When George Alvarez was in high school and starting to apply to colleges, a top university like Johns Hopkins wasn’t even on his radar.
“I actually never heard about Johns Hopkins until my senior year, when my history teacher told me to apply there,” he says.
George grew up on Long Island, just outside New York City, the son of a housekeeper and a retired mechanic. He knew he wanted to be a doctor and was looking at a low-cost program nearby, where he could earn a bachelor’s degree and an M.D. in seven years.
“And my history teacher was like, ‘you could go there, or you can go to Hopkins and experience college life and then apply to medical school,’” he says.
He applied to both schools, and got into both. Johns Hopkins -- with its sticker price of more than $50,000 a year -- turned out to be cheaper. With grants and scholarships, he would pay around $5,000 for tuition and room and board.
So George and his parents -- immigrants from El Salvador whose own schooling stopped at sixth grade -- headed for Baltimore to visit. It was George’s first time out of New York.
“The first thing I noticed was there were no metal detectors in the entrance, as there were in my high school,” he says.
That was four years ago. George is a senior now. I meet him at the university’s plush new undergraduate teaching labs, where students lounge on rocking chairs and sip lattes in a glass atrium. Looking back, George says that first visit almost kept him away.
“I was intimidated,” he says. “Especially once I was here, once I was immersed with my other classmates, who I felt were better than me.”
George had been a straight-A student at Uniondale High School. Even so, his guidance counselor advised him not to go to Hopkins -- to pick the local program instead. It was competitive, but at a less selective school.
“’It’s not a good fit for you, you’re going to be alone.’” he recalls the counselor saying of Hopkins. “And I was like, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong.’”
George thinks now that counselor was probably trying to protect him.
“It’s not at all unusual to have guidance counselors advise low-income students to go to the kinds of colleges where other low-income students go, instead of going to the sort of colleges for which they are best prepared,” says Caroline Hoxby, an economics professor at Stanford University.
Hoxby’s research on so-called “under-matched” students has shaken up the college admissions world this year. She says most low-income, high achieving seniors don’t even apply to the Harvards and Macalesters and UCLAs of the world -- even though they tend to fare much better at highly selective colleges.
“They’re more likely to get good academic advice,” she says. “They’re more likely to be in a cohort of students where everyone believes that they’re going to complete on time.”
And they’re more likely to land better jobs, with higher pay. Hoxby says if you’re qualified to go to a top college and don’t, “our minimum estimate is that you’re giving up half a million dollars over your lifetime in net present dollars.”
Hoxby says sometimes all it takes is the right information. She’s been working with the College Board to send out customized packets to top, low-income students comparing financial aid and graduation rates at various colleges.
Johns Hopkins is part of the effort. George’s story of finding Hopkins is common, says David Phillips, the university’s vice provost for admissions and financial aid.
“That’s almost an accident, right? A happy accident that he ran into the right teacher to steer him in the right direction,” he says. “That too often is the case.” He says Hoxby’s research is helping universities reach out to students in more systematic ways.
“And schools need to do that,” he says.
But of course getting students to campus is just the beginning. For George, it was a rocky start. On his third chemistry exam, he scored a 10 out of 76. That first year, he thought about quitting every night.
“I thought this was too hard,” he says. “I thought I’d be a happier person being back home in New York.” And not having to adjust to a completely different life, he says.
His adjustment came thanks to another happy accident. Eventually he found his way to the Office of Multicultural Affairs, where he met other students from backgrounds like his. He’s now a leader there.
On a recent night, George advised freshmen and sophomores at an event for underrepresented students thinking about medical careers.
“I wish someone mentored me,” he says. “I needed a role model to look up to, and I didn’t have it so it was difficult to me, and I want to be that role model for them.”
George is set to graduate in the spring with a degree in biophysics. He plans to take a year off and apply to med school.
Today, the city of Baltimore unveiled what could be one of the most entertaining of crosswalks.
Brown tree snakes came to Guam aboard ships and planes decades ago. Since then, they've devastated the local bird population. Federal researchers continue to experiment with a unique way to kill the invaders: Drop mice laced with poison into the trees where the snakes hang out.
Missouri is one of more than a dozen states where Republican-led governments have passed laws or otherwise taken steps to restrict insurance navigators and other in-person counselors from attempting to help people sign up for health insurance on the new exchanges.
Everyone who's ever had a job has had to show up for work on days they'd rather be anywhere else. Keeping it together can be especially challenging for servers, whose livelihood depends on providing diners with pleasant experience.
Two independent corrections consultants found Ariel Castro's suicide was "not surprising and perhaps inevitable."
Some of Merrill Newman's former comrades say the group was "perhaps the most hated and feared fighters" of the Korean War. It's being put forward as a possible explanation for why the 85-year-old, who visited the country as a tourist in October, was detained.
The largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history took a step forward Tuesday when a judge said the city can go forward with its Chapter 9 bankruptcy case. Now a manager will work to cut pension costs and make deals with creditors. Detroit is $18.5 billion in debt.
A marketplace, a classroom, public prayer and a school assembly — these are the everyday life sounds of one young expatriate.
Police allowed them to swarm into the prime minister's compound and shout slogans. Demonstrators want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. Three people have been killed and more than 230 wounded since the protests turned violent two days ago.
The proposition that some extra weight may not be a health worry has sparked a heated medical debate. Some studies have found that a little extra fat might have benefits. A new analysis suggests that for almost all people excess weight increases the risk of death and disease.
