No. 102: Financial Aid

The Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling on admissions policies is reshaping universities' policies towards financial aid, putting them at odds with donors. Plus, FEMA gets new rules to consider climate change as part of their response to natural disasters.

No. 102: Financial Aid
Photo by Shubham Sharan / Unsplash

If you were college-bound, chances are you applied to a scholarship or two to offset your costs – and they can be substantial. Last year's affirmative action ruling has changed the playing field: universities are taking a broad reading of that ruling and applying it to financial aid as well.

Later on, I'm taking us on an international career hunt and shining a light on one of my favorite tech companies. Put on your product designer hat, and meet me at this week's featured job – trust me, this one is worth pursuing.

~ Greg

What we're reading

In the wake of the Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling, schools are not just changing their admissions policies: they're reevaluating scholarships and financial aid as well. (WaPo)

  • Prior to the court decision, it was commonplace for universities to set eligibility criteria designed to support underrepresented groups.
    • Some university donors stipulated this as part of their donations in fact. Now, universities are approaching donors to get them to change their terms so the donations can apply more broadly.
    • Although I understand the pressure universities may feel, if I put myself in a donor's shoes, I may be compelled to apply that investment elsewhere. Essentially, if I'm trying to drive equitable outcomes with my investment and the university can't create the right return, there are other avenues worth pursuing.
  • As you can imagine, some donors will be holdouts. In those cases, the universities are taking legal action. The University of Missouri system, for example, has petitioned a state court to allow them to change donors' terms without their permission.
  • I'm curious to see how this situation evolves. Part of me wonders if the delivery mechanism is the issue, and that if donors can provide scholarships outside the university system, they can still meet their goals. That infrastructure doesn't exist today, but I could see it emerging to fill the vacuum left behind by the states.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency – better known as FEMA – will now be subject to new rules when rebuilding communities after flooding occurs. (Grist)

  • In the past, FEMA would evaluate whether new buildings were being developed in an area with a 1% chance of flooding each year. The problem was that buildings that fell outside this floodplain were still flooding, meaning FEMA would build something just to have it flood again.
    • FEMA faces budget issues already, so this return on investment – or lack thereof – is particularly costly. You might even call them sunk costs (ba dum tish).
  • Now, FEMA will take climate change into account as part of their assessments. Essentially, they'll be evaluating whether an area is likely to flood in the future and not relying as heavily on historical data that underestimated climate impacts.
  • I'm interested to see how this plays out decades from now. This is one agency, but the reality is that much of the country is already experiencing the effects of climate change. When disaster strikes, will we cut our losses and move, or will we take on the tax burden to subsidize living in climate-susceptible communities?

Job of the week

I've had a soft spot for this week's featured company ever since I learned about them a few years ago. Opus makes employee training solutions targeted for frontline workers, particularly those who don't have access to a computer or speak different languages. Education is the cornerstone for advancement in my humble opinion, so you know I love the mission here.

They are looking to add a Senior Product Designer to their team in New York City, which is about as close to product development as you can get. Benefits are solid, and I'm glad to say you don't need a ton of experience as a Product Designer to jump in. This is a mid-level role, so if your dream is product + purpose, give this team a look.

Community roundup

  • More climate jobs are on the way. NOAA is spending $60 million as part of its Climate-Ready Workforce initiative to train people in climate resilience so they can fill vacancies in coastal and climate-susceptible communities around the country. (Inside Climate News)
  • Blockbuster board game Catan has a new version called New Energies that challenges players to balance fossil fuels and renewable energy. As a bonus, the creators eliminated all plastic and replaced it with sustainable materials. (Grist)
  • It's no secret that athletes are subjected to plenty of online abuse. To help combat this over the course of its tournament, Wimbledon employed AI to identify threats and flag them for account monitors. (The Guardian)
    • I realize this is a niche case, but I'd love to have this built into major social media platforms. I've followed Perspective for years – it highlights toxicity in the text it scans so you can automatically filter it out. More please.
  • You've probably heard of bitcoin mining – and crypto mining more generally – as well as how much electricity it consumes. Turns out no one has a clear picture of just how impactful that industry has become, so the Energy Information Agency is trying to survey crypto companies about their energy usage. (Inside Climate News)
    • I say "trying" because they tried to do so earlier this year. A crypto company protested, and the data collection was blocked by a federal judge. The EIA is trying another approach this time around, hopefully with more success – it's not a good sign that someone wants to protect the knowledge of how much electricity they need to run the business.
  • One of my least favorite things is when you want to do the right thing but can't. My pet peeve is traveling and not finding recycling services in certain hotels or cities. This story is along those lines: the Department of Energy is partnering with Staples and Battery Plus to increase the number of battery recycling locations available to consumers, so if you have an old device lying around, seek one out. (Wired)

Hot job opportunities

Resource of the week

All of the jobs I include in the newsletter are based in the U.S., but there are opportunities outside the country as well. If the idea of taking your social impact mission worldwide interests you, you might want to seek out an international development job.

You can find a surprising number of opportunities through your favorite search engine, but I'll point you to two resources that specifically focus on this space: Devex and NextBillion. In addition to the job boards I've linked, they also feature news and thought leadership from other professionals in the space – great for learning more about whether this career path is right for you.

When I was early in my career, I considered working internationally to gain a new perspective. I never quite took the leap – new opportunities presented themselves – but I still think it's a wonderful way to make a difference and invest in your personal development.

Test your knowledge

Last week, we took a trip to the city where people are growing more food locally instead of shipping it in from farms around the country (or even worldwide). There are a number of terms used in this space, like urban farming, urban agriculture, and vertical farming. One of the purported benefits of this approach is better efficiency: more food grown on less land with less water used. Sustainability, in other words.

You know what's the opposite of sustainability? This week's trivia question:

What is the process of designing products so they reach end of life quickly in order to encourage people to buy more?

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I am learning just how great Instagram can be for discovering new restaurants and attractions. My saved locations on Google Maps are multiplying. The cash in my wallet? Not so much. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson