High Plains Public Radio

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk is a reporter for the NPR member station in Boston, WGBH, where he covers higher education, connecting the dots between post-secondary education and the economy, national security, jobs and global competitiveness. Kirk has been a reporter with Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis.; a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad. Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway. You can follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkCarapezza.


Two years ago, William McNeil lost his retail job at Sears and was looking to improve his life. Around the same time, he got a bunch of emails promising a path to a new career from ITT Technical Institute, the for-profit college chain.

So, McNeil, who's 55, signed up online to get more information about the school and got several calls from an ITT recruiter. Desperate to get back on track, he decided it was worth the $20,000 in government-backed loans to pursue an associate's degree in networking technology at the school.

This could be the beginning of the end for the organization that accredited the now bankrupt for-profit Corinthian Colleges.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education took a step toward shutting down the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools by recommending it not be renewed as an accrediting body later this summer. Founded in 1912, ACICS is one of the country's oldest and largest college accreditors.

It was 1993 when Massachusetts Gov. William Weld declared: "A good education in a safe environment is the magic wand that brings opportunity." The Republican was signing into law a landmark overhaul of the state's school funding system. "It's up to us to make sure that wand is waved over every cradle," he added.

With that, Massachusetts poured state money into districts that educated lots of low-income kids, many of which also struggled to raise funds through local property taxes.

Time to get together the transcripts, the test scores and put the final touches on those personal essays. It's college application season, again.

To a lot of students, the process seems wrapped in a shroud of mystery. What exactly happens when you send your application out into the unknown only to... wait?

Well, here's a glimpse behind the curtain at one school:

It's show time.

"Please try to limit all other background noise, like your cellphone should be muted."

This is a virtual classroom, and that's the stage manager giving last-minute instructions to students. This is unlike any virtual classroom you've probably ever imagined. Behind the scenes, in a control room upstairs, a producer calls the camera shots.

"Stay with him. I'm going to four. Take six."

The Harvard Business School has rented this television studio from WGBH in Boston, and transformed it into a sleek online classroom.

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A group of more than 60 organizations has filed a complaint with the federal government claiming Harvard holds higher expectations for its Asian applicants than other minorities.

The coalition is made up of nonprofit organizations, including Chinese, Pakistani and Indian groups, and it claims Harvard uses racial quotas to control the number of Asian-Americans on campus.

"Asian-American applicants shouldn't be racially profiled in college admissions," says Swann Lee, a Chinese-American writer from Brookline, Mass. "Asian-Americans should have the playing field leveled."

When students at the University of Vermont resume classes on the snow-covered Burlington campus Monday, something will be missing: bottled water. UVM is the latest university to ban on-campus sales of bottled water.

At one of UVM's recently retrofitted refill stations, students fill up their reusable bottles with tap water. For many of the 14,000 students and staff on this campus, topping off their refillable bottles is an old habit.

Cities and towns facing tight budgets have often neglected their cemeteries, an oversight that has left many of them in disrepair with broken fencing, crumbling gravestones, overgrown grass and persistent weeds.

But this summer, the Vermont town of Charlotte implemented a new strategy to both save money and keep grass in the town's graveyards under control, and it's a decidedly traditional way of doing it: Let goats and sheep do the work.