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College for a few

by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Strolling across Lehigh University's picturesque campus, Jamel Haggins is a striking example of the best that Philadelphia's neighborhood high schools have to offer.

Now a 20-year-old college junior, Haggins is on track to earn his architecture degree next spring. A chiseled 6'3" tall and 255 pounds, he's also an all-conference tight end for Lehigh's football team. Sporting an easy smile and a bright red fraternity sweatshirt – he's the president of the campus chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi – the proud North Philly native is a magnet for attention from students and staff alike.

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The Notebook * Summer 2012

Getting ready for college: Questions and answers

by Connie Langland, with Samantha Byles

With costs soaring, getting to and through college is more difficult now than ever, and that has many students skeptical about whether it’s even worth the effort.

The Notebook wanted to offer practical information and advice on how students can successfully navigate the college-going process. To do that, we talked to two local college placement experts, Thomas Butler and Karen Campbell, asking them questions that high school students may have.

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The Notebook * Summer 2012

Paying for college: Questions and answers

by Connie Langland, with Samantha Byles

One of the biggest concerns for college students is how to pay for it. The Notebook asked Karen Campbell and Thomas Butler, two college placement experts, to explain how students can finance their post-secondary education without breaking the bank.

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The Notebook * Summer 2012


How to improve college student aid disclosure

By Robert Massa

Ten college and university presidents met with Vice President Biden at the White House recently to announce their voluntary endorsement of a uniform financial aid award letter that would provide students with clearer, more transparent and accurate information about how much they will have to pay — now, and in the future — for their college education.

The initiative is an effort to discourage students from financially over-extending themselves, and beginning in the 2013-14 school year students applying to any of these institutions will be given a one-page cost or “shopping sheet” prepared by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The sheet will include the full price of a year at college, including an estimate for books and personal expenses. This is nothing revolutionary as far as I’m concerned, as I’ve always worked for colleges that disclosed this information.

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Washington Post * June 15, 2012

I Got Lucky’: From Boilers to Dartmouth

By Jim Dywer

Chris Navas needed a course that met at the right time in the evening and would not interfere with his day job, which was building boilers, or his daily obsession, which was building his body. That was a little over three years ago. He was making good money at a factory in Maspeth, Queens, forming new boilers from sheet steel as if it were clay, rolling it, shaping it, cutting it. He visited the gym fervently. His class work at Queens College was fitted into patches of time around boilers and barbells.

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New York Times * May 16, 2012

College debt a ticking time bomb — or two, or three

By Philadelphia Daily News

First things first: Congress should extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate on student loans now. If it doesn’t act by July 1, the rate will double to 6.8 percent and the average student borrower will owe $1,000 more each year.

Senate Republicans say they support the rate reduction signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007, but they blocked full consideration of a Democratic-sponsored bill earlier this month. The legislation proposed to offset the $6 billion cost by closing a tax loophole that allows rich individuals to reduce their taxes by filing as corporations.

Read full article * May 16, 2012

Stories of interest to students

More like this

No diploma, no job

By by Benjamin Herold on Feb 6, 2012 11:11 AM
'I Want to Be Working': As part of our comprehensive coverage of dropouts and jobs, the Notebook and WHYY's NewsWorks have created a multimedia package of materials for our readers and listeners. Listen to Monica Reyes's story in Benjamin Herold's radio report for WHYY. View a slideshow, infographics, and additional reporting. Check out the hour-long discussion of Philadelphia's dropout crisis on WHYY's Radio Times. And join us this Wednesday at Johnny Brenda's to share your perspective.

Like almost 14 million other Americans, Monica Reyes is looking for work.

"Macy's, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Friday's, Outback," said Reyes, ticking off her list of recent unsuccessful job applications.

A sluggish economy has made finding work difficult for people from all walks of life. Nationally, the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. Four people compete for every job.

Few of them will have a tougher time finding work than Reyes.

SRC hears urgency, skepticism on Great Schools Compact

By Benjamin Herold on Mar 12, 2012 03:11 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Philadelphia’s new Great Schools Compact lays out an ambitious goal: replace or transform 50,000 seats in low-performing schools with better options.

But will the Compact include a push to close low-performing charter schools and help successful District-managed schools flourish? Or will it function solely to accelerate existing efforts to close District-run schools and expand the city’s burgeoning charter sector?

Those were the biggest questions on the table during a lively discussion Monday night attended by about 100 people before the School Reform Commission’s “choice, rightsizing, and turnaround” committee.

E-mentoring program aims to reduce dropout rate among Black males

By the Notebook on Feb 23, 2012 04:00 PM

by Samantha Byles

With the dropout rate among African American and Latino male students slow to improve, many people ask how one can keep these students engaged in their education.

“The best way I think is to look for things that interest them,” said Anthony Martin, the founder of What it Takes (WIT), a Philadelphia-based e-mentoring program aimed specifically at connecting at-risk Black male students with successful Black men.

West Philadelphia nonprofit opens 12th public school library

By the Notebook on Mar 7, 2012 02:22 PM

by Samantha Coggin

Last summer Heston Elementary School Principal Icilyn Wilson-Greene received a phone call from the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePac) about an opportunity to restore the school’s library.

It was a welcome call because a large and growing number of Philadelphia public elementary school students don’t have access to a school library or a certified school librarian, and Heston was struggling to keep its own library doors open.  

