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Who’s really leading the future of higher education?

There are a lot of scary headlines about the future of education right now, making it all too easy to feel apathetic. It can seem like the wrong people are in charge, while the right people are being left out of the conversation altogether.

But there are heroes that are creating real change and helping in majorly effective ways. These three — a coach, a whistle-blower, and a catalyst — have caught our attention. Have you heard of them?

1. Alexandra Bernadotte: The Coach

Like a lot of other first-generation college students, Alexandra Bernadotte had a rough time transitioning from high school to university.

She struggled so much that she told the Boston Globe it made her wonder: “Maybe I did get in through affirmative action and asking for help was maybe a sign that I didn’t belong here.”

Although she was eventually able to finish her degree at Dartmouth College, it left Alexandra asking a lot of questions about how her experience could have been better. So, she founded Beyond 12 to help students avoid the pitfalls she experienced herself. 

Alexandra Bernadotte, CEO and founder of Beyond 12. Screenshot via Youtube.

Beyond 12 offers a ton of resources that personalizes the experience for new students with engaging app and social media aspects. It also gives schools valuable data about their college readiness programs.

Currently, they’re coaching around 2,000 students. And 88 percent of their students have made it to their 4th year of college. This is vastly better than the national average of 42 percent for similar students.

Check out this mini-doc by MicroDocumentaries to hear more of Alexandra’s story:

2. Adam Allcock: The Whistleblower

Last February, Adam Allcock knew something wasn’t right when he found 14 terabytes of financial aid records stored in a shared folder accessible to all faculty, staff, and students.

After he reported his discovery, Stanford University’s Graduate School Of Business (GSB) quickly resolved the security issue. But not before Adam took it upon himself to download and investigate the data.

His conclusion? An 88-page bombshell report that revealed how although the business school claimed it had a need-based approach to financial aid, that was anything but the case

“The GSB secretly ranks students as to how valuable (or replaceable) they were seen, and awarded financial aid on that basis,” Adam wrote, as originally reported by Poets & Quants, a business school news site. “Not only has the GSB also been systematically discriminating by gender, international status and more while lying to their faces for the last 10 to 25 years.”

His report also said there were “systemic biases against international students… This is inconsistent with a need-based financial aid system,” which is what the university said they practiced.

Adam’s motive was not to condemn his university as much as it was to promote a fair process.

“Financial aid is the determining factor in so much of our lives,” he wrote in an email, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “It determines how much debt we’ll graduate with, what job we take after school, what country we can afford to live in and during school, whether we can be a member of the community.”

His investigation has not only caused the school’s chief digital officer to step down, but the school commissioned an external review of its financial aid process.

3. Eric Thomas: The Catalyst

When Eric Thomas discovered that over 7,000 students walk away from their high school education every day, he knew he had to do something.

He’s well known as the “Hip Hop Preacher,” motivating the world with his popular Breathe University online motivational courses and “Thank God It’s Monday” inspirational videos. But he’s now turned his attention to getting more kids to graduate high school and think about continuing their education.

Eric Thomas of the School Days Foundation, Inc. Screenshot via Youtube.

Eric started the “School Days” program to close the achievement gap by focusing on attention and engagement issues in the classroom. It’s a step-by-step program that takes just one hour a week to motivate students and help guide the future of their education.

Drawing from his experience as a pastor and educator, he says he wanted his program to be something different than what’s already out there. Even though work has just begun, the organization says it’s getting feedback that it has helped increase attendance, character development, and teacher morale.

Although Eric’s organization offers a monthly subscription product for those who can afford it, he’s also calling for donations to help expand this program to those in need.

Check out the video to learn more: 

Do you know a #HigherEdHero who is shaping the future of education?

At a time when the future of education is uncertain, we need to know and support heroic people like Alexandra, Adam, and Eric. Be sure to let us know on Twitter or Facebook if you want to nominate anyone who deserves a shout-out.

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.