Elissa Nadworny

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.

Nadworny uses multiplatform storytelling – incorporating radio, print, comics, photojournalism, and video — to put students at the center of her coverage. Some favorite story adventures include crawling in the sewers below campus to test wastewater for the coronavirus, yearly deep-dives into the most popular high school plays and musicals and an epic search for the history behind her classroom skeleton.

Before joining NPR in 2014, Nadworny worked at Bloomberg News, reporting from the White House. A recipient of the McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarship, she spent four months reporting on U.S. international food aid for USA Today, traveling to Jordan to talk with Syrian refugees about food programs there.

Originally from Erie, Pa., Nadworny has a bachelor's degree in documentary film from Skidmore College and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Rental trucks in the parking lots; joyful hugs as students find old friends; a crowd in the campus store as families stock up on Husker gear: It's move-in week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The center of the action here is the Devaney Center. It's usually home to track and field, but this week it's where students and their families are shuffling in to get their room keys, maps of campus, move-in directions, a mandatory COVID-19 test — and this year — a booth where they can get a vaccine shot.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The coronavirus is again tearing through Texas. Infections, hospitalizations and COVID deaths are all up. In fact, just today, Governor Greg Abbott's office says he tested positive, though he is not symptomatic. He's being treated at home. As NPR's John Burnett reports, the diagnosis comes in the midst of a battle between local leaders and the governor, who's been threatening to sue leaders who are telling children to wear face masks.

Undergraduate college enrollment fell again this spring, down nearly 5% from a year ago. That means 727,000 fewer students, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Updated May 27, 2021 at 2:54 PM ET

When someone applies to college, there's often a box or a section on the application that asks about any relatives who attended the university — perhaps a parent or a cousin. This is called "legacy