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Gary teen appears in adult court charged with mother’s stabbing murder

Chastinea Reeves

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Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

“The series will bear [Groening’s] trademark animation style and biting wit, and we think it’s a perfect fit for our many Netflix animation fans,” says Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vice president of original content.

From the premise, this series sounds a lot like a myriad of other failed adult animated medieval cartoons like Korgoth of Barbaria or Son of Zorn. But both of Groening’s other major shows have been well-received, long-running successes, so it’s hard to see this one not attracting an audience as well.

“Ultimately,” Groening says in the press release, “Disenchantment will be about life and death, love and sex, and how to keep laughing in a world full of suffering and idiots, despite what the elders and wizards and other jerks tell you.”

Disenchantment is planned for a 10-episode initial season.

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Philly announces adult-literacy partnership

Gladys Stokes and Lyndon Washington, both 53, for years shared something in common with more than a half-million Philadelphians and millions of Americans – they couldn’t read.

What distinguishes Stokes and Washington is their openness about their struggle with literacy. Experts say too many Americans are uncomfortable with their reading difficulties and reluctant to seek help.

“People didn’t want to talk about it at the dinner table,” said Liza McFadden, executive director of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Adult Literacy. “Thirty-six million Americans reading at less than a third-grade level; people don’t realize that’s 15 percent of the folks in the United States.”

Through the foundation’s XPRIZE competition, it hopes to improve adult literacy with mobile education apps. Teams from around the world have been developing apps since 2015, vying for a chance to win $7 million in prize money.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia announced that it would be one of the cities where the competition’s eight semifinalists would test apps. The city is seeking 3,500 eligible adult learners to try one of the literacy apps, and participants will be offered a $25 cash card and six months of free Comcast Internet Essentials.

“Placing cutting-edge mobile learning apps in the hands of thousands of adults in the city is yet another way that we’re making quality education accessible to all in Philadelphia,” Mayor Kenney said at Tuesday’s announcement. The School District also has worked to improve literacy in the city, with its teachers completing a summer institute on new early literacy teaching methods this summer.

The Office of Adult Education worked with some of its learners, such as Stokes and Washington, to develop flyers for the program, and volunteers signed up participants in the City Hall courtyard Tuesday.

Diane Inverso, executive director of the office, said after the announcement that these apps are a different way for people to learn. “Many of our adults … spend a lot of their time concealing their inability to read and write. They can do this on their own time; they can do this in the privacy of their own home,” she said.

Learners from Philadelphia will join those from Dallas and Los Angeles in the search for the best app.

The Barbara Bush Foundation partnered with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and XPRIZE, a nonprofit that aims to spur innovation in various fields through competitions. Shlomy Kattan, head of the literacy competition and a senior director at XPRIZE, said that it filled gaps in the adult literacy-education market.

“Over the last 20 years in real dollars, federal investment in adult basic education and adult ESL has decreased about 25 percent,” Kattan said. Before this competition only two companies were making such apps.

“Forty-one teams submitted a functional and publicly available app that was targeting adults at this level of literacy,” he added, noting that it represented better than a 20-fold increase in 21 months.

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Picking up the Pieces in Illinois

Richard J. Helldobler doesn’t think any university leader could have been ready to go through the last two years in Illinois, when the state’s public institutions withered under severe funding restrictions due to a prolonged state budget standoff.

Institutions had to make do with stopgap funding that came from the state in fits and starts. When the state didn’t approve funding for its large student aid program, the Monetary Award Program, known as MAP, institutions had to decide whether to credit student accounts anyway. Then they had to find ways to bolster their cash flow to make up for MAP funding until it arrived.

“Nothing in your training prepares you to deal with this kind of catastrophic funding loss,” said Helldobler, since last summer the interim president of the 9,500-student Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. “What you do is you roll up your sleeves and try to do the next best thing.”

For Northeastern Illinois — and many of the state’s other institutions — that meant deep, painful cuts. In May of this year, the 1,200-employee Northeastern Illinois announced 180 job cuts that did not affect faculty. They followed the elimination of 65 noninstructional positions in 2015. The university has also furloughed employees, frozen hiring and delayed maintenance. It closed and canceled classes for several days this spring. It eliminated hundreds of student jobs.

So it is no surprise that college leaders sounded relieved after lawmakers last week narrowly overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a state budget for the first time since 2015. The $36 billion spending plan enables them to move out of a triage mind-set.

“It allows us to begin to sort of plan again,” Helldobler said. “When you can’t plan because you don’t know if you’re going to get any state appropriation, that makes it very difficult.”

