is what you want it to be even if, say, you keep bond funds in your IRA and stock funds in a brokerage account. If you sign up, expect the company to pitch you to hire Personal Capital to manage your money for a fee of up to 0.89% of assets a year; in that paid service, it pairs investors with financial advisors online and over the phone.

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ECMC Group on WCCO morning radio

March 27, 2017

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Jan Hines was interviewed by John Hines on Friday, March 24, as part of ECMC Group's Good Neighbor of the Week award.

Click here to listen to the audio clip.

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ECMC Group appoints new board member

March 14, 2017

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ECMC Group, a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed, today announced the appointment of K. Paul Singh to its Board of Directors.

An entrepreneur who has created and led three successful businesses, Singh is a strategic thinker with expertise in building highly effective organizations to deliver superior performance and customer experience. His most-recent endeavors include Rezon8 Capital & Advisory Group, a private equity firm that invests in and mentors founders and CEOs of tech-driven growth companies, and InterCentrus Global Data Centers, Inc., a holding company that owns Matrix Internet SA and USMatrix.

"Paul's entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen will be invaluable to the Board of Directors and our management team as we pursue our mission of helping students succeed," said John DePodesta, ECMC Group chairman of the Board. "As a businessman, Paul has proven experience being adaptable in a changing environment. The ECMC Group Board and management team will benefit from his insight as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of higher education."

Over the course of his 30-year career, Singh has garnered numerous accolades. In October 2010, he was named "#1 Top Performing CEO of Public Companies" with an annual revenue between $100 million and $999 million in the DC-area by the Washington Business Journal. Singh also won the prestigious Stevie Award for leading the "best business turnaround" and the Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year Award."

Singh has also been active in philanthropic activities, including Hoop Dreams and the Darrell Green Foundation that focus on underserved populations to pursue and persist in attaining their educational goals.

Singh holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a master's in electrical engineering (MSEE) from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

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At César E. Chávez Youth Leadership Conference, ECMC Celebrates 10 Years Of Partnership And $250,000 Financial Investment In Improving Latino College Access In Oregon

March 7, 2017

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ECMC is reaffirming its strong commitment to the college dreams of Oregon's Latino students by ensuring more of them have the tools they need to successfully navigate the college application and financial aid process. Marking its 10th year as a key sponsor of the César E. Chávez Leadership Conference (CECLC), ECMC representatives will gather this Friday with nearly 2,000 Latino students from 70 high schools across Oregon to emphasize the importance of higher education and share free college planning resources, including Spanish language workbooks for students from bilingual families. ECMC will also provide a $25,000 grant to support the CECLC, the premier statewide developmental event for Latino high school students in Oregon.

Oregon has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the country, with nearly a quarter of the state's K-12 students identifying as Latino. In 2014, 9.7% of Hispanic adults 18-52 in Oregon were enrolled in postsecondary institutions. ECMC has spent more than a decade working to support our Latino families, through College Nights events offered free of charge at high schools around the state, ECMC Scholars Program with pledges of more than $5.7 million over 12 years, and The College Place, which provides free individualized college counseling and annual sponsorship of the CECLC event.

"As a state with one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the country, the future of Oregon's workforce and economy depends on Latino students having the resources and support they need to reach their full potential," said Jennifer Satalino, director of ECMC's The College Place–Oregon. "ECMC is proud to play a role in making higher education more accessible for Latino students by providing college planning and financial literacy tools in both English and Spanish, and supporting CECLC's work to encourage and celebrate Latino students' leadership in Oregon."

ECMC knows that researching and understanding the college application and financial aid process can be challenging for first-generation students and for families who are non-native English speakers. It offers an array of college planning and financial literacy tools in both English and Spanish that are designed to help families have fully informed conversations about planning and paying for college. These include ECMC's Opportunities booklets, which offer timelines and checklists for college applications as well as tips on applying for federal and Oregon financial aid, and the free resource guides on topics ranging from Why Go To College to What To Do When You Get To Campus. ECMC also provides free online tools College Ábaco and Pell Ábaco, which allow families throughout the country to calculate and compare their personalized financial aid estimates for 5,600 U.S. schools in Spanish.

"ECMC's Spanish-language resources have helped thousands of students and families learn more about their postsecondary education financial aid options and make college more accessible for all, regardless of their native language," said David McDonald, associate provost at Western Oregon University. "We are happy to celebrate ECMC's 10th year as a sponsor of this event and are touched by their continued support."

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ECMC partnered with Advise TN to pilot College Planning Nights at Advise TN schools

March 1, 2017

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Thursday night, from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., Dyer County High School welcomed approximately 229 students, as well as their parents, to the ECMC /Advise TN College Planning Night.

ECMC (Educational Credit Management Corporation) has been hosting College Planning Nights for the past 30 years, however, they have never been in the state of Tennessee until now.

ECMC partnered with Advise TN to pilot College Planning Nights at Advise TN schools.

As 1 of 30 Advise TN schools, Dyer County High School was among the first - and actually the first in the state of Tennessee - to provide an ECMC/Advise TN College Planning Night to Tennessee high school students.

Kicking off the event, students and parents made their way to a mini college fair held in the commons, where 11 colleges and one federal college program were represented.

Participating colleges included: Dyersburg State Community College, TCAT-Newbern, UT-Martin, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Knoxville, Union University, Middle Tennessee State University, Arkansas State University, University of Memphis, Mississippi State University, Tennessee State University, and federally funded TRIO Program-Educational Opportunity Centers.

Throughout the event, students and parents were served free pizza and drinks provided by ECMC and DCHS, and were presented with informative presentations pertaining to the importance of college planning.

Welcoming those in attendance was DCHS 11th-12th grade guidance counselor Jennifer Ray, who thanked all of the college representatives and volunteers for their participation.

Presenting, 'How College Can Change Your Life and Types of College', was DCHS' Advise TN College Advisor Angel Murray, who was followed by a presentation from West TN EdSouth Regional Coordinator Emily Pitt entitled, 'How to Choose the Right College and the Admissions Process'.

Closing the night were presentations from West TN Advise TN Regional Coordinator Bev Vos and West TN TSAC Representative Abby Nichols entitled, 'Scholarship Searches and Scams' and 'How to Pay for College and Apply for Financial Aid.'

An added bonus to the night, student names were randomly drawn by for prizes including $20 El Patio gift cards, provided by DCHS, two TCAT-Newbern tumblers, and three $500 scholarships, generously provided by ECMC.

El Patio gift card winners include: Mallory Shell, Dawson Parker, Kady Beth Leake, Savannah Burns, Zion Lafferty, Gracie Williams, Felicia Kimbrell, Brianna Clark, Maria Gonzalez, and Kayleigh Adams.

TCAT tumbler winners include: Zoie Transou and Mason Swope.

$500 College Night Scholarship Winners include: Kady Beth Leake, Claire Halterman, and Nikalas Butler.

DCHS would like to thank all of its administration, school counselors, faculty, and student volunteers for their time, effort, and support in the hosting of this event.

The story is from the State Gazette

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"Doing Day" at ECMC

February 24, 2017

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Volunteers are helping a Minneapolis nonprofit provide for people and animals—on what the nonprofit calls a "doing day." The Educational Credit Management Corporation had a variety of items for its employees to put together for area charities. ECMC employees made fleece blankets for kids—packaged laundry detergent—and made toys for animals. ECMC is a nonprofit that helps students with college access and then finishing college.

The story and video are from KSTP-TV

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