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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.

President Biden has called reopening schools a "national emergency" and said he wants to see most K-12 schools in the United States open during his first 100 days in office, which would be between now and April.

Updated Jan. 21 at 3:10 p.m. ET

Following President Biden's executive action signed Wednesday, the Education Department extended pandemic relief for about 41 million federal student loan borrowers through Sept. 30.

"Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families," the Education Department said in a statement. "They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table."

Kamala Harris has been sworn in as vice president of the United States, becoming the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to hold the office. She is also the first graduate of a historically Black college and the first member of a Black sorority to do so.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath. Sotomayor, the first woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court, previously administered the vice presidential oath to Biden in 2013.

In lieu of the crowds of spectators that fill the National Mall for a typical inauguration, this year the iconic stretch of land will be filled with nearly 200,000 flags, representing the thousands of people who cannot attend because of the coronavirus pandemic and tight security in the nation's capital.

In a speech praising educators, President-elect Joe Biden announced Miguel Cardona was a "real easy" choice to be the next secretary of education.

On Wednesday, Biden reiterated his focus on getting schools open amid the pandemic and touted Cardona's experience this fall balancing online and in-person learning in Connecticut, and getting students connected and outfitted with a device for learning. "That's the vision, resolve and initiative, that's all gonna help us contain this pandemic and reopen our schools safely," Biden said.

Updated at 7:43 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Miguel Cardona, the head of Connecticut's public schools, to be his secretary of education.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Biden called Cardona a "lifelong champion of public education."

Cardona makes true on an early Biden promise to pick an education secretary who was a teacher: "A teacher. Promise," Biden told the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, back in July 2019.

U.S. lawmakers have announced an agreement on a handful of higher education measures that would provide meaningful help to marginalized students, students of color and many of the schools that serve them. The aid is part of a broad new set of legislation, meant to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2021. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the proposed changes this week.

Sandy Kretschmer imagines her son Henry returning home from college, dropping his bags and then giving her a big hug. But she knows the reality of this homecoming may be a lot different.

"I'll probably have a mask on, and he'll have a mask on when I hug him," she says.

Henry plans to take a COVID-19 test a few days before he leaves Iowa State University where he's a junior, and he'll self-quarantine until he heads home to Chicago.

Of the colleges and universities that have chosen to hold classes in person this fall, most are not conducting widespread testing of their students for the coronavirus, an NPR analysis has found. With only weeks remaining before many of those schools plan to send students home for the end of the semester, the findings raise concerns that communities around the U.S. could be exposed to new outbreaks.

Monday, Sept. 21, was supposed to mark the start of in-person classes for New York City's 1.1 million public school students. It was the only big-city district planning to start the school year in person. But with just four days to go, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that only the youngest students, in 3-K and Pre-K, and those with significant special needs, would be coming back on Sept. 21. The rest of the students will phase in by grade level between through Oct. 1.

A university that many researchers have touted as a potential model for reopening campuses to in-person classes is hitting some bumps in the road. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had implemented a mass coronavirus testing program for staff and students in an effort to keep virus spread on campus under control.

When the pandemic hit the state of Washington, it took Patricia Lopez's job as a medical assistant with it. Not having a college degree made it especially hard to find a new job, as so many employers were making cuts and tightening budgets.

Lopez applied for unemployment benefits — she'd need money to support her two kids and her mother, who lives with her — and signed up for classes at the local community college.

The Department of Justice accused Yale University of violating federal civil rights law by illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.

Those are the findings of a two-year investigation conducted in response to a complaint by a coalition of Asian American groups. The Justice Department notified university officials in a letter on Thursday.

There's a lot Andy Tu was looking forward to as a freshman at Claremont McKenna College, a small private college in California. He imagined having intellectual debates on the quad and meeting "highly motivated, open-minded friends." Coming from an environment that's "intolerant of unconventional ideas," he says he was looking forward to being able to express himself freely on campus. He'd even been daydreaming about learning how to surf.

But every morning he wakes up at home in Shanghai, he feels like that iconic American freshman year is slipping further and further away.

The U.S. Department of Education is making it harder for colleges to reconsider — and potentially increase — financial aid for students who have lost jobs or family income in the current economic crisis.

College dorms are closed. Athletic events are canceled. Classes have moved online. Like so many sectors of the U.S. economy, higher education is taking a hit from the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Congress set aside more than $14 billion to help colleges and universities weather the outbreak.

Starting Monday, Advanced Placement exams, which test high schoolers' knowledge of college material, will take an unusual form. The high-anxiety, college credit tests normally last three hours and are taken in person. But this year, in response to disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak, the College Board, which administers AP exams, shortened the tests to 45 minutes and moved them online.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

When Congress allocated money for higher education in the coronavirus rescue package, it set aside nearly $350 million for colleges that had "significant unmet needs."

Most of that money has now been allotted by the U.S. Department of Education to small, private colleges that serve just a fraction of U.S. college students. Meanwhile, public colleges — which serve more than 70% of all college students — are facing a steep drop in state funding.

What will happen on college campuses in the fall? It's a big question for families, students and the schools themselves.

A lot of what happens depends on factors outside the control of individual schools: Will there be more testing? Contact tracing? Enough physical space for distancing? Will the coronavirus have a second wave? Will any given state allow campuses to reopen?

For all of these questions, it's really too early to know the answers. But one thing is clear: Life, and learning for the nation's 20 million students in higher education, will be different.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will not recommend that Congress waive the main requirements of three federal education laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA. The federal law ensures that children with disabilities have a right to a free, appropriate public education whenever and wherever schools are operating.

Updated at 9:40 a.m. ET Wednesday

On Monday, California State University, Fullerton announced it was planning to begin the fall 2020 semester online, making it one of the first colleges to disclose contingency plans for prolonged coronavirus disruptions.

When schools closed in Fall Creek, Wis., because of the coronavirus, the district staff got an unusual message. Don't worry for now about assignments or quizzes, Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo told them. Instead, "I want you to call people. And I want you to ask them two questions: How are you doing? And do you need anything?"

Searching for work right out of college is always hard. Now try doing that in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and an economic meltdown.

Many students have lost income: jobs on campus or around town. They've lost internships, which help them build resumes. Now they are entering the workforce at a time when 22 million are filing for unemployment.

Despite cranky computers, conflicting schedules, shaky Internet connections and stubborn software glitches, Danielle Kovach got her whole class together a few Fridays ago for a video chat.

Kovach teaches special education in Hopatcong, N.J., and this Friday class session was a celebration: They'd made it through the first few weeks of distance learning.

They thought they'd have more time, teachers say. Many couldn't even say goodbye.

"Everything happened so quickly," remembers Hannah Klumpe, who teaches seventh grade social studies in Greenville, S.C. "Friday I was at school, talking to my students, and they're like, 'Do you think they're going to close school?' And I was like, 'Oh, not right now!'"

That weekend, South Carolina's governor announced the state's schools would close immediately, including Klumpe's Berea Middle School, and she hasn't seen her students in-person since. Her story is not uncommon.

Updated at 9:31 a.m. ET

With school closed, Marla Murasko begins her morning getting her 14-year-old son, Jacob, dressed and ready for the day. They have a daily check-in: How are you doing? How are you feeling? Next, they consult the colorful, hourly schedule she has pinned on the fridge.

The U.S. Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes more than $30 billion for education, with more than $14 billion for colleges and universities and at least $13.5 billion for the nation's K-12 schools.

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