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Poll: Minority and low-income parents most worried about their students’ success

Lorraine Longhi, Arizona RepublicPublished 7:33 p.m. MT May 20, 2020 | Updated 7:51 a.m. MT May 21, 2020

About four in 10 Arizona parents believe the state’s management of K-12 education was good or excellent amid the coronavirus health pandemic, according to a new ASU Morrison Institute-Arizona Republic poll.

K-12 school administration received the highest positive rating of any other government entity listed, including federal, state, local and tribal.

The online survey was conducted in late April and early May. Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman ordered schools closed on March 15 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

District, charter and private schools quickly converted to remote learning. Some provided students with printouts, while others moved to virtual lessons and emailed work. 

Impact on low-income students

The poll highlights a divide between lower-income and higher-income families when it comes to accessing the necessary technology for online learning.

Parents with children from low-income families polled were less likely to say that their children have the necessary technology for online learning.

Low-income families were also less likely to say that their children are actively engaged in online learning.

In contrast, parents of children from higher-income brackets were more concerned that their child will fall behind in school and that COVID-19 will compromise the likelihood their child will graduate high school.

Richie Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said that the findings came as no surprise. He said low-income families and the schools that serve them are at more of a disadvantage when it comes to accessing technology and resources that make it easier to pivot to online learning.

“That’s why it’s so critical to provide support and resources to fill those gaps we know exist,” he said.

During the past two months, some schools got creative to help their students. A Tucson district parked buses with WiFi around the city so students could access assignments. Others reached out to nonprofits to help purchase additional laptops for students. 

State leaders asked businesses to donate hotspots and laptops to help students.

As schools tentatively prepare to reopen in the fall, Taylor said they will depend heavily on money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to fill in some of the educational gaps.

The CARES Act will allocate approximately $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds to state governments to support K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus. 

“CARES Act funding ishugely important to mitigate some of the challenge we faced,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to provide for the needs of families and students.”Get the Law & Order newsletter in your inbox.

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Different ages, neighborhoods, ethnicity

The online Morrison-Republic poll was conducted from April 24 through May 7. It included 813 Arizona residents census balanced by age, gender, ethnicity, and location.

Of those, 287 were parents with at least one child living at home. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

At the time of the survey, 16% of respondents indicated they would feel comfortable sending their kids back to school immediately following the lifting of restrictions.

Among the general population of parents polled:

  • 75% said their children had the necessary technology to engage in online learning.
  • 67% said their children were actively engaged in learning.
  • 57% were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered.
  • 53% were worried that children would fall behind.
  • 43% were concerned that COVID-19 would impact their child’s ability to graduate.

Parents of older students expressed less confidence that their children were staying engaged in online learning than those of younger students.

Of the parents with at least one child in elementary school, 69% said they agreed that their children were engaged, compared to 55% of parents polled with a child in high school.

The opposite was true when parents were asked whether they were worried their child might fall behind in school.

Among parents with children in elementary school, 58%worried that their child would fall behind, compared to 46% of parents polled with a child in high school.

Black parents polled were more concerned about their children falling behind than white or Hispanic parents. Of those polled, 67% of black parents said they were worried, compared to 44% of white parents and 63% of Hispanic parents. 

Hispanic parents were the most concerned about whether COVID-19 would decrease their child’s likelihood of graduating high school. Of those polled, 49% of Hispanic parents said they were concerned, compared to 38% of black parents and 28% of white parents.

Parents who did not have a high school degree reported less concern about students falling behind as a result of the stay-at-home order when compared to parents with some college or a higher degree.

A parent’s neighborhood also impacted how individuals polled responded.

While 61% of parents who lived in an urban neighborhood indicated they were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered by their school, only 47% of parents in suburban neighborhoods were satisfied.

What to Do When a Parent Is Denied a PLUS Loan

There are several options when a student’s parents are denied a federal Parent PLUS loan.

By Meghan Lustig, ContributorMay 13, 2020, at 9:40 a.m.

Elevated view from a young couple checking their home finances at home.
The PLUS loan requires an application to verify that the borrower – the parent – has no adverse credit history. (Getty Image)

WITH COLLEGE TUITION rising each year, finding the funds to cover the cost can be a challenge for many families. Even with savings and financial aid like scholarships, grants and federal student loans, students and their parents are sometimes faced with a gap between college costs and available resources.

In these cases, colleges may offer parents a federal Parent PLUS loan. This is a loan made to the parent of a qualifying student. The terms and borrower benefits differ from the federal direct loan, which is offered to students and has a lower interest rate and more flexible repayment options.

Another difference between the PLUS loan and the direct loan is that the PLUS loan requires an application to verify that the borrower – the parent – has no adverse credit history. An applicant can be disqualified and denied a PLUS loan for credit problems like recent bankruptcies, large debts more than 90 days delinquent, a recent wage garnishment or a tax lien.[ 

Being denied a PLUS loan does not mean you are out of options. There are other steps that families can consider, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each to make the right decision for your situation. Here are four options that families can consider after a Parent PLUS loan denial:

  • Borrow additional unsubsidized loans.
  • File an appeal.
  • Consider alternatives to taking on additional debt.
  • Enlist an endorser or co-signer.

Borrow Additional Unsubsidized Loans

When the parent of a dependent undergraduate student is denied a PLUS loan, the borrowing limit is increased for that student. He or she will be able to borrow more unsubsidized student loans up to the limit that is set for independent students. The annual limit varies by year in school, but is between $4,000 and $5,000 more than the amount that can be borrowed by dependent students.[ 

Federal student loans are the best borrowing option because they have a lower interest rate and better repayment terms. However, be sure to pay attention to the overall amount of debt that a student is taking on and consider whether it will be manageable upon graduation.

File an Appeal

If there are extenuating circumstances that contributed to the Parent PLUS loan denial or your situation has changed, your parent can file an appeal and try to have your application reconsidered. For example, you may be able to appeal if your parent is on track to address an overdue debt and can show successful repayment.

Contact your school’s financial aid office to start the process and submit a form. Your parent may be asked for information from a bank, creditors or other sources to support the claim.

Consider Alternatives to Taking on Additional Debt

For parents, taking on debt to help a child attend college can have a big impact on short-term and long-term finances. Before seeking additional debt options, consider whether there are ways to reduce the overall cost of college.

For example, to save money, consider enrolling in a local community college or a public university with lower tuition for the first year or two and then transferring to the institution of your choice to finish your degree.

You can also ask about whether your school offers a tuition installment or tuition payment plan, which can split tuition into monthly or per-semester payments. While this is technically a form of credit and there may be associated fees, most plans are interest-free. If you can afford the monthly payments, this would save you a lot of money on interest you would pay on a loan.

Finally, if you haven’t already, speak to a high school guidance counselor about private scholarship options. Scholarships are free money that you don’t have to pay back – and there are likely far more available than you think. Even small dollar amounts can help pay for expenses like books.

Enlist an Endorser or Co-signer

Parents can try to enlist a co-signer, called an endorser, on the PLUS loan. The endorser agrees to take responsibility for the loan if the borrower fails to repay, and the loan will show up on the endorser’s credit report as his or her own debt. It can improve the chances of getting the loan because the endorser’s credit is considered as part of the application, but it’s also a significant financial arrangement with another individual that should not be entered into lightly.

Another option is to enlist a co-signer to help the student take out a private student loan. In this case, the debt would be the responsibility of the student and the co-signer, leaving the parent out of the loan. This might be a better option for a parent who is already struggling to manage a lot of debt. Be sure to compare interest rates and terms to determine the best option.

Consider borrowing from a nonprofit or state-based organization, because these lenders follow a set of strong consumer protections and offer loan options with fixed interest rates and low or no origination fees. You can find nonprofit loan options in your specific state at ForYouNotForProfit.org.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

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