District on-time graduation rate surpasses 60 percent

By by Paul Socolar on Feb 3, 2012 12:31 PM

The School District's on-time graduation rate climbed 3 percentage points last year to 61 percent, the first time in memory that more than six of ten Philadelphia students have graduated on time. That figure is the percentage of students who entered 9th grade in fall 2007 and finished high school by 2011.

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  • Step Up to College
    Provided by Philadelphia Futures, this guide helps students prepare for college and plan professional careers. Includes information on financial aid and the college application and admissions process. Philadelphia Futures prepares students from low-income families to enter and succeed in college by providing mentoring, academic enrichment, college guidance, and financial incentives.
  • White-Williams Scholars
    Supports high achieving Philadelphia public high school students of limited financial means to fulfill their potential by providing stipends and academic assistance.
    A portal for students and parents to obtain information about the pathways to college.
  • Finding the Right College
    Conduct a nationwide search for the college or university that is right for you. Search based on location, programs, tuition, distance learning, evening courses and more.


  • ACLU Student Rights Manual
    Provides information on student rights in areas including expression, religion, and privacy. You can download a copy of the manual.


  • Philadelphia Student Union
    Promotes equality in education in the public school system. A youth-led organization, it maintains chapters at six schools.
  • Youth United for Change
    Develops young leaders and helps improve their quality of education. Organizes members through chapters in neighborhood public schools.
  • Philadelphia Education Fund
    Works to improve the quality of education for underserved youth in Philadelphia.
  • Education Law Center
    Advocates for poor children, children of color, children with disabilities, English language learners, kids in foster homes and institutions, and others.
  • Research for Action
    Through research and evaluation seeks to improve the education opportunities and outcomes of urban youth by enriching the civic and community dialogue about public education.
  • Public Citizens for Children and Youth
    Works to improve the lives of all children, including those who are homeless and abused, receiving inadequate health care, and whose parents are being taken off welfare.
  • Good Schools Pennsylvania
    Informs citizens and public officials about the educational needs of Pennsylvania's children, the components of effective education (including accountability), and the consequences of an inadequate education.
  • Project U-turn
    A citywide campaign that focuses on Philadelphia’s solving the city’s dropout crisis through targeted strategies and investments.
  • Philadelphia Youth Network
    A catalyst for collective action that brings individuals, organizations, and systems together to improve the quality of life for the city’s youth.
  • FairTest: National Center for Fair and Open Testing
    Advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools. Also works to end the misuse and flaws of testing practices that impede those goals.
  • U.S. Department of Education
    This extensive site includes resources and data on student achievement and on federal efforts to ensure equal access to high-quality education.


  • Code of Student Conduct
    Outlines the School District of Philadelphia’s policies for creating and maintaining a safe learning environment for its students. Addresses the acceptable behavioral standards for all students.
  • Suspension and Expulsion Policy
    Outlines the rules by which Philadelphia public school students can be suspended or expelled from school.
  • ACLU Student Rights Manual
    Provides information on student rights in areas including expression, religion, and privacy. You can download a copy of the manual.



  • Federal Student Aid
    The nation’s largest source of student aid, federal dollars in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs are available to all eligible students pursuing post-secondary education.
  • Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
    One of the largest full-service financial aid organizations in the nation. Includes the Keystone family of student loan programs. The Keystone loans offer lower loan fees.
  • Philadelphia Scholars Program
    Promotes college access and success through the awarding of “Last Dollar Scholarships” to graduates of 22 public neighborhood high schools across Philadelphia.
  • United Negro College Fund
    Administers more than 300 scholarship, fellowship, and institutional grants that support students at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.
  • National Merit Scholarship Program
    An academic competition open to all students who take the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, a test which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.5 million entrants each year
  • National Achievement Scholarship Program
    Recognizes outstanding achievement by African American high school students.
  • Gates Millennium Scholarships
    Initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • UNCF Program Services Scholarships
    A list of scholarship programs throughout the country.
  • College
    A list of scholarships of varying amounts and for various degrees of study.
  • Coca Cola Scholars Foundation
    Awards two year- and four-year scholarships to high school seniors.
  • Discover Scholarship Program
    Awards open to high school juniors to be used toward any type of post-high school education or training, certification, licensing, two- or four-year trade and technical education, or four-year college degree.
  • Tips on Winning Scholarships
    Find out what makes a highly successful scholarship winner.
  • Sallie Mae
    Nation’s leading provider of student loans and administrator of college savings plans. Find information on planning and preparing for college, how to pay for it, and managing your loans after graduation.


  • HBCU Empower Me Tour
    Actor and best-selling author Hill Harper travels the country to talk to minority middle school, high school, and college students about education, mentoring, and volunteerism as tools for achieving life goals.
  • Free Library of Philadelphia
    Exercise your freedom to be informed and check out activities and programs of interest to you.
  • Study Skills
    Pick up useful study methods to ace exams and boost your grades.
  • Philadelphia Department of Recreation
    Learn about programs at neighborhood recreation centers that foster learning and physical growth.
  • The New York Times Learning Network
    A mix of activities for students, parents, and teachers that promote learning. Read news stories about the latest kid book craze, view the “Word of the Day,” or take a daily news quiz.

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