Elissa Nadworny

Elissa Nadworny covers higher education and college access for NPR. She's led the NPR Ed team's multiplatform storytelling – incorporating radio, print, comics, photojournalism, and video into the coverage of education. In 2017, that work won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation. As an education reporter for NPR, she's covered many education topics, including new education research, chronic absenteeism, and some fun deep-dives into the most popular high school plays and musicals and the history behind a classroom skeleton.

After the 2016 election, she traveled with Melissa Block across the U.S. for series "Our Land." They reported from communities large and small, capturing how people's identities are shaped by where they live.

Prior to coming to NPR, Nadworny worked at Bloomberg News, reporting from the White House. A recipient of the McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarship, she spent four months reporting on U.S. international food aid for USA Today, traveling to Jordan to talk with Syrian refugees about food programs there. In addition to USA Today, she's written stories for Dow Jones' MarketWatch, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald and McClatchy DC.

A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Nadworny has a bachelor's degree in documentary film from Skidmore College and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

This time last year, McKenna Hensley had a big question on her mind: Where would she go to college? The answer — sort of — was somewhere in her pile of 10 financial aid offers. Each school she'd been admitted to had its own individualized letter, terms and calculations.

"It was very confusing," the now college freshman remembers.

It's no secret that wealth brings advantages when it comes to sending your kids to college. Rich and famous parents can donate large sums of money to schools or lean on their names and connections. Some ritzy colleges explicitly prefer the children and grandchildren of alumni — at Harvard University, an investigation found last year that these "legacy" admits were over five times more likely to get in than the average Joe.

Go to college, we tell students. It's a ticket out of poverty; a place to grow and expand; a gateway to a good job. Or perhaps a better job. But just going to college doesn't mean you'll finish. To unlock those benefits — you'll need a degree.

And yet for millions of Americans, that's not happening. On average, just 58 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2012 had earned any degree six years later, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

A new father trying to provide for his family. A grandmother finishing what she started more than four decades ago. A man navigating multiple schools, hidden curriculums and financial hurdles. These are just some of the older students working toward a degree in the U.S.

Elite colleges are making strides to diversify their student bodies, both racially and economically. In the past few years, we've seen most top schools commit to enrolling more low-income students through financial aid, recruiting efforts and programs for high school students aimed at expanding the pipeline.

But once those students arrive on campus, says Anthony Abraham Jack, they often find the experience isolating and foreign.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

An end to the Denver teacher strike

Denver teachers returned to the classroom this week after the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools reached a tentative labor agreement Thursday morning. Teachers in Denver had been on strike since Monday.

Getting students to show up is one of the biggest challenges schools face: How can someone learn at school if they're not there in the first place?

A new study suggests living in a high-crime area, or simply passing through one on the way to school, can impact how often students show up to class.

For many college students, a crucial step on the path to a good job — or career — is the internship. It's a chance to gain vital experience and prove yourself to employers.

But to get that internship, you need a network, and a good resume. Both are things many students struggle with, especially those at community colleges.

Students like Kelcei Williams. She attends Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, Va. When she got to campus, her only experience was at Dunkin' Donuts and Lowe's Home Improvement.

Did your college require you to take classes that didn't count toward your degree — classes that were supposed to help you catch up and get ready for college courses?

These are sometimes called remedial, developmental or intervention classes. We're not talking about general education classes that you may have been required to take in order to graduate.

NPR is looking into just how common these classes are — and how helpful they are for students.

A new musical duo is being hailed across the country as "brilliant" and "mesmerizing." One fan says their work "transcends all ages," and many more are begging them to go on tour.

But to do that, the singers would have to quit their day jobs. They're not professional musicians — they're school administrators in Michigan. Their breakout hit? A video announcing a snow day.

The teachers union in Denver has voted to approve a strike that could begin as soon as Jan. 28. It would be the first time the city has seen a teacher strike in almost 25 years.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association finished voting late Tuesday after more than a year of negotiations between the union and the district, which have failed to yield an agreement.

Updated 9:38 a.m. ET Thursday

Union members in Los Angeles voted to approve a deal with the city's school district on Tuesday, ending a six-day teacher strike. Teachers headed back to class on Wednesday.

According to a Wednesday news release, 81 percent of United Teachers Los Angeles members who cast a ballot voted in favor of the agreement.

"I couldn't be prouder to be a teacher tonight," said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl at a Tuesday news conference in which he announced the preliminary results.

As parents across Los Angeles dropped their kids off at school Monday morning, they were greeted by picket lines of teachers, many dressed in red ponchos and holding red umbrellas.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, educators in LA are on strike.

"Teachers want what students need," a crowd outside Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Boyle Heights chanted in the pouring rain.

Updated Saturday at 1:08 p.m. ET.

On Friday, Los Angeles teacher Rosa Jimenez started her U.S. History class with a question for her students:

"What does a labor union do?"

The juniors inside the library at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools flip through their notes. From the back of the room, a student named Ingrid shoots up her hand:

"A labor union is an organization of workers that's formed for the purpose of benefiting the workers," she explains. They deal with "wages and benefits and working conditions."

College students across the country struggle with food insecurity.

Tuition and books, plus many hours away from a job, can be a huge financial burden on students — and for many, skipping meals can be a last-minute solution to a bad financial situation.

A new government report finds that millions of college students are very likely struggling. And the report — which is from the Government Accountability Office — concludes that the federal systems in place could do a better job of helping them.

There are hundreds of books about picking the best college. But let's face it: Most of them are written for high schoolers. In reality, 40 percent of college students are 25 or older — well out of high school — and many have kids, full-time jobs or both. (We've written about this before.)

Now, a new book by Rebecca Klein-Collins offers advice and guidance for the adult student looking to go to college.

Two students share a laptop in the atrium of the chemistry building at the University of Michigan. One, Cameron Russell, is white, a freshman from a rice-growing parish in Louisiana; the other, Elijah Taylor, is black, a senior and a native of Detroit.

They are different, yes, but there is much that unites them.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Every year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation hosts a weekend to celebrate the scholarship students they fund. For the four years that Harold Levy led the foundation, you'd often find him at that event, sitting on the floor, deep in conversation with students.

In what is the largest individual donation ever made to a single university, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that he is donating $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University to assist students with financial aid.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

New rules on college campus sexual assault and harassment

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Education is a top issue in the midterms

From the 36 gubernatorial races to some key state congressional races, education will be a major issue on Election Day. We've reported previously on a record number of educators who are themselves running. There were teacher walkouts in six states this year. That issue alone has gotten people mobilized.

There's something else that's bringing education to the midterms: Betsy DeVos, the polarizing education secretary.

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world, and people solving them, through the lens of a single number.

Ron Ferguson, an economist at Harvard, has made a career out of studying the achievement gap — the well-documented learning gap that exists between kids of different races and socioeconomic statuses.

But even he was surprised to discover that gap visible with "stark differences" by just age 2, meaning "kids aren't halfway to kindergarten and they're already well behind their peers."

A federal judge ruled this week that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' delay of a key student borrower protection rule was improper and unlawful.

"This is such an important win for student borrowers and anyone who cares about a government that operates under the rule of law," says Toby Merrill, of Harvard Law School's Project On Predatory Student Lending. The judge is expected to order a remedy in the next week.

Sylvia Acevedo grew up on a dirt road in New Mexico. Her family was poor, living "paycheck to paycheck."

After a meningitis outbreak in her Las Cruces neighborhood nearly killed her younger sister, her mother moved the family to a different neighborhood. At her new school, young Acevedo knew no one. Until a classmate convinced her to become a Brownie Girl Scout.

And from that moment, she says, her life took on a new path.

On one camping trip, Acevedo's troop leader saw her looking up at the stars.

Popular culture tells us that college "kids" are recent high school graduates, living on campus, taking art history, drinking too much on weekends, and (hopefully) graduating four years later.

The U.S. Education Department is proposing changes to Obama-era rules that offer debt relief for students who were defrauded by their colleges.

Look people in the eye. Smile. Shake hands. Sit up tall. Speak clearly and confidently.

That's the last-minute advice professor Paul Calhoun gives a handful of college students before they head off for a series of job interviews. The Skidmore College juniors and seniors he's talking to are dressed in suits and button-downs; dresses and heels. They stand out in a college library swimming with other finals-takers, most in sweatpants or leggings and T-shirts.

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world through the lens of a single number.

Some high school students think of applying to colleges as a full-time job. There are essays and tests, loads of financial documents to assemble and calculations to make. After all that comes a big decision — one of the biggest of their young lives.

For top students who come from low-income families, the challenge is particularly difficult.

When La Guardia Cross first heard his wife was having a child, "it completely caught me off guard. I didn't feel ready."

By the time his daughter Amalah was born in 2014 — although still freaking out — he got out his camera and started recording. The hospital room — him holding his little baby in his arms. Amalah sleeping. Amalah crying. Lots of stuff about diapers and poop.

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