But the state’s spending plan is a mixed bag for the higher education sector. It cuts state support for universities and community colleges by 10 percent below 2015 levels — although they will still receive much more than they did during the stopgap 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. It also adds more than $36 million to the MAP program, pushing it above $400 million in the 2018 fiscal year after two years of uncertainty and stop-and-start appropriations.

The full ramifications of the new budget — and the end of the impasse — can’t be fully measured so soon. Still, it is clear that the impasse seriously hurt both institutions and students by forcing painful cuts, eroding enrollments and driving down confidence in public education. It is also clear that it has changed the outlook of many leaders for the future.

Some have pointed out that Democrats who lead the Illinois Legislature managed to pass the budget with some Republican votes despite intense opposition from the state’s Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. The spending plan does not resolve fundamental disagreements over taxes, regulations and hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded state pension liabilities.

“I think most universities will engage in conversations about what it means to be in public higher education in Illinois,” Helldobler said. “People need to understand this isn’t over. We really think that the budget will be a very complex conversation next year as well.”

Pressure Mounted

The dire situation at the state’s colleges and universities was a key factor for some legislators. State Senator Dale Righter, a Republican whose district includes Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, was the only Republican senator to support tax increases in the budget package. He cited damage the budget standoff has inflicted on Eastern Illinois University, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In the House, another Republican whose district includes Eastern Illinois voted for the measure.

“It doesn’t make me any less of a conservative Republican than the rest of the people standing here,” said Representative Reggie Phillips, according to the Tribune. “It makes a person decide he has to vote for his district. He has to think about all the people in his district to the best of his ability.”

Eastern Illinois has cut hundreds of positions amid the state’s budget crisis. The university’s president, David Glassman, said in March that the university had cut low-enrollment programs, eliminated 413 positions — almost a quarter of its employee head count — imposed furlough days for employees, extended vendor payments and reallocated funds internally in order to continue operating.

Nonetheless, the financial sector became increasingly worried about the university in light of the state budget standoff. Moody’s Investor Service downgraded Eastern Illinois in June, saying the move reflected the university’s highly stressed financial position and noting the institution had nearly exhausted its liquidity. The ratings agency also downgraded other Illinois public universities it rates, including the University of Illinois, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Governors State and Northeastern Illinois.

Some universities maintained higher bond ratings than others based on stronger financial positions. Generally, the state’s larger and better-known institutions, which have diverse revenue sources like federal grants and endowment income, fared better throughout the crisis than its smaller institutions, which rely more heavily on the state for funding.

Northeastern Illinois is an example of a university that struggled. In the 2015 fiscal year, the last year Illinois had a budget in place, the state provided $36.7 million in funding to Northeastern Illinois, and it fully funded MAP grants for students. Those two sources of funding were worth about 40 percent of the university’s $92 million budget.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the state provided $10.7 million in funding plus MAP grants, leaving a funding shortfall of about $26 million. After more stopgap funding was released in July 2016, the university calculated a shortfall of about $17 million for the 2017 fiscal year, according to a university spokesman.

But even the state’s most prominent university system felt the pressure from the budget situation. The University of Illinois System, which in 2015 relied on state revenue for only about 12 percent of its $5.6 billion operating budget, proposed a deal with the state. The system was willing to agree to performance-based funding metrics in exchange for predictable funding over five years.

The University of Illinois stood out from most of the state’s other public institutions because it was able to increase enrollment during the budget standoff. Still, it has shed staff members and reported an uptick in the number of faculty members leaving its flagship campus.

MAP Funding Problems

The way MAP funding was disbursed was problematic for institutions both public and private. MAP grants go to undergraduates from Illinois who have financial need and attend public or private institutions.

But the state only allocated stopgap MAP funding while the budget standoff dragged on. In 2016, money came late. No MAP money was available for the 2017 fiscal year before the budget deal passed Thursday. The spending bill did allocate MAP funding for 2017.

The funding uncertainty left many institutions crediting MAP grants to students’ accounts and trusting that the state would one day pay. It was another source of financial stress — and not all institutions were comfortable crediting accounts with MAP grants or in a financial position to do so.

Officials believe the uncertainty led many students to not attend college or attend out of state.

“There were students last year who dropped out,” said Lynne Baker, spokeswoman for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. “It’s a lot of damage, when you consider you’ve got students who may have been halfway through their programs, may have been almost finished with their programs.”

