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Education as an Asset

As she neared fifty years of age, my mother made the decision to go to back to school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or LPN.  She often finds the classes to be very challenging and has occasionally had to drop classes so she wouldn’t finish them with a grade lower than what is needed for her program.  Even when she is struggling, she repeats her mantra: “If I learned anything, then it wasn’t a waste of time, because no one can take away what I’ve learned.” 

My mom knows that income often moves quickly through our hands, but skills and education are a type of asset that can’t be taken away.   Assets are things, like homeownership and retirement savings, that help people get ahead, instead of just getting by.  Education might be the ultimate asset—one that can’t be taken away and that increases your earning capacity.

Of course, in this time of rising college tuition costs, some people have pointed out that a college degree might not be the best asset in which to invest your time and money.   Rising student debt and job-searching college graduates combine in stories about degree-holding young people with $80,000 in debt and incomes less than $30,000 a year, who are struggling to make ends meet.  The decision to go to college is much like the decision to buy a house.  If you don’t prepare and do your homework, you might just buy a five-bedroom home with a bad foundation for your family of three.   Just like a potential home buyer needs to be informed about the ins and outs of a mortgage, all of the costs of being a homeowner, and the particular house they are purchasing, any family looking to send their child to college needs to be informed about financial aid, the unexpected costs of college, and the variety of different programs available.

At Partners for Education, we hope to support families and students as they research the possibilities and build a post-high school plan.  For many low-income families throughout our region, post-secondary education remains the best opportunity for stepping out of poverty.   Even though it is a great opportunity, it is not one we encourage students to step into without being informed.

For help understanding the cost of college please visit the FAFSA4caster or check out the White House’s College Scorecard.

Grace McKenzie is the Associate Director of Family Partnership. She is a Berea alum and a first-generation college student. Her work focuses on programs that help you access resources that are available in Partners for Education’s counties, particularly financial and educational resources. To contact Grace, email her at grace_mckenzie@berea.edu or call (859) 985-4124.

It Takes a Village

With students nestled into their seats, trying to turn around to talk to a friend, teachers start down their lists to determine who on the roster is absent. Those first few minutes affect the learning of all students, both present and unaccounted for. The more students who are not present, the more time the teacher has to spend reviewing material when the students return.  When seats aren’t filled, instruction slows down, which hinders learning for every child.

At least 1 in 10 students are absent for more than a month of school.  That means that in classrooms around our region, teachers are trying to catch up 2 or 3 students who are constantly missing school.  We know attendance is important, but this information keeps us asking, “What can I really do, if they aren’t my kids?”

Here are a few suggestions for the village to consider:

  • Offer a helping hand. This may mean letting a parent know that you can take their child to school if they miss the bus, or offering for a child you care about to stay with you while a parent has to leave town.
  • Talk to staff at school to find out how many students are chronically absent at your school.  Find out what programming is in place to help students who are chronically absent.  If school is not currently tracking chronic absenteeism, encourage them to start tracking it.
  • Talk with other parents and school staff about why students aren’t getting to school in your county and what can be done to change it.
  • Host a house party about attendance.  That’s right! Get your friends together to talk about attendance.  Attendance Works even has a guide to help you prepare and give you key messages: http://awareness.attendanceworks.org/resources/host-a-house-party/

If we all work together to address the issue of chronic absenteeism, we can make a difference for our students and for all students.

Grace McKenzie is the Associate Director of Family Partnership. She is a Berea alum and a first-generation college student. Her work focuses on programs that help you access resources that are available in Partners for Education’s counties, particularly financial and educational resources. To contact Grace, email her at grace_mckenzie@berea.edu or call (859) 985-4124.

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