Disproportionate Struggles, Paying The Price – Ch 4 Reflection

This has certainly been the hardest chapter to read thus far. Not only the struggles facing Chloe, Ian, Tyler, Nima, Norbert, and Sophie (CINNTS) but many of the statistics that Sara includes are heartbreaking:

low-income families hold student debt amounting to about 70 percent of their income, while wealthier families have student debt amounting to around 10 percent of income – Sara Goldrick-Rab (1)


A disproportionate fraction of our African American students 38% as compared to 11% of white students) had a negative expected family contribution, signaling that their families had a great deal of financial need….White families hold as much as twenty times the wealth of black families (2)….In other words, income translates into wealth differently for black and white families. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (3)


38% of people from low-income families will remain in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution even if they earn a college degree. And that is an important “if,” given that only 11 percent of them are likely to complete degrees. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (4)

Notable Themes From Chapter 4

Culturally, Americans believe students should work during college.

Access to jobs and work study have dwindled significantly over the years while the cost of living has steadily risen.

There’s fear, anxiety, and shame around loans.

Different student populations are affected by increasing financial need disproportionately.

College may yield access to better jobs but for many it also requires working multiple part time jobs just to attend.

Federal financial aid shows its flaws since it “leads undergraduates to worry about the adverse side effects of their parents’ good fortunes” (5). For example, a parent receiving employment may decrease aid given to students, leaving them in a worse predicament.


While reading the lengths CINNTS went through to attend college, I’m reminded how blessed I was for my opportunities. Even though I recall skipping a physical chemistry class for a painting gig that paid well and working around 30 hours a week one semester (the hardest of my undergraduate career), I didn’t have to sell a beloved horse or forgo my study abroad experience. I’m thankful. I’m really thankful that, for much of my academic career, I was able to focus on learning.

Also, chapter 10 can not come soon enough. Not because I want Paying the Price to end; instead I’m patiently awaiting the solutions that Sara will propose.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Paul Bergmeir via Unsplash.

  1. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2017 (Kindle Edition).
  2. Taylor et al., “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics,” 1. (as cited in Paying the Price).
  3. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 1898 (Kindle Edition).
  4. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2115 (Kindle Edition).
  5. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2446 (Kindle Edition).

GOBLIN Returns!

GOBLIN kicked off for the second semester this week. John and I ran four cohorts of this faculty learning community during the Spring 2016 semester and are facilitating two more GOBLIN sections over the next five weeks.

I’m really looking forward to this round of GOBLIN. We’ve fine tuned some of the content, and are continually iterating on our game, but more importantly, I’m excited to have some fun playing games and learning with this group of faculty and graduate students. One participant shared this feeling today when they said:

“[GOBLIN] may be the only fun I get to have this semester.” – GOBLIN participant

Setting aside the pressure of providing the singular fun learning opportunity for someone, I’m extremely grateful to bring some joy into this instructors life. (Goodness knows the world needs some more joy at the moment.) With every teaching opportunity, I’m adamant that learning should be fun and GOBLIN is such a testament to this philosophy.

Ideas From Discussion

To share some of my excitement, I’ll throw out some of my favorite questions and statements as a snapshot of today’s discussion:

What’s the relationship between scaffolding and a difficulty curve in the classroom?

How do relationships and emotions impact course scaffolding and a courses difficulty curve? How can we push students harder when we have a relationship/rapport with them?

We don’t want to assess students if it’s their first time performing a task.

How do we encourage students outside of our discipline to engage in our courses?

How do we design curiosity into our courses?

The character classes and skills from GOBLIN are a metaphor for our students and the variety of skills they bring into the classroom. Each student possess different proficiencies to excel in certain opportunities over others.

Can you see why I’m psyched for more GOBLIN?!

To Pell Or Not To Pell, Paying The Price – Ch 3 Reflection

This chapter certainly stirred a bit of fire in me. In particular, I spent a lot of time wrestling with this ethical question about the current state of the Pell program:

Are we doing students from low-income families a service by funding part of their college expenses or a disservice by giving them false hopes? Is the Pell program a sound financial investment in the nation’s future, or is it a wasteful and ineffective program that allows students access to money–perhaps even enticing them to attend college and incur debt–without ensuring that they graduate from college? – Sara Goldrick-Rab (1)

Federal financial aid needs to be rethought. The fact that a Pell Grant only covered 23% of the cost of attendance for a public, 4-year college in 2012 suggests it’s ineffective. Attending college with this little funding is too much of a gamble. Either, federal financial aid needs increased or the whole financial aid system needs to be reimagined. To me, the best way to communicate this need to the public is to make it personal. For instance, in Paying the Price, Chloe Johnson’s story about paying for college is heartbreaking and a compelling example for why we should focus on building empathy with affected students and prioritize investing in financial aid.

