Live chat tomorrow on college, academic prep

Got burning questions about college admissions and academic preparation? Save them up for tomorrow.

As part of the Oakland Tribune’s and Contra Costa Times’ Road to College project, Greg Smith, the vice president of planning and enrollment management at Cal State East Bay, will be on hand tomorrow to answer them.

The live, online chat starts at noon tomorrow (Tuesday). You may submit questions, or you can just read along. You can find it here. You can also sign up for a reminder, if you need reminding.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

photo by Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group


Gap year? What’s that?

Over the past three months I’ve probably been asked about a hundred times what I’m up to next year, and although I dread this repeated question as much as the next high school grad, I also delight in the fact that I can give a response most people don’t expect.

“I’m going to Spain!” is usually my initial response, followed by an in depth explanation of why on earth I decided to put off college. A gap year, as some call it, has become more popular in recent years although still rare here in the states. Most people go straight to college from high school.

Students are usually told this is the best way and schools offer little guidance to those who may want to take an alternative route, which made my decision making process all the more difficult. I was surprised at the lack of information and resources offered to students like me, because I had a lot of questions that were difficult to get answers to. Continue Reading


Your best advice on getting ready for college

photo by Kristopher Skinner/Staff

My editors plan to turn this Sunday’s front page into a guide for college-bound kids and their families. The guide will run in the Contra Costa Times, as well as the Tribune and its sister papers.

We’ve posted a short list of tips online, and we’re hoping you’ll add some pointers of your own. The Web page is up now; you can find it here.


Oakland middle school grad wins scholarship

Crystal Lauti hasn’t even started high school, and already she has earned $10,000 for her college education. 

Crystal just graduated from KIPP Bridge, a charter middle school in West Oakland, and was one of six KIPP students across the country to win the Doris Fisher award this year. About 1,000 students were eligible.

She sounds like a talented and hard-working kid, from the details I read in the below press release. I liked to see that she stepped up to run her school newspaper, although she’s probably smart enough to avoid the industry later in life. Continue Reading


Senator pushes back against single college track

A career technical education bill that has gotten some bipartisan traction in Sacramento might check a college prep movement that’s sweeping through California school districts.

Sheilagh Polk, of the Oakland-based Education Trust-West, says she believes SB 381 is meant to have a chilling effect on districts that are thinking about changing their high school graduation requirements to include “A-G” courses — 15 classes needed for admission to a state university.

If this bill passes, all students in those explicitly “A-G for all” districts would have to take three career technical education courses in addition to the 15 college prep courses. (The bill would only apply to districts that adopted the policy after June 30, 2009, so Oakland Unified might be exempt) Continue Reading


Peralta board wants an investigation

Last night, the Peralta Community College District board called for an investigation into a no-bid contract given to one of Chancellor Elihu Harris’s business partners (whose relationship to the chancellor was not disclosed beforehand). The board might also ban the use of credit cards for personal expenses.

The Alameda County community college district, however, has so far kept secret the details of the $4,000-plus in personal expenses charged to Trustee Marcie Hodge’s district credit card.

These issues, and others, were uncovered by reporters Matt Krupnick and Thomas Peele. In case you missed the stories, you can find them here.


Private counselors, pricey advice

While guidance counselors in California’s public schools might be few and far between (In some high schools, there are as many as 500 kids for each counselor, or no counselor at all, and the average ratio is 1,000: 1, according to EdSource), some families with means are shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars to private college admissions consultants — even now, during the recession.

The fact that some families can — and do — pay for these services is nothing new. But according to a New York Times story about the field, the number of these “independent education consultants” has grown in the last three years, to about 5,000, and they’re located mostly on the East and West Coasts. Continue Reading


Two choices

Leo Jerald, a sophomore at Fremont Federation’s Media Academy, won a $500 scholarship for this essay in a statewide contest.

I am a young black male growing up in East Oakland. Where I come from, black males are given two choices in life, either school or selling narcotics. This may seem like an easy choice for you, but when your family is hungry and you are the man of the house, you can’t bring a school book home for dinner.

Continue Reading


Private college loans: Let the borrower beware

Gretchen Morgenson, a business reporter for The New York Times, warns high school seniors applying for private college loans (which sometimes fill the gap between federal loans and college tuition and other costs) to read the fine print before settling on a lender.

Morgenson’s story, published today, mentions a Web site, Student Lending Analytics, that allows consumers to scrutinize various lenders — their fees (openly disclosed or not), the ins and outs of their interest rates and other policies that might catch a college grad off-guard, years later. She writes:

As with all borrowing, making the right decision on a student loan is paramount. But lenders make this harder than it should be.

The top three private lenders are Sallie Mae, which underwrote $6.3 billion in loans during 2008; Citibank, with $1.8 billion in loans last year; and Chase, which made $1.1 billion in loans during 2007.

But disclosures on various lending practices differ vastly. Continue Reading