Rethinking College Access
Like many of you, I have been rethinking how critical my contributions are to the world. We have certainly seen how our interactions with others can lead to pandemics. So we’re staying home, wearing masks, keeping our distance. But the thing that has been most profound to me is how the pandemic is revealing the deep systemic ills of this country, and worse how I am contributing to solving and even maintaining them.
I think teachers are some of the most important people in the world. But I think when we are in front of a classroom full of young people, we easily get complacent because we can pretend not to see things. I can pretend I didn’t notice that student sleeping in class every day. I can pretend that lesson wasn’t all that bad. One thing that the move to online teaching has done is shine a bright light on what we were pretending not to see before: That grading policy really seems dumb now. That lack of engagement is super obvious now. That pointless content seems especially irrelevant now.
So teachers across the country are having a hard time moving equitable, skills-based teaching to a virtual platform because good practice would mean solving all those things at the same time.
I watched my ten year old have a near panic attack by the end of the first week of that. He was just overwhelmed by the number of assignments and zoom invitations flooding the Google Classroom. He’s ten. And he has a teacher at home. And it was still too much.
The thing that made me really sit in my thoughts for a long time came from an episode of School’s In where Jonathan Rosa discussed remaking schools amid the crisis. It’s an opportunity to do the things that we couldn’t do because we were too busy doing all of that junk before. It’s an opportunity to look critically at what wasn’t working and be really creative in trying to fix it.
My businesses are in college access and we try to maneuver around systems to get kids into colleges fully funded. I’ve always been trying to shine a light on the systemic things that interrupt a student’s college pathway and cut around it.
- It isn’t that a student is bad at math. The student didn’t learn conceptual math until Geometry in the 10th grade. So what would happen if the student started learning conceptual math in “tutoring” in the 7th grade?
- It isn’t that the student is bad at English language. The student has never been asked to read anything that has been interpreted into English. Go read Things Fall Apart now and let’s talk about what “freedom” means to Okonkwo.
Our most successful work-around is the SAT. We all know it’s pointless but we still use it to validate a transcript. But now colleges can’t use it because kids can’t take it. So my first thought has been, how can I make sure students are using the other methods of validating their transcript, among other pivots.
The other thing that I have been thinking about is being a business person. Around the time that we are asked to shelter-in-place in San Francisco, I started receiving offers from companies that put logos on promotional materials. The offers were to put my logo on bottles of hand sanitizer. That made me feel ill. But it was the same feeling I had when I thought about how we could be using this as an opportunity to fix education; we could certainly use this as an opportunity to fix business.
Business can get in the way of the good. But if business is done well, if it’s done correctly, we can solve the problems we went into business to solve.
I started Vielka Hoy Consulting in 2013 because I saw a major gap in how students were being serviced with regards to college admissions. All choice was removed. Students were operating on bad information. And the fixes either couldn’t be scaled or weren’t actual fixes.
As a business owner, I’ve struggled with being profitable, including now. There are moments of high potential, especially with Bridge to College. But I’m still learning to find a balance that leads to revenues in the social impact space. And there are moments when I’ve prioritized other people before myself and it’s taken years to realize that those are the decisions that would tank everything I’ve worked for, more than a bad product.
Lots of reasons to pivot and certainly all eyes on that now. So it’s time to return to VHC circa 2013.
Here is how that looks:
- This is the time of year when we take pro-bono clients based on their household incomes. I would like to open up that application now. We’ll continue to take applications until we are a bit above capacity.
- Because household income is fluid right now, I have removed stipulations to demonstrate financial need with an option to pay fees on a sliding scale, if needed. This means that the pro-bono option is a “pay what you can afford” option.
- If a family is able to sign up now and either pay the full dues or what they can afford, we are also making the tutoring sessions free through the end of the academic year (August). We’ve also done this with current clients. This means that we can efficiently integrate into the online learning that you are already doing with the VHC strategies.
- The main way that I am able to do this is by opening up the option to take donations from the general public. Kindly donate what you can and please forward to others.
- For families who are able to come on as clients, if you refer a client to us, we give you back 10% of their fees. This can also mean that a group of students can share the cost of one. Are you a student who has nine friends who are concerned about paying for, gaining admissions to, and graduating from college? Well, there you go.
- We are providing a ton more ways to interact with us:
- Find us on Instagram and Facebook live twice per week. We receive a lot of questions so we’ll be there to answer them. And “we” includes our tutors, Alumni Coordinator who works with current college students (I’m looking at you, current community college students and grad school applicants too), and partner organizations.
- You can always schedule a consultation with us. This might be plenty of time to answer your questions but if you decide to come on as a client, we will deduct the cost from your fees.
- And we have a lot of things happening that may also provide some information and support:
I hope to see you all soon. And in the meantime, be safe and healthy.