Solvejg Wastvedt

Solvejg Wastvedt grew up in western Pennsylvania and graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Over the summer, she served in Los Angeles as an intern on NPR's National Desk.  Plus, before coming to Upstate New York, Solvejg worked at the Minneapolis community radio station KFAI. When she isn't reporting the news, Solvejg enjoys running and exploring hiking trails.

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Recent college grads in New York can now get some help paying off their loans with the state’s new student loan forgiveness program.

There are quite a few boxes you have to check to be part of the program:

Solvejg Wastvedt / WSKG News File Photo

Adjunct faculty at Wells College in Aurora, New York took a big step toward unionizing last week. Organizers filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. At an election, adjuncts would vote “yes” or “no” to a union.

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It’s a time of educational upheaval in New York. Changes are piling up fast -- the state Board of Regents delayed state tests’ impact on teacher evaluations, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s task force called for nearly two dozen changes to learning standards. In the midst of it all, here are three things you need to know.

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“Community college” used to equal “commuter school.” Students came to class during the day and went home at night. Now that’s changing: a 2013 report from the American Association of Community Colleges found that a quarter of campuses now have on-campus housing, and with it a 24-hour schedule that creates some security challenges.   

When Binghamton-area community college SUNY Broome opened its dorm a year and a half ago, everything changed at work for campus peace officer Marie Finelli.

Roxanne Mourhess says the milk trucks roll by her antique store every day. The store is a 150-year-old former church on the main drag in Campbell, New York, a small town near Corning. The store is just down the street from the weathered, light blue grocery store. In the other direction, a Kraft plant puffs out steam by the railroad tracks. Mourhess couldn’t believe it when she heard that the plant was slated for closure. 

“Your immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh, another manufacturing industry in our town, and thus our country, is not going to be here,’” she says.

"Time on Test" The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz

Changes to New York standardized testing are in the air. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force finished its public sessions last month examining the state’s standards and testing program, and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has already pledged to shorten math and English Language Arts (ELA) exams. 

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Students at Ithaca College concluded a confidence vote on college president Tom Rochon yesterday. Rochon has faced criticism over his handling of recent racial incidents and accusations of top-down leadership.

A crowd of about 100 gathered in a ballroom on campus to hear student body president Dominick Recckio deliver the news.

“The results of the vote of no confidence are: 71.75 percent of respondents have no confidence in President Rochon,” Recckio declared. Breaking it down by race, 87 percent of respondents of color claimed “no confidence” in Rochon.

Ithaca College

Ithaca College students will release the results of a confidence vote in their college president Monday, and the college faculty hold their own vote next month. President Tom Rochon has faced criticism and protests for his handling of racial incidents and what some call top-down leadership. 

He spoke to reporter Solvejg Wastvedt about how the college has responded and what he’s learned. Here are the highlights:

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Students at Ithaca College gathered Wednesday to demand the resignation of their college president. They say he has a long history of unresponsiveness to racial incidents.

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse and seven district attorneys announced a new agreement on handling of sexual abuse cases Wednesday. The memorandum of understanding requires the diocese to report all abuse claims directly to the appropriate DA, whether they involve current or former clergy. Onondaga District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick introduced the agreement.

“There is no potential offender who is presenting any danger to any child in central New York,” he said.

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A full casino is in the cards for the Southern Tier. New York’s Gaming Facility Location Board endorsed a plan from Tioga Downs Wednesday. The venue applied unsuccessfully for a license last year, but state officials say this bid is different.

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The federal government’s new College Scorecard is out, and it’s stirring debate on some campuses. It's a slick website that makes finding data on higher education institutions easy, but one of the metrics has some schools worried.

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Part-time professors at Tompkins Cortland Community College want a union, but not just any union.

The college wants its adjuncts to join the full-time faculty union. The adjuncts say they need their own space, and they’re fighting for independence.

Last week, Robert Earle leaned back in his chair in front of his class at Tompkins Cortland Community Colllege, or TC3. Soft jazz played in the background.

Earle is an adjunct professor, and despite his easy demeanor, when he’s not teaching, he’s one of the driving forces behind the TC3 union fight.

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Child poverty rates in four upstate New York cities are more than double state averages. The issue spurred an anti-poverty campaign in Rochester earlier this year, and now Binghamton is getting on board, too.

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The Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall is open again after a facelift that took more than two years to complete.