Additionally, we should all be aware of the politically motivated demonization of Pell Grant recipients, which is quite upsetting I might add. (But I’m also sick of politically-motivated-anything at the moment.) First, I wholeheartedly agree with Sara that focusing on “Pell Runners” and not-supported-by-evidence “fraud” distracts from the real issues at hand. Not to mention the politicians who assert that since they were able to pay their way though college (years ago), today’s students must be “lazy.” To me, each of these perspectives dehumanizes the individuals reliant on federal financial aid and this lack of empathy is what troubles me. If our goal is to help students complete college and climb the socioeconomic ladder, we should embrace their experiences, needs, and solicit their feedback to get past these issues.

While I was brainstorming possible solutions this week I had a couple ideas. One way I’d like to see empathy spread about the experiences of Pell recipients is to provide an avenue for these students to submit feedback directly to policymakers. Whether there’s an online form or some kind of public blog to gather and share Pell recipients experiences. Alternatively, I was thinking of ways to foster relationships and gratitude between students and scholarship donors. I’m just throwing these ideas out there in their unrefined state because there may already be these programs and people pursuing such opportunities.

In any case, at the end of the day, we should be working to improve peoples lives through education with the full knowledge of this issue:

The Pell Grant clearly provides an incentive for students to attend college by discounting the price of attendance, but it comes nowhere close to making college affordable. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (2)

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think about Sara Goldrick-Rab’s question: “Are we doing students from low-income families a service by funding part of their college expenses or a disservice by giving them false hopes?”
  2. How can we promote empathy of students’ Pell experiences?

The featured image is provided CC0 by Simon Stratford via Unsplash.

  1. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, p. 67-68.
  2. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, p. 76-77.

Systems of Cost, Paying the Price – Ch 2 Reflection

Although this chapter provided some much needed context for the broader case of improving how we financially supporting college students, I’m not one that needs much convincing. I understand the needs and have even benefited from many of the mentioned financial aid sources.

My main takeaway from this chapter is how complex the systems currently are. In fact, I started to outline the factors that contribute toward the inaccuracies of the predicted cost of college:

Hand written notes showing different sources of cost inaccuracies for predicted costs of college.

I present these notes as a testament to the complexity of the current state of financial aid, but also to illustrate how I’ve been wrestling with ways to simply some of this information to make it more accessible to the public. My first idea was creating infographics from some of core ideas of Paying the Price. Here’s a quick mock-up as an example (note that I am not a designer):

Infographic that says "Rethink the Pell. Only covers 35% of public 4-year college. #payingtheprice"

My main hesitation with this plan is that I don’t want to distill away the value from the ideas presented in Paying the Price in favor of soundbites. That being said, I do see merit in infographics as a means to spread awareness, spark curiosity, and get more people thinking about the cost of college.

Recalling My Financial Aid

This chapter got me thinking about the financial aid I received to attend college. Specifically, I recall having firsthand experience with this problem:

If private aid is available, then state or federally supported aid (excluding the Pell) must be removed such that the cost of attendance is not exceeded. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (1)

While I attended the University of Oklahoma I was a beneficiary of both Oklahoma’s Promise (I knew it as OHLAP) and Sooner Promise. I remember discovering this shortcoming in the financial aid system. Basically, I received a set amount of money from Oklahoma’s Promise/Sooner Promise that was composed from various scholarships and grants. However, if I applied and received scholarships on my own, these would funnel into the set amount of money I was guaranteed. In other words, I had to acquire scholarships in excess of the set Oklahoma’s Promise/Sooner Promise threshold to actually receive money. At the time, this was discouraging, and although I did apply for a few private scholarships, there wasn’t much of a point when such awards were absorbed by the system.

Even though I’m describing this shortcoming of the financial aid system, I do not wish to discredit the aid I received as it did enable me to attend university. Rather, I hope to offer a point of improvement where I envision students benefiting from all of scholarships they receive in addition to programs like Oklahoma’s Promise/Sooner Promise.

Discussion Questions

I’ve been reading blog posts from others who are currently studying Paying the Price and I felt inspired by the discussion questions that Bryan Alexander included in his reflections.

  1. What ways can we engage the community in the content from Paying the Price?
  2. For current financial aid systems where many students qualify but only some are selected to receive, how do we expand these programs? Should we expand these programs?
  3. If you were to redesign the financial aid systems, what would your ideal setup look like? How do we reach for this setup?
  4. What are your thoughts from the last two chapters of Paying the Price?

The featured image is provided CC0 by Juan Ramos via Unsplash.

  1. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, p. 53.

Domains17 Conference Proposals

I’m already anticipating the #Domains17 conference slated for June 5-6th this summer. Much of my excitement is a direct result of the folks who will attend this conference as #Domains17 will be bring together many of the minds focused on Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) projects and beyond. Individuals like Martha Burtis (headlining!), Jim Groom, Tim Owens, Adam Croom, Laura Gibbs, John Stewart, and more!

Yet, #Domains17 is centered more broadly around domains as an educational technology. Since I largely approached domains from the DoOO perspective, I’m looking forward to growing as I experience new domain projects and applications outside my DoOO mental framework.  Domains are a fantastic technology because of how versatile, how open-ended they can be, and I’m looking forward to learning more from all of you at #Domains17!