Chimps are cognitively similar to humans and should be entitled to the fundamental right of liberty, an animal rights group is arguing. The writ of habeas corpus filed on behalf of a chimp in New York is exploring new ground.
A spike in sales by the Big 3 U.S. automakers was driven by pick-ups.
Americans were buying trucks: Sierras, Silverados, Rams, and F-150s. But last month’s pick-up in pick-up sales probably won’t lead to more jobs making trucks.
“You don’t want to have this layoff, recall, layoff, recall situation,” says Art Schwartz, an economic consultant who was fomerly GM’s director of labor relations. “You want to get a more regular kind of employment level and production level.”
Rather than hiring more workers or opening new factories, manufacturers are running existing plants at full capacity. Some of them are open six days a week, three shifts a day.
“They are less likely to bring on people unless they think this is going to be a permanent increase, and even then, it is going to be a slow go,” Schwartz says.
That’s because of lingering uncertainty. But November’s sales numbers are a good sign for the labor market writ large.
“You know, the majority of buyers in the space use a pick-up as a tool,” says Mike Jackson, who directs North American vehicle forecasting for IHS Automotive. "Contractors of every sort, who have delayed purchases in the past, are now seeing very, very definitive results, very strong demand.
“And so, they feel confident enough that they can make a big-ticket purchase,” he says.
Truck sales also signal growth in the energy sector. According to Jackson, if you do hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, you probably own a truck.
And while a spike in truck sales may not necessarily result in more jobs making trucks, it is good news for the auto sector for one very important reason.
“Companies make a lot of money on trucks,” says David Cole, chairman of AutoHarvest. The profit margins on pick-ups are huge -- at times close to $10,000.
Dow Chemical, founded in 1897, is one of the most iconic companies in the United States. But after 116 years, the largest chemical maker in the country is considering dropping the word "chemical" from its name. It's not a marketing ploy or a rebranding scheme; Dow is selling off its commodity chemical business, which is responsible for things like epoxy and cheap plastic grocery bags.
In the early years Dow made its money selling two products: bleach and potassium bromide, an over-the-counter sedative. And with both products, foreign companies tried to undercut Dow's sales. When German bromide producers flooded the U.S. with cheap bromide, Dow bought it and sold it back to competitors of the German companies. The strategy kept Dow alive and taught it a valuable lesson: diversify.
In 1953 Dow created a consumer products division that gave birth to a string of wildly popular products like Saran Wrap, the Zip Lock bag, and a whole range of plastics it sold to manufacturers.
"Suddenly the world was very alive to the possibility of replacing natural materials with synthetically produced materials, and plastics were a big part of that," says Duke business professor Ashish Arora.
Because Dow could produce chemicals cheaply, it had an advantage over competitors. But as technology spread, foreign companies were able to produce those chemicals for much less. "The significant advantage that Dow had in producing those chemicals," says Arora, "diminishes to the point where it's no longer advantageous for the company to be in those businesses."
Dow plans to exit the chlorine business, the foundation of its original product, altogether. Instead Dow wants to develop products with higher profit margins, like agricultural seeds, electronics and packaging made from, you guessed it, plastics.
"As far as standard plastics, Dow is actually making major investments on those in the U.S. Gulf Coast because of all the shale gas development that's going on," says Frank Esposito, a senior reporter at Plastics News.
According to Esposito, no one thought companies would be investing in plastic manufacturing in the U.S. five years ago. But with the abundance of natural gas from shale, there is an unexpected source of the raw materials needed to make plastics.
Dow Chemical is making a major move in deciding to remove itself from the chemical industry. And re-branding a company that has become so synonymous with chemicals will be challenging. A window into Dow Chemical's past...
A Dow Chemical commercial that's out of date now. For more reasons than one.
A vintage Dow Chemical advertisement
Stores are counting receipts from the four-day shop-o-rama. Five days if you count so-called Cyber Monday, when everybody used work computers to get through their holiday list digitally. IBM reports the online sales were up 20 percent from a year ago. Juli Nieman, analyst at Smith Moore and Company in St Louis, says consumers are holding the line on some things.
Also, China is responding to an American trade grievance by taking the issue to the World Trade Organization. U.S. officials believe China has sold solar panels and other goods below cost and has hit $8 billion worth of Chinese imports with punitive anti-dumping duties. China will argue that's not fair.
They call them "native ads." Advertisements that wear camouflage. They blend in with the main content of the site … like a sneaky promotional Tweet from a smartphone company about the awesomness of its phone. Now, the Federal Trade Commission digs into native advertising.
The vice president urged calm and called for new mechanisms to avoid an escalation of regional tensions. China and Japan have been at odds over the airspace above a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Former lead dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko was convicted in the January acid attack that nearly blinded Bolshoi Theater artistic director Sergei Filin. Dmitrichenko has acknowledged organizing the assault but said he didn't intend for acid to be used.
American 15-year-olds scored below average in math among the world's most-developed countries, according to rankings released every three years. They were close to average in science and reading.
Most corporations make their voices heard loud and clear in Washington. So do many demographic groups -- think retirees and the AARP. But advocates say young Americans, aged 16 to 24, are "rapidly becoming the most disadvantaged group in America."
Host David Brancaccio spoke to journalist and economic policy consultant Jeff Madrick, who writes a column in Harper's Magazine, about the travails of today's youth.
"The elderly and lots of other groups have strong lobbying efforts in Washington. The young certainly do not, and we're only becoming aware of that."
From the White House and the Supreme Court on down, gay rights advocates have won a string of victories this year. Many Americans remain opposed to same-sex marriage, but support for gays and gay marriage has been rising — particularly among young people.