• Ohio Autism Scholarship funding upped to help families pay for school
    Special Education

    Ohio Autism Scholarship funding upped to help families pay for school

    Ohio Autism Scholarship funding upped to help families pay for school

    Mikey Heine wasn’t going to be able to keep attending Bridgeway Academy, a school that has helped him grow and develop his own sense of self.

    “We were looking at withdrawing Mikey from school because I didn’t make enough (money),” his mom Melissa Peppercorn said. 

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    Mikey, 8, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, and the following year he started attending Bridgeway, a nonprofit school on the East Side that serves students with the disorder and other special needs. In addition to schooling, Bridgeway offers life skills training and physical, occupational and speech therapy.

    “They give him access to services that we would have to find ourselves or we would have had minimal access to other places,” said Peppercorn, 35.

  • Should You Pay To Help Your Child Get Into an Elite College?
    College Guidance and Counseling

    Should You Pay To Help Your Child Get Into an Elite College?

    Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock.com

    Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock.com

    Gaining acceptance into top-tier colleges and universities has become increasingly competitive. At Harvard, 3.4% of applicants were admitted in 2021 compared with 4.9% the previous year, and Columbia’s admission rate dropped to 3.7% from 6.1% — a record low for both institutions, CBS News reported. And other Ivy League schools also reported that their admission rates had dropped from 2020 to 2021.

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    For parents (and students) who are determined to get into these elite universities, a number of resources are available that promise to boost the odds of acceptance, including test prep courses, private tutors throughout high school and admission process coaches. But are these tools worth the added costs? Or is that money better put toward college expenses? Here’s what the experts have to say.

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    Getting Professional Help Is Worth the Cost

    “With the constantly growing number of students trying to get into their preferred schools, there is now the need for every applicant to prove that they stand out, that their background and potential is unique among the rest. As such, students will definitely have better chances if they have a support system to guide them in every aspect of the increasingly competitive college admissions process,” said Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, an education consulting firm based in Silicon Valley. “Paying extra for private tutors, test preps and assistance on essay writing will go a long way in ensuring that a child’s chances at being admitted by an elite school will be greater.”

    Laurie Kopp Weingarten, certified educational planner and president of One-Stop College Counseling, said that employing a private college admissions counselor can help students put forth the best application possible.

    “It’s not so much that I’d say ‘it’s worth it for parents to pay for extra help to get into elite colleges,’ but rather that it’s worth obtaining expert advice so that missteps aren’t made and students are able to capitalize on their hard work, gaining acceptance into the colleges where they’ll soar,” she said. “Parents strive to make sure that their student puts forth their best application, and often, hiring an expert who lives and breathes college admission can make a difference. There are so many ways students can increase their chances of admission to these highly selective schools, but if they aren’t aware of them and don’t receive personalized guidance, they may reduce the likelihood of acceptance.”

    Prepare Now: What You Need To Make To Attend College in Your State

    In some cases, getting expert help can help you save on college costs.

    “As an independent education consultant and admissions consultant, one of the main parts of my work involves helping my students get the best bang for their buck by helping them with their FAFSA, CSS Profile and IDOC paperwork, as well as helping students apply to merit-based scholarships,” said Rachel Coleman, a college admissions consultant at College Essay Editor. “Many students, before they work with me, don’t know how much less they could be paying for the same school or even that, in some cases, there are places that they can attend tuition-free. By helping applicants get the most out of the financial aid and scholarship application process, I have helped many low-income students attend university and graduate debt-free.”

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    You Don’t Need To Spend Extra Money To Help Your Kid Get Into School

    Some resources are available for free, so in some cases, it may be better to save your money to put toward tuition and other college expenses.

    “For three to four months of college preparation, parents can expect to pay around $3,500 to $5,000 for in-person tutoring, standardized test prep courses and books,” said Chuky Ofoegbu, college admissions expert and founder of Sojourning Scholar. “This cost could be higher if the college preparation efforts last longer than three to four months. Families who cannot afford this expense should search for discounts on testing services or look for 100% free test prep materials. A good resource for free test prep materials is Khan Academy.”

    Other students simply won’t benefit from the extra resources.

