The Weekly Dispatch

By Sara Hebel & Scott Smallwood | Open Campus

A weekly newsletter about the role of higher education in society, exposing failures and examining solutions.

A weekly newsletter about the role of higher education in society, exposing failures and examining solutions.

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Protecting students from sexual assault

Emma Folts, our reporter with PublicSource, and Mila Sanina spent the fall covering the Red Zone, a time of increased sexual assaults on college campuses.They talked with survivors about their experiences of grief, trauma, and confusion. They told the stories…


Our new HBCU student reporting network

We're excited to announce this week that we're creating the HBCU Student Journalism Network, a paid reporting fellowship to expand coverage of historically Black colleges.In partnership with Jarrett Carter Sr., a veteran journalist and the founder of HBCU Dig…


America's new political dividing line: the college degree

Twenty years ago, the politics of Watauga County, home to Appalachian State University, were aligned with its rural North Carolina neighbors. Back in 2000, George W. Bush won there by a 13-point margin, as Watauga joined surrounding counties in picking the Re…


Legacy admissions and the public trust

The outcome of some of the most-heated debates about college admissions don’t actually have a direct, practical effect on most people.That’s the case, for example, with affirmative action, which is back before the U.S. Supreme Court, where arguments in two ca…


Rafael had high expectations. The system didn't share them.

With just a few months before graduation, Rafael Lopez-Librado sat down with his high-school counselor—a man he didn’t remember meeting before.He thought he was on track to attend university, but he wasn’t. He had already missed key application deadlines. And…


When internships are the barrier

Internships are often considered a rite of passage. They serve as key training grounds for careers and kickstart professional networks. But close to half of them are unpaid — and that puts them out of reach for students who need jobs with paychecks to keep up…


In Florida, Public Universities Leaving Some Behind

Lots of attention this week went to Columbia University's fall in the U.S. News & World Report rankings — dropping from No. 2 to 18 after the university admitted to submitting incorrect data.Meanwhile, much less national press went to the continued steady…


Local stories of student debt

By this time this week you've probably had your fill of student-loan takes. The critiques from the right, and from the left, of President Biden's announcement that he would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $12…


We're expanding to Chicago

Sara and I started Open Campus three years ago with the goal of expanding and improving coverage of all facets of higher education. We talk often about the wide range of college experiences that Americans have — community colleges, regional publics, online gr…


Should college be the bar for clemency?

Johnny Pippins says his favorite uncle described him as a “smart kid who did dumb shit.” Once, when Pippins was 19 and in prison for the first time, his uncle bet him that he wouldn’t be able to finish high school. Within a week, he had earned his GED.Now, ed…


A threat to a city's 'eds and meds' renaissance?

It's hard to talk about Pittsburgh for very long without "eds and meds" entering the conversation. Education and medicine have been heralded for their role in reinventing the Steel City, becoming new pillars of the region's economy in recent decades.But the c…


The pandemic promised change. Here, it didn't come.

A lot of times we write about hidden barriers to education, surprising complications or bureaucratic complexities that go under the radar but have huge consequences.The issue Nick Fouriezos recently dug into isn't like that. The problems of unequal access to …


We're expanding to Florida

When it comes to college in America, we revere the age and history of our most renowned institutions — the ones that are quick to remind us they predate the founding of the country. We even created a whole architecture style around making our colleges look me…


How does this tiny Colorado town send most students to college?

Earlier this year, Jason Gonzales, our local reporter with Chalkbeat Colorado, set out to examine another element of the "Colorado Paradox" — the way the state does a great job of attracting people with college degrees, and an underwhelming job of getting peo…


A devotion to merit aid in the South

In Mississippi last fall, a big debate emerged over student aid.The state sought to overhaul how it gives out money for college, creating a new program that would base awards on a combination of need and merit, as measured by a composite ACT score. The Missis…


Postcards from the college journey

What really gets in the way of college dreams? What barriers are too high, what needs are more pressing? And how do some people find their way?What, or who, keeps them going? Why do they persevere?We’re spending this year talking with Californians about their…


When $93 is a barrier to college

Back in the fall Charlotte West, our national reporter covering education in prison, got a draft of a story that mentioned some of the bureaucratic hurdles incarcerated students face in Florida.For one, being locked up there does not make you a state resident…


Aroma of Legitimacy

Industry-sponsored studies, while a central part of the American research university, have prompted debates for years. Drug companies, chemical manufacturers, the sugar industry, and big oil companies have all faced the occasional blistering critiques for the…


Life Without Loans

When one of your monthly bills— maybe even one of the biggest — suddenly disappears, what do you do with that newfound cash? That's been the question for roughly 40 million Americans during the pandemic as the federal government froze repayments on student lo…


What will become of work?

Two years after workplaces around the world shut down, people seem to be wading their way back in.On Zoom, I’m seeing more newsrooms in people's backgrounds. We’re making plans to attend conferences, in the flesh. This week I got together, in person, with Nao…