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The standardized testing process is a little mysterious. Third- through eighth-graders take New York state exams every spring. But once they’re done, everybody goes on summer break. Where do the results go?

Last month schools around the state received those results. If you’re picturing big thick envelopes full of bar charts and Excel spreadsheets, guess again, says Chenango Valley Assistant Superintendent Liz DiCosimo.

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New rules for school vaccines in New York take effect September 1. The updates impact students entering kindergarten through seventh grade.

The major change is that kindergarteners need to have all their shots done before they start school. Previously, they could be part-way through the set of vaccines for four- to six-year-olds and still go to class.

The update also changes requirements for three vaccines that older kids get. It brings New York in line with federal recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Almost a quarter of New York children live in poverty, and in the city of Binghamton, that figure is near 50 percent. State legislators and community leaders gathered in Binghamton Tuesday to discuss the problem.

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The education programs that serve New York’s prison population are streamlining the path to a college degree. Private organizations offer college classes in 19 state facilities. Now several of the groups have formed a consortium to help students make it to graduation day.

In the past, transfer to a new prison often meant the end of an education for people working on their degrees. Many facilities don’t offer college programs. And even if they do, there are uncertainties: Will credits transfer? Are spots in the program open?

U.S. Department of Agriculture

During summer vacation, many low-income kids depend on free lunch programs. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited a summer meal site in Elmira Thursday to talk up state support for such efforts, but programs in rural areas, lilke Chemung County, still struggle with a big challenge.

Kids who participate in the government’s free summer meal program must show up at a designated site during scheduled hours to get their food. That can be a problem in rural areas.

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Summer is a lean time for adjunct professors. They teach part-time, and in the summer there are often fewer courses available for them. At Binghamton University, things get even tighter.

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Testing giant Pearson will no longer develop New York’s standardized tests for elementary and middle school students. The state is turning instead to Questar Assessment. That could signal a broader shift on education after heated controversy.

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Transgender students in New York continue to face harassment and discrimination at school, according to a recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union. That’s despite a five-year-old anti-bullying law called the Dignity for All Students act, or DASA.

The law bans discrimination based on a whole list of characteristics, including race, religion, gender and gender identity. But when it passed in 2010, the social climate was different.

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New York’s Board of Regents meets Monday and Tuesday to finalize controversial new teacher evaluation laws ahead of a June 30 deadline.

When legislators mandated the evaluation system in the state budget, they left out some details. Now the state Education Department is writing those rules, and the Regents will vote on them.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to extend the state’s property tax cap. The law limits annual tax increases, and it’s set to expire next year. Cuomo released a report last week that said the cap has saved more than $800 for the typical New Yorker over the past three years. He calls that success.

But Dryden town supervisor Mary Ann Sumner wants Cuomo to look back a few more years. She says in 2008 when the recession hit, Dryden cut taxes to give people a break. The town leaned on money it had in reserve instead.

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Part-time faculty at Ithaca College voted to unionize on Thursday after a four-month effort. Union “yes” votes prevailed by a margin of 119.

“I’m feeling pretty good about that,” says Ithaca College adjunct lecturer Rachel Kaufman. She helped organize the effort.

“A lot of people really want this union,” she says. “It’s something we had a strong sense of before, but it’s great to have it confirmed. I’m really looking forward to negotiations and making things better.”

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Sharing -- it’s one of the first lessons kids learn in school. And now New York is telling schools that they have to share, too. The state wants schools to come together and save money.

“In our case the 15 districts in Broome-Tioga BOCES have to realize an annual savings of $2.7 million,” says Windsor Central School District superintendent Jason Andrews.

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Efforts to raise expectations for New York’s teachers have stalled. In 2014, the state rolled out four new, tougher teacher certification tests. But last week the state delayed the requirement.

The Board of Regents cited low pass rates on the new tests as reason for the delay. So they created a “safety net.” Until next June, teachers who fail to pass the new exams can get certified in other ways. The state wants to give would-be teachers more time to adjust.

But SUNY Cortland School of Education dean Andrea LaChance doesn't want to adjust.

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An affordable housing project in Oneonta just got nearly $7 million from New York state. Gary Herzig says the project fills a big need.

“We have very few affordable housing units for working families,” Herzig says. “In addition, we have a list, a long list, of vacant housing units that unfortunately is getting longer every year.”