In order to determine the effects of the uncertainty, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission surveyed financial aid administrators at institutions approved for MAP grants in the fall of 2016. Administrators at 96 of 132 institutions responded. Just 60 percent of respondents said they credited the full MAP award to students for the year’s first term. Of those crediting full MAP grants for the term, only 31 percent of respondents definitively said they would not require students to pay for any shortfall in the program — meaning many students faced the prospect of being on the hook for the money if the state did not pay.

Behavior varied greatly by institution type. While 91 percent of public universities responding credited student accounts for the full MAP award, just 27 percent of community college respondents reported doing so. And 70 percent of private institutions said they credited the full MAP award to student accounts.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission also tabulated survey responses from 12,000 students eligible for the MAP award in late 2016. Many indicated that the budget delay on MAP funding for the first term of the 2016-17 academic year had an effect on their education goals. Some reported working more to cover expenses, taking out more student loans, taking fewer credits, transferring to less expensive institutions or not enrolling because of MAP funding issues.

“Students were really stuck,” Baker said. “Do they go part-time? Do they drop out if they can’t afford it?”

Other data indicate uncertainty over MAP funding might have caused students to think twice about attending college in the state. The volume of FAFSA applications in Illinois dropped 14 percent year over year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission said in June.

“What’s happening in Illinois with the budget impasse and the lack of funding for both MAP programs and the public universities is creating a lot of this decline in volume,” said Eric Zarnikow, the executive director of the commission, according to Peoria Public Radio.

Institutions also faced accreditation pressure stemming from the state budget issues. The Higher Learning Commission in June sent a letter to the state’s governor and legislative leaders noting effects of the budget crisis on the state’s institutions. Those effects included increased tuition and fees, declining student enrollments, loss of faculty, the elimination of services, canceled capital projects, and dwindling cash reserves.

“As the accrediting agency tasked with assuring quality, I must warn you about the accreditation consequences of the failure to provide sustainable funding for Illinois higher education,” read the letter from Barbara Gellman-Danley, the president of the Higher Learning Commission, according to The Southern Illinoisan.

The Illinois Community College Trustees Association is in the middle of a survey to determine the impact of the budget impasse. Slightly more than one-third of colleges have responded so far. They said they employed almost 1,800 fewer employees as of June 30 of this year than they did at the same time in 2015, according to Michael Monaghan, the association’s executive director.

Respondents also said they had eliminated almost 6,200 sections of class offerings and 70 programs.

“Students now appear to have fewer choices and therefore less access to Illinois colleges,” Monaghan said in an email.

Looking Forward

For the hardest-hit public institutions in Illinois, the passage of the state budget is only the beginning of attempts to chart a way forward.

The long-troubled Chicago State University laid off about 300 employees, a third of its work force, during the standoff. It only enrolled 86 freshmen in the fall of 2016, and enrollment had fallen from more than 7,300 in 2010 to under 3,600. Some feared its closure was unavoidable.

The stability of a state budget will allow the university room to pay its bills, restart recruiting that had been all but stopped and plan for the future, said Paul Vallas, Chicago State’s chief administrative officer. Vallas, a former Chicago State board member, took the position in April along with a new interim president.

“We used to get about a third of our revenue from the state,” Vallas said. “Now it’s in the high 20s. We’d like to be less dependent on state funding, and we’d like to be more financially self-sufficient.”

The university plans a $79 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

Northeastern Illinois is going through a similar planning process, said its interim president, Helldobler. It’s evaluating programs for growth, shrinking or elimination. It’s looking at different budget models.

The process might be painful. But the last two years have been painful, too.

“At least now we have an appropriation,” Helldobler said. “Let’s get down to work, as opposed to negotiating furloughs or negotiating 180 position eliminations and those kinds of draconian measures.”

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State faces lawsuit over higher education funds

TALLAHASSEE — Two University of Florida alumni have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, saying lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott funneled money that should have gone to higher education into tax cuts and savings.

The legal challenge, filed last week, is based on the Legislature’s decision not to provide matching funds for private donations to colleges and universities. State law creates four matching programs, and the plaintiffs argue that lawmakers are required to match the donations unless the state faces a budget shortfall.

The alumni, Ryan and Alexis Geffin — who graduated in 2016 and 2017, respectively — say they were harmed particularly because matching funds weren’t provided for construction projects at the University of Florida.

In all, the lawsuit says the state’s failure to fund the programs has locked up more than $1 billion that should have been available to colleges and universities, including at least $600 million in state matching funds and $460 million in private donations waiting for matches.

