LGBT Students and Financial Aid

Though this blog generally focuses on academic issues related to online learning or general education, I thought I would veer off topic for a bit and discuss an issue¬†that does not get much coverage — the lack of information available for homeless or at risk LGBT youth regarding financial aid.

For any student, applying for any type of financial aid can be a daunting and frustrating process, and it’s not always easy to find the necessary help and information. This is particularly difficult for homeless LGBT students. Disowned from their parents and often confused and afraid, these students need as much help as they can get to complete this often overwhelming task.

My friend Joe Gentile wrote a phenomenal piece a few years back for the Huffington Post, and you can find the link below. In the article, he describes in more detail how a homeless student can start finding resources; there are many good avenues available to these students — we need to make sure this information is public and easily accessible.

That is the point, of course. These students have enough on their minds without needing to hunt down people to explain the process to them. It’s up to us in higher education to make this population not only aware of the resources, but make them feel comfortable and safe enough to reach out of help.

For anyone interested, please take a look at Joe’s article, it gives some very helpful information:

Changes at the Boston Public Library

Good evening,

Though the focus of this blog is on General Education and online learning, I had to make a few points about the current situation over at the Boston Public Library. One of my favorite places to visit, and a jewel of the city, the BPL is currently undergoing a bit of an administrative and public relations crisis. For those unfamiliar, a quick update: a number of historically important (and very expensive) art pieces have gone missing, including works by Rembrandt and Durer. There has also been charges of misplaced priorities and a loss of focus of keeping the central library a researched – centered library.

The people of Boston love their library, hence why this has made so much news the past week or so. I choose to address this here because, as a former librarian, I am very invested in what libraries can do for our communities. It goes without saying that a strong General Education program cannot survive without exceptional library services. My institution has an incredibly robust online library with a phenomenal librarian, and we are beyond lucky to have him. But the BPL is able to provide extra resources that we don’t have. In addition, with its focus on rare collections and research services, a student may find resources that he never knew existed. In short, it combines the need to have practical information but also allows students to dig deeper and study theory.

We have to make sure we are protecting this resource and that is being run properly. Without getting into politics, there is no way that now former BPL President Amy Ryan could have done all of this herself. While she bears responsibility for much of this, the city and Board of Trustees need to step up and make sure that the library is being financed properly and that proper oversight is provided. The city depends on the BPL; NECB depends on the BPL — it’s too important to be taken for granted.

Recognizing the benefits of for-profit institutions

One surefire way to get people talking (and potentially worked up) is to bring up the topic of for-profit education. Much-maligned, for-profit institutions are becoming more and more a part of the norm, and it’s time that we embrace these institutions for what they can offer, while still being vigilant about any unethical practices. For-profits can offer a lot to many people, and should not be summarily dismissed.

Carrie Sheffield has a great opinion piece in Forbes this week about all that for-profit institutions have to offer, and it’s worth a read. My institutions happens to be owned by a larger for-profit, so I understand very well the workings of this kind of organization; I also understand that for-profits are far from perfect. I have a background in traditional libraries at non-profit colleges and will always be a proponent of that system.

That being said, we shouldn’t just ignore for-profits and penalize this industry as a whole. To be certain, there are many for-profits who have gone beyond being unethical; in the last few weeks, we’ve seen what has happened to one particularly large organization that only cared about its own profits and ignored the fair treatment of its students. But that does not each for-profit operates in that manner. Using that logic, we could punish all traditional institutions based on the actions of the administration at Penn State.

My institutions serves many students who had difficulty finding a good education elsewhere; and so many of our graduates now have well-paying and satisfying careers. This does not mean that for-profits should replace non-profits. In fact, these two sectors could potentially help each other down the road, as long as there can be a mutual respect and understanding for one another.

Here is the Sheffield article: