School’s Out, but Education News Churns On

Did any of the news surprise you?

Not really. I think we got lucky in that regard because we were prepared for a decision knowing the court’s makeup and the fact that it was willing to overturn precedent. We had predicted that the justices would essentially overturn the affirmative action rulings that the court had made earlier. There was some guesswork that went into that, but also a lot of reporting.

Does the summer limit your access on college campuses?

Things change a bit on campuses during the summer. When the summer session is going on, we will work on stories that are longer term. We also have certain groups who can help us. For example, if we wanted to know how Black students felt about the affirmative action decision, we could reach out to a lot of Black student groups on different campuses. There are different interest groups on campuses: Republican student organizations, Democratic student organizations, things like that. Those would be the go-to starting points for us.

How do you approach students for interviews?

Sometimes when we go out and talk to people who aren’t college students, we get blank stares. With college students, it’s a bit different; they tend to be talkative, pretty engaged and understand a lot about politics. And they have opinions.

How would you describe the general mood of college students right now?

Generally, I find college students pretty optimistic, even though they’re facing a lot of problems right now with student debt and the cost of college. Some are upset over the affirmative action decision. Obviously, we’ve seen student protests at Harvard and on other campuses following the court’s ruling. There are also students who have banded together to protest how legacy preferences, which favor white and wealthy students, are still being used in admissions at many colleges.

Do you foresee more challenges coming in the education system?

There are some concerns now that scholarships are going to be challenged. In fact, there have already been some challenges to scholarship programs that have focused on special groups; they’re pending at the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. It could be a scholarship program that helps people from a certain minority group, or one focused on gender.