The filing also contrasts statements by Scott and legislative leaders touting the importance of higher education with the refusal to set aside funding for the matching programs.

“Rather than appropriate the over $600 million in state funds owed, the governor and the Legislature have spent general revenue surpluses on multibillion dollar tax cuts and to set aside billions in reserves,” it says.

The programs subject to the lawsuit include the Dr. Philip Benjamin Matching Grant Program, which primarily provides scholarships and financial aid; the University Major Gifts Program, aimed at encouraging donations to university endowments; and two construction-related funds, the Florida College System Institution Capital Facilities Matching Program and the Alec P. Courtelis University Facility Enhancement Challenge Grant Program.

According to the lawsuit, the problems began in 2008, when the state first faced shortfalls from the recession. Payments to the matching funds stopped, something that the legal challenge doesn’t contest.

But after the state again began running surpluses, lawyers for the alumni argue, the state should have resumed making the payments to the matching funds. Instead, the Legislature has continued to omit the funding.

“The state of Florida made a promise — a promise codified in Florida law and further reinforced in promises made to donors — and, there is no other way to put this, but the state reneged on that promise,” said Grace Mead, a lawyer with the firm Stearns Weaver Miller, which is representing the alumni. “The purpose of this suit is to force the state to fulfill that promise.”

According to Stearns Weaver Miller, UF could be due more than $155 million, while Florida State University, Florida International University and the University of South Florida could be owed more than $40 million each. Miami Dade College could be due more than $70 million.

Mead also said she expects a lawsuit on behalf of donors whose contributions weren’t matched.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who has made higher-education funding a priority, said Thursday that his office was reviewing the challenge. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education said the agency had not received the lawsuit, but would review it. 

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Local school districts eye Springfield debate on education funding

Student registration is just around the corner for area school districts and the doors are expected to open in less than a month, but area superintendents are still unclear about how their districts will be funded.

The Altamont school district has 54 days of cash on hand and Effingham has 216 days, as of Tuesday. The school year involves 180 days.

While both districts can afford to start school on time, that’s reportedly not true with some rural districts across the state.

Gov. Bruce Rauner called a second special legislative session in a month, scheduled to start Wednesday. The sticking point this time involves what some are calling a Chicago “bailout” that would help that district pay for teacher pension-payment shortfalls.

The legislation would revise the way schools receive state aid for the first time in two decades, according to the Associated Press. The method funnels money to the neediest school districts first, after ensuring that no district receives less money than last school year.

It also includes a provision that prohibits the state from issuing state aid to schools unless it’s done through Evidence Based Model calculations.

During Monday’s Effingham school board meeting, Superintendent Mark Doan said he’s hopeful for a decision by July 31, after the second special session.

“By no means does SB1 totally level the field, but it is a positive step in providing all students a better chance for a quality education, wherever they may live in Illinois. Unit 40 would benefit from SB1, if it passed,” he said.

However, Doan said the concern is what happens in the following years: “Will the state continue to support both K-12 and higher education at an acceptable level?” he asked.

Altamont Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch said in an interview that for now his district is building a budget using last year’s state budget. It has an available line of credit with a local bank, should funding be needed, but that’s not optimal.

“We would receive more money under Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1124, but we are not sure what is in those bills,” said Fritchtnitch. “We don’t know how much is in general state aid and how much is categorical payments.”

He added information he received from the Illinois State Board of Education was under SB1, Altamont would receive about $207,000 in additional state funds. In SB 1124, the amount is reportedly $397,000 more in state funding.

According to ISBE, Effingham would receive additional $107,000 under SB1 or about $215,000 under SB1124.

“As far as Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1124, I get a little leery when they change the formula and they don’t tell you exactly what’s in the numbers,” said Doan. “That’s the discussion going on right now.”

Even though Unit 40 would receive less under SB1, Doan said the proposal is good for all schools and “addresses the equity and adequacy school funding” across the state. He said it also has the support and passage of the House and Senate, which makes it appealing, and the promise that no district would lose money, he added, is another plus.

Although Rauner has said he will cut the Chicago pension payment from the proposed SB1, it hasn’t even made it to the governor’s desk.

On July 17, Rauner announced he would issue an amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, once he receives the legislation, State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said a press release.

“Democrats need to stop playing games, release the legislation so Gov. Rauner can act on it, and so we can get back to Springfield as soon as possible to work on this highly critical issue,” Righter said in the release dated July 18.

Righter said despite having a state budget in place, schools are still not receiving their funding because the actual appropriation part is tied to enacting a new education funding reform plan.

