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Delece Smith-Barrow

By Olivia Sanchez

Higher education is at a crossroads.
 
The coronavirus pandemic is changing the higher education landscape as radically as it’s changing nearly every other aspect of our lives. Problems like student debt, access to college and retention have been exacerbated, and the world of postsecondary education is adjusting to a new administration with decidedly different education priorities than its predecessor.
 
President Joe Biden has said he supports free public college and the expansion of federal financial aid. And in First Lady Jill Biden, educators and students have a declared advocate in the White House. With the combination of an executive with these policy views and lawmakers in the House and Senate likely to support his legislative initiatives, we can expect changes.
 
As The Hechinger Report’s newest higher education reporter, I’ll track education policy, recovery funding plans and legislation debates in Washington, D.C., and I’ll bring you reports of what is happening on college campuses across the nation. I’ll ask the tough questions and send the answers directly to you every other Thursday.
 
My focus through all of this will be on the most vulnerable people: students of color, students with disabilities, students who are risking lifetimes of debt. I hope to be the eyes and ears of all kinds of people in higher ed, from those employed by universities for food and janitorial services to incarcerated students seeking degrees through prison-based education programs to graduate students struggling to earn a living wage.
 
I want to know: How do Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Predominantly White Institutions compare in terms of coronavirus pandemic recovery? Community college enrollment usually skyrockets during recessions, so why is it suffering now? How much of Trump-era education policy will be reversed by the new administration?
 
Because I’ll be popping into your inbox every two weeks you should know a little bit about me. I’ve lived in eight states, but mostly I’m from Oregon. I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Portland, where I was on the women’s NCAA Division I rowing team and an editor of the student paper, The Beacon. I earned my master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.
 
Since 2019, I’ve served as the local and state government reporter at the Capital Gazette, a community newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
 
Among my favorite stories is one about a movement by Black women legislators to ban hair discrimination in Maryland, and another about a state senator proposing that public school students be taught cervical mucus pattern tracking — a form of natural family planning — that would have likely otherwise gone uncovered.
 
I also wrote about fair housing, environmental protection and tax policy. As I juggled county council meetings and state legislative hearings, I tried my best to focus my reporting on helping the community better understand the systems that influence their lives.
 
At The Hechinger Report, my mission will be the same.
 
As we begin this new chapter together, I hope you’ll reach out and tell me how I can best serve you with this newsletter.
 
Send story ideas and news tips to osanchez@hechingerreport.org. Tweet at @oliviarsanchez. Read high-quality news about innovation and inequality in education at The Hechinger Report.
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