In preparation for this conference, I’ve been constructing a few proposals I’m interested in seeing at #Domains17. Here are the drafts of some of my initial ideas (and since I’m groovin’ to Silence Magnifies Sound by The Six Parts Seven as I write, I hope you’ll give it a listen as you read.):


Domains Professional Development – Roundtable

Tweet Abstract – Deep Domain Dives: Professional Development Roundtable – Share, learn, and brainstorm about professional development around domains.

Full Proposal – This session aims to be an open discussion about supporting usage and exploration of domains through professional development. All are welcome and should plan on sharing their current/future offerings of professional development involving domains, divulge their dreams for engaging students and faculty, or listen to ideas to take back to their own campuses. The facilitators of this roundtable have content available to share to spark discussion but hope that participants bring any and all ideas related to engaging students and faculty with learning domains. A valuable brainstorming session is the goal.

Canvas Integration – Demonstration and Discussion

Tweet Abstract – Domains Inside the LMS?: Bring your course website/blog into a Canvas course to engage students. See demonstration & join open discussion.

Full Proposal – Integrating a course website/blog into your Canvas course is an opportunity to showcase and share student work within a classroom. Whether students are blogging, contributing to a research website, building a course textbook, generating a wiki, or creating some other web materials, these resources can be integrated directly into a Canvas course using a domain. (Please note, this applies beyond Canvas as other Learning Management systems include similar features like D2L’s “custom homepage.”)

This session brings together a demonstration of the setup process, highlighting the requirements to accomplish this integration, along with a discussion that seeks to brainstorm possible domain-LMS relationships with participants and answer their use case questions. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with the reasoning behind using this strategy and what domains in the classroom can mean for their curriculum.

Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Canvas course shown with a Domain of One's Own website integrated inside the Canvas Course.
A domain has appeared inside this Canvas course!

OU Create Onboarding – Presentation and Discussion

Tweet Abstract Onboarding Student Domains: An “in class” presentation to demonstrate our engagement of students in Domain of One’s Own for their 1st time.

Full Proposal – One of the first steps when engaging students with their own domain is to walk them through the setup process. This presentation seeks to inform instructors, administrators, and technologist about the setup of domains in OU Create. Specifically, the demonstration will focus on Domains, cPanel, and introducing WordPress in a classroom setting. Paired with this presentation will be some discussion and the opportunity to answer questions about our steps and recommendations. Our goal is to help other institutions understand what’s involved to support the initial onboarding of students into Domain of One’s Own so they may provide the best experience for their own students.

Professional Development with Domains – Showcase

Tweet Abstract – Open Publishing with Domains: Showcasing professional development curriculum facilitated at University of Oklahoma with domains.

Full Proposal – Over the last couple years, several professional development programs at the University of Oklahoma gained websites as a point of engagement, means to document work, and as a way to share and distribute materials. This use case of domains reinforces our belief of open-sourcing materials. Yet, many questions are associated with publishing open work: Why use domains? How does one start sharing? What’s the formula? Why even publish professional development websites? Are there repercussions?

This showcase aims to engage people in open publishing with domains, the backend of professional development websites (including themes, plugins, etc.), and inspirations for how domains can be used in professional settings to further learning and access to materials. The facilitators will be available to answer questions and discuss strategies and recommendations with everyone.

Screenshot of the eXperience Play website.
eXperience Play professional development website hosted on OU Create.

Other Ideas

Faculty Using FeedWordPress – Panel

I’ve worked with several instructors over the last few years who have used the FeedWordPress plugin to syndicate student writing to a central course blog. I’d love to have a panel at #Domains17 focused around these experiences and hear the feedback these instructors could give to others.

An example FeedWordPress site showing student blog posts syndicated to a course blog.
A FeedWordPress style website, hosted in OU Create.

Global Engagement Fellows – Panel

Speaking of students, I’d love to highlight some of their work on their domains and have them talk about what drives them to publish. In particular, I’d love to hear from the students involved in the Global Engagement Fellows program at the University of Oklahoma. These are students that get funding to study abroad twice during their undergraduate career. Since they blog about each of these experiences, these students possess one of the most interesting perspectives on domains, study abroad, and learning.

Global Engagement Fellows website showing students blog posts from their study abroad experiences.
The Global Engagement Fellows website combines student blog posts.

Creaties – Panel

Much like the Global Engagement Student Panel, I’d enjoy hearing from some of the students who were nominated for Creaties awards including best portfolio, best short story, and more. Learning what drives these students to use their domains in this way would be worthwhile testimony in support of the value of domains.

Preview of the Creaties website.
The Creaties are the awesome awards for OU Create users.

Domains Instructionally – Demonstration & Discussion

I felt this idea overlapping with some of the other proposals I wrote, so I didn’t include it. Still, I was thinking about a session with a more general approach to using domains instructionally that would include examples like the domains-LMS integration outlined above.

I’m not sure how many more proposals I will work on at the moment. I just wanted to throw a few ideas out there as I felt compelled. Feel free to leave me any feedback you have. Did you like my recommended jams?

The featured image is provided CC0 by William Iven via Unsplash.