Righter referred to where it shows the amount of funds a district would be allotted under SB1 and under Rauner’s plan. These numbers are different than ISBE figures for funding schools. Righter referenced a chart that can be found at . This discrepancy in the formula is what concerns superintendents.

The Illinois State Board of Education’s list of funding figures for schools can be found at

Fritchtnitch said superintendents and boards of education in Illinois have enabled legislators to not find a funding solution for Illinois schools.

“For the past seven years, superintendents have found ways to cut and reduce and seek support for athletic teams,” said Fritchtnitch. “During that time, schools have dropped programs and class opportunities for students, cut FFA and agriculture in order to deal with these issues.”

Fritchtnitch said there are districts in Illinois that without a funding formula in place cannot afford to open this fall. Should it come to that, it poses more of an economic downfall for Illinois.

“What do parents do with their children?” he said. “It will have a ripple effect for the state. This just puts an exclamation point at the end.”

Contact Dawn Schabbing at at 217-347-7151, ext. 138

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Opponents of new advice standard still pushing for repeal

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A new rule that raises financial advice standards remains in the crosshairs of opponents, with efforts to overturn it continuing in Congress.

Last week, a House committee approved a measure that would repeal the so-called fiduciary rule — which obligates financial advisors to act in the best interest of clients when it comes to their retirement accounts — and replace it with one allowing disclosures of potential conflicts of interest. Legislators are also working on a draft bill that would not only would adopt a disclosure-based standard but would apply it to all retail accounts, not just retirement money.

Critics of both measures say they do little to prevent investments from being sold that are more beneficial to advisors than to their clients.

Financial advisor

The bills are “designed to create the impression that they’re doing something to protect investors even as they strip away protections,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America.

“Instead of requiring advisors to avoid, rein in and appropriately deal with conflicts of interest, they’re saying, ‘We’ll deal with those conflicts through disclosure alone,’” Roper said.

Additionally, a draft spending bill that would eliminate funding for enforcement of the regulation also made it out of committee last week. Past defunding efforts have failed.

Since June 9, when the new advice rule took effect, financial advisors are required to charge no more than reasonable compensation, avoid misleading statements and provide advice that’s in the best interest of the investor when it comes to 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts. On Jan. 1, 2018, other provisions will take effect, including specific written disclosures that financial services firms and advisors must provide to clients.

Fiduciary rule

With the current congressional efforts to repeal the DOL rule falling along party lines — Republicans support it, Democrats don’t — it’s unclear whether either replacement bill would make it through both the House and the Senate.

The Affordable Retirement Advice for Savers Act, which was approved by the Committee on Workforce and Education, will head to a full House vote (although another committee might also review it). The draft bill, by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., was recently discussed in a subcommittee hearing but has yet to be formally introduced.

Much of the battle has centered on the $7.85 trillion in IRAs, which are moneymakers for financial services firms as investors often move their 401(k) savings into those accounts when they retire or switch jobs.

Opponents of the DOL rule say it’s the smallest of those IRAs that are cause for concern. Various testimony supplied to Congress has centered on low-balance accounts losing access to advice completely due the associated compliance cost.

“We are grateful that Congress remains active on this issue,” said Jen Flitton, managing director of federal government relations for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, in a statement. She added that her group is “especially supportive” of Wagner’s draft bill. SIMFA was among those who provided testimony during the subcommittee hearing.

The Labor Department, which is charged with enforcing the new advice rule, had delayed its original April 10 start date after President Donald Trump called on the agency to provide an economic and legal analysis of the regulation. Earlier this month, regulators asked for public input by Aug. 7 on various aspects of the new standard, including its costs and benefits.

Now, various industry groups are asking the agency to delay the Jan. 1, 2018, effective date for the remainder of the rule.

“We are grateful that Congress remains active on this issue. said, managing director of federal government relations for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association”
-Jen Flitton, managing director, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association

Meanwhile, a law that requires brokers to act in clients’ best interest took effect July 1 in Nevada. Already, advisors who meet the state’s definition of a financial planner already were obligated to meet that standard if they want to do business there.

Nevada state Sen. Aaron Ford, who introduced the bill earlier this year, said he was concerned by efforts at the federal level to prevent the DOL rule from taking effect.

“At the end of the day, if the federal government protects its citizens as it should, other states won’t have to do what Nevada did,” Ford said.

Sarah O'Brien


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Balancing family, work and education

HILLSDALE – It’s an age-old dilemma. To advance professionally, often one must attend schooling at either a technical institute or a college to attain training. However, earning a degree might seem insurmountable because of the demands of a current job and family life.

