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.

The coronavirus test wasn't as bad as Celeste Torres imagined. Standing outside a dorm at the University of California, San Diego, Torres stuck a swab up a nostril, scanned a QR code, and went on with the day.

"The process itself was about five minutes," Torres says, "I did cry a little bit just because it's, I guess, a natural reaction."

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.

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.

It was a pretty normal St. Patrick's Day. Nathan Stewart and a couple of friends were hanging out, drinking a few beers, soaking up senior spring at the University of Virginia. Then an email landed in their inboxes: Classes were moving online and graduation was indefinitely postponed.

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.

Borrowers who have defaulted on their federal student loans will get a temporary reprieve from having their wages, Social Security benefits and tax refunds garnished by the federal government, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Wednesday. This break will last for a minimum of 60 days, beginning March 13.

The vast majority of states have closed public schools in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and many districts are now faced with a dilemma: how to provide remote learning to students without running afoul of civil rights and disability laws.

This spring was supposed to be an exciting time for Xander Christou. He's a senior in high school in Austin, Texas, and was looking forward to all the fun: prom, senior skip day and of course, graduation.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced new K-12 and higher education policies in response to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

This fall, there were nearly 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college than a year ago, according to new numbers out Monday from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment by student.

"That's a lot of students that we're losing," says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the Clearinghouse.

Fatima Martinez knows there's a lot riding on her SAT score.

"My future is at stake," says the Los Angeles high school senior. "The score I will receive will determine which UC schools I get into."

But that may not always be the case.

So poor was the education she received at her public high school, Pilar Vega Martinez had to take an extra year to study for the Prueba de Selección Universitaria — the Chilean version of the SAT.

The work paid off. Her score on the exam was good enough to get her into the top-rated University of Chile. Vega is now in her third year, studying to be a nurse. And thanks to an important change in government policy, life got easier after that: She didn't have to pay.

When Rhonda Gonzales was in college in the early '90s, the term "first-generation" wasn't part of her vocabulary. Sure, she was the first in her family to go to college and she did have a sense of discomfort on campus — not quite fitting in. But it wasn't something she advertised, or even identified with, and no one else on campus seemed to care much, either.

A federal judge has fined U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for contempt of court for failing to stop collecting loans from former students of a now-defunct chain of for-profit colleges.

The court ruling orders the Education Department to pay a $100,000 fine. The judge said Devos had violated an order to stop collecting loans owed by students who had been defrauded by Corinthian Colleges.

Between studying for her weekly anatomy and physiology exam, and writing an English paper, Kate Hough somehow finds time for coloring, dress-up parties and putting together four different Halloween costumes (a princess, a cowgirl and two clowns).

Hough is working toward her nursing degree at Mount Wachusett Community College, in central Massachusetts, while raising four kids — two toddlers and two in elementary school.

Grace HeeJung Kim for NPR

Kate Szumanski still remembers the note her professor wrote at the top of an essay in h

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

A judge has ruled in favor of Harvard University in a high-profile court case centered on whether the school's admissions process forces Asian Americans to clear a higher bar to get in.

When Lesley Del Rio goes to the library to do her college math homework, she often has a study buddy: her precocious 8-year-old son, Leo.

Del Rio is working on her associate degree; Leo is working on third grade.

And Del Rio is not alone: More than 1 in 5 college students in the U.S. are raising kids. That's more than 4 million undergraduates, and they are disproportionately women and people of color. Of those students, more than half will leave school without getting a degree.

For many college students settling into their dorms this month, the path to campus — and paying for college — started long ago. And it likely involved their families.

The pressure to send kids to college, coupled with the realities of tuition, has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in America, says Caitlin Zaloom, an anthropologist and associate professor at New York University. It's changed the way that middle class parents raise their children, she adds, and shaped family dynamics along the way.

On Monday, nearly 60,000 public school students in El Paso, Texas, will start the school year amid an air of mourning, fear and resilience.

The first day of school in El Paso's largest district comes more than a week after a mass shooting at a local Walmart left 22 people dead. According to a police affidavit, the suspect charged in the attack later said he had intentionally targeted "Mexicans."

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