Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waiting for the Incredible Hulk
November 16, 2010
Angel B. Pérez

From Inside Higher Ed:

If K-12 education is waiting for Superman, then higher education in America must long for the Incredible Hulk. In the movie "Waiting for Superman," Davis Guggenheim highlights the problems that plague elementary and secondary education in this country, and illustrates how a system challenged with systemic injustice and bureaucratic red tape is obstructing students from attaining the American dream -- a shot at college.

But what happens when those students who make it arrive at the doorstep of the ivory tower and realize (like Geoffrey Canada, the educator in the movie whose childhood awakening inspired the documentary's title) superheroes don't exist? Higher education leaders paint images of colleges and universities in America that we don't live up to. Like the fictional characters we grow to admire in our infancy, postsecondary education can often disappoint.

Of the students who enter college in America, 43 percent don't graduate, and those who do typically don't complete in four years. Between 1971 and 2009, the gap in bachelor's degree attainment between white and Hispanic students grew from 14 to 25 percentage points. At public four-year colleges, less than half of the recipients of Pell Grants -- our lowest-income students -- graduated with a bachelor's degree. For African-American students, the proportion is even smaller.
We have a for-profit college sector that preys on low-income and first-generation students who are not savvy about the college application and financial aid process. These schools have produced the highest student loan default rate in the country and amongst the lowest graduation rates in the nation.

There are students who attend universities where they have little contact with actual professors because professors are so busy doing research. You can't blame the faculty, since promotion and prestige in academia is based on research and publication outcomes, not teaching and student engagement. Those who lose are our students, who experience education from a factory, instead of a second home where they are nurtured and cultivated.
In the world of elite colleges and universities, institutions compromise their values to compete for top ratings in U.S. News & World Report. They don’t always engage in student’s best interests; rather institutional policies are shaped to ensure climbing a few numbers on a report that earns a magazine millions of dollars and tells students and parents nothing about a college where they will thrive.

Most shocking of all are the unethical practices of college enrollment offices that disguise information in financial aid packages to enroll as many students as they can -- at the lowest price. Since our government does not require colleges and universities to provide certain basic information in a financial aid package, colleges sometimes provide the minimum amount, knowing that naïve students will enroll, even if they really can't afford it. We have a multibillion-dollar student loan industry and the highest rate of default in our history. Some would argue it's the consumer's fault, but colleges and universities that hide total cost of attendance and don't counsel students about the implications of borrowing are just as much to blame.

Higher education is an industry at risk. We focus on opening the doors for students, but we have not done a good job of making sure they persist. We are moving further away from our values, and if the pendulum does not swing drastically in the opposite direction, we will be the focus of the next documentary that shakes a nation and inspires a movement. We should not set our educational agenda around the egos of faculty and administrators, or the hopes of gaining prestige. We should do what's ultimately best for students. If a college education is the dream our young people reach for, it's up to those of us who lead it to create a system that embodies the strengths of the superhero they truly deserve.

Angel B. Pérez is director of admission at Pitzer College and a fellow at the Bowen Institution for Higher Education Policy at Claremont Graduate University.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

L.A. Local Travel: DONE!
What do food; Los Angels, community engagement and Pitzer have in common?
Keep reading and find out…

So I have bee on the road for the past two and a half months recruiting students from all parts of the Southeast, Northwest, and of course beautiful Southern California. This week I wrapped up my local Los Angeles high school visits. I enjoy having the opportunity to visit so many different high schools and meet so many interested and talented students from L.A. Aside from the recruiting, I always go out of my way to make a stop at Homegirl Café for breakfast or lunch while I am in the Los Angeles area.

At this point you may be asking, “So what does this Homegirl Café have to do with Pitzer?” Well, I am glad that you are so curious! Homegirl Café is a division of Homeboy Industries, which was established over two decades ago by Father Gregory Boyle in Los Angeles. It began as a jobs program in 1988, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, the program soon grew beyond the parish.

Mission Statement:
“Jobs not Jails: Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education.”

For more information about Homeboy Industries, please visit their website and learn more about some of the many opportunities in which you can help:

At Pitzer College, we have the Community Engagement Center (formerly the Center for California Cultural and Social Issues or CCCSI). Since its founding in 1963, Pitzer College has been committed to teaching students to be responsible citizens of communities both local and global by applying the study of liberal arts to concrete actions that benefit others. CEC works in the community creating partnerships, not to dispense "expert" solutions to pre-defined needs, but to identify and engage resources — both human and material — within the community. Under leadership and the guidance of the Steering Committee, the Center supports innovative community-based projects by offering research awards and fellowships. In turn, the Center's community partners present faculty and students with extraordinary opportunities to engage in applied problem-solving activities.

Community Based Education connects students and faculty with local organizations to create community-based research, service learning and experiential education opportunities that enhance the social, environmental, cultural and economic health of our communities. CEC serves a liaison between the academic institution and community partners, provides internship opportunities, and assistance with funding and programming, as well as providing logistical support to students, faculty, staff, and community partners.

If you would like to learn more about CEC please visit the website:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Día de los Muertos

First off, hope you all had a safe and FUN Halloween! The only time of the year (well for the most part) that you can dress up as someone/something else and nobody can say a word about it! Cecil sure had his share of fun this past weekend. He Helped out with candy at the Office of Admission (and by help I mean he consumed most of it).

With Halloween comes another celebrated holiday, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Día de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Southwest states, and coincides with the Christian All Souls and All Saints Days. On November 1st & 2nd people remember those who are deceased. November 1st is considered the Dia de los Angelitos—the day to remember children that have died, November 2nd is the traditional Día de los Muertos (day of the dead). Pictures of the deceased are placed on Día de los Muertos altars with their favorite food and drink. Candles to light their way home, and soap and water to freshen-up after their long trip back are also often placed on altars. Trinkets they were fond of, symbols they would understand, and gifts are left to communicate to them that they are always in the hearts of those they left behind, and that they are still part of the family even though they are not physically with us any longer.

Every year the Latina/o Student Union at Pitzer College puts on an amazing benefit dinner and altar presentation, complete with music from the Claremont College Mariachi group, Mariachi Serrano de Claremont, along with traditional danza azteca (Aztec dancing). This year all proceeds from ticket sales will benefit an AB540 art student scholarship provided by Im: Arte, an art collective based in Los Angeles. Students attending the Fall 2010 Diversity Program will have the opportunity to join the Pitzer community for this much anticipated event!

For more information on Im: Arte visit their website at

Oh and by the way... this week is the first Fall Preview Pitzer Day (along with the Diversity Program) this Friday November 5th and then again next Friday, November 12th. Check back soon for coverage of the preview days by our one and only exclusive reporter; Cecil T. Sagehen as he takes us behind the scenes of the day's activities.