Experts say that more education is not only advantageous, but necessary in certain industries, particularly where technology is changing the playing field.

For instance, Hannah Hughes, Dean of Nursing at Strayer University (an online university), points out that the impact of technology on healthcare continues to evolve the practice of nursing, and there is currently a technology skills gap among some nurses.

“Today’s nurses should be preparing themselves to operate in this dynamic technologically-rich environment,” Hughes said in a StatePoint Media press release.

Locally, Jackson College Nursing Instructor Jennifer Wheeler said it’s fun to talk about how exciting nursing is and will continue to be for students well into the future.

“I love technology,” she said. “The newly developed ways of delivering nursing education using classroom technology make me feel like many do when they get the latest game console or a new pair of virtual reality glasses. I get so excited to use electronic tools that help students make connections to their course work through active learning.”

Wheeler added that classroom technology tools help to transition long lecture days into fun, active hours of meaningful learning.

“Through High-Fidelity, Low-Fidelity, Web-based or digital clinical simulations, the faculty at JC work very hard to fill gaps that are known to exist between nursing education and the clinical environment,” Wheeler said. “At Jackson College, we promote nursing excellence by providing the most up-to-date methods of education using an entire arsenal of active participation techniques.”

Hughes notes that like many industries, advanced degrees and certifications in nursing can have a high impact on career advancement, enhancing one’s credibility, marketability and earning potential.

But getting there can be a challenge when trying to create a good life study balance, said recent nursing graduate Sierra Prasser of Hillsdale.

Prasser, 22, graduated from Jackson College May 6. During the rigorous process of managing a study and work schedule, she was also married June 25, 2016.

“The two-year program was rigorous and after the first year, I was planning a wedding,” Prasser said. “It was a stressful time, but I had to focus one day at a time and by the grace of God, I got through. I made lists of what I had to do each day.”

While attending school, she worked at Hillsdale Hospital part time and also did part-time work at the home health care agency, Embrace Your Health.

She recently completed the NCLEX board nursing exam and is now working full time as a registered nurse at Hillsdale Hospital.

Her advice is to take advantage of the educational support systems provided by your school, such as tutoring, writing assistance, career services and technical support.

Creating your own support networks can go a long way when preparing for exams, she added.

“Study groups help because they offer things you may not comprehend or may not have thought about,” Prasser said. “All brains working together are best.”

She also suggests identifying short study windows by maximizing downtime whenever you have it.

“Create a schedule for yourself and look at windows of when you have some time off from work,” she said.

Wheeler suggests selecting a program wisely. Look for programs designed to make it easy for busy, working people to earn degrees. For example, Jackson College offers the flexibility to learn online or in a classroom and students have advisors to help them balance responsibilities.

Wheeler said it’s also important to stay up-to-date in your field. For example, nurses can brush up on healthcare information, as well as understand how changes to healthcare policy will impact the way they deliver care.

“It’s critical for students to research industry needs when trying to determine a path for personal practice,” Wheeler said.

Prasser’s advice is to laugh often. She notes it’s helpful to keep your sense of humor as you take on another responsibility.

“Laughter definitely helps,” Prasser said. “That, and spending time with family.”

Overall, Prasser said having a degree offers greater job satisfaction and earning potential, and with the right program and study habits, it can be a manageable challenge.



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Open University under investigation after it emerges that Cuban students are banned from institution

Under US law, it is illegal for American companies to trade with Cuba, but British companies are protected from having to comply with this under special “antidote” laws.

Ministers have been urged to intervene and to force the Open University, which provides distance-learning courses to both British and overseas students, to reverse its ban – which will cause embarrassment to the Government at a time when they are trying to forge closer links to Cuba within higher education.

Earlier this year, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan MP met with Cuba’s Vice Minister of Higher Education to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to “boost bilateral cooperation in higher education, research and teaching of English”. 

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Woman, 64, remains critical after jump from adult home

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A 64-year-old woman who jumped from an adult home in Mariners Harbor on Friday night remains in critical condition, according to a hospital spokesman. 

The woman jumped from the fifth floor of Sts. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home in a suicide attempt, police said. 

She was taken to Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton. 

According to a source with knowledge of the incident, the woman sustained “multiple critical life-threatening injuries” in the five-story drop.

In a similar incident in 2008, a resident jumped six stories from the building and died in what police believed to be a suicide

A spokesman for Sts. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home declined comment Monday.

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