    “It is not always worth it for parents to pay for help in the college admissions process,” said Antonio Cruz, a mentor with Ivy Scholars, a private college consulting company. “Which college you go to matters, though perhaps not as much as many parents fear. There is no simple way to judge if these services are worth it universally — each parent must come to that conclusion themselves based on their own child’s situation, goals, strengths and weaknesses.”

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    Last updated: Aug. 9, 2021

    This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Should You Pay To Help Your Child Get Into an Elite College?

  • KISD could have to pay up after mother alleges lack of special education services | Education
    Special Education

    KISD could have to pay up after mother alleges lack of special education services | Education

    A Texas special education hearing officer will decide whether the Killeen Independent School District will have to pay a family for required special education services that the family says the district did not provide their daughter.

    The first of four daylong due process hearings between KISD and Stephanie Moody, whose daughter previously attended KISD, and their respective attorneys, will begin Wednesday morning.

    Moody’s daughter has been diagnosed with more than one learning disability. Now 10 years old, she attends another public school district in Bell County.

    “Samantha is about to enter 5th grade,” Moody told the Herald. “When we moved, the new school district decided to do their own full evaluation, which revealed that Samantha is autistic. She’s receiving support in the new school district that she didn’t receive in Killeen. They should not have to carry the burden of making up for what KISD did not do.”

    Following four due process hearings, the hearing officer has until Oct. 5 to make a decision on Moody’s formal complaint.

    The Herald sent questions to the district regarding its special education services.

    “Killeen ISD is not able to comment on an ongoing case without a parent’s consent for disclosure,” said KISD Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Taina Maya, in an email on Tuesday.

    An 8-year ordeal

    The Moody’s moved to the Killeen area due to the Army.

    “We only moved here due to my husband’s assignment to Fort Hood,” said Moody, whose husband is now retired from the Army.

    The mom said their family’s ordeal began in 2013, before Samantha turned 3.

    “She was first evaluated by KISD then, and it’s been one struggle after the other since,” Moody said.

    A cascading series of issues began even before Samantha’s enrollment at KISD, according to Moody.

    “KISD denied her early intervention services through the PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities), and accompanied her denial with a letter explaining how her disabilities were not ‘profound’ enough,” Moody said.

    The entire situation should have been handled differently, she said.

    “The more I advocated, the more the problems grew,” Moody said.

    Moody has been through the Texas Education Agency’s process of resolving complaints and disputes.

    On July 10, 2019, she submitted a formal complaint to the TEA, alleging six violations of special education laws. After an investigation, the agency on Sept. 5, 2019, found five of the complaints to be in part or fully substantiated, according to the agency’s 23-page report.

    “After I won, I entered a meeting thinking we were going to finally correct their wrongs,” she said.

    Instead, KISD appealed the TEA’s decision and hired at least one attorney.

    Moody said she was successful during a second TEA investigation.

    The years-long back-and-forth will culminate with a hearing officer’s decision later this year. Hearing officers in due process hearings, like judges, are able to award monetary reimbursements. State of Texas special education hearing officers are private practice attorneys and are not employees of the TEA or school district, according to the TEA’s “Special Education Dispute Handbook.”

    Days of TEA hearings coming up

    The Moody’s attorney is Sonja Kerr, a partner with Austin law firm Connell Michael Kerr, LLP.

    Kerr told the Herald that during the hearings, she intends to prove that KISD violated federal law.

    “We’ll be trying to show the hearing officer that the school district actually denied Samantha a ‘free appropriate public education,’” Kerr said. “The school’s lawyer will be trying to show that they did. If we prevail, Samantha would be entitled to various remedies, including reimbursement for services such as tutoring or therapy.”

    Since 1975 when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was passed, children with disabilities have been entitled to access to a “free appropriate public education,” or FAPE, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

    As part of that federal law, all public school districts are required to provide an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for every special education student. Kerr said that Samantha’s IEP was not individualized to her needs and that the district was not collaborative with Moody.

    Moody wants members of the community to know about her family’s experiences.

    “We’ve chosen to have an open, public hearing so that my daughter is not another ‘hush hush’ case,” Moody said. “I believe there are many other military and non-military families with children with special needs who are put into a bad situation. I’m getting the information into the public eye to help prevent this from happening to the next child. This has taken an extensive toll on our entire family, both mentally and financially. I wouldn’t wish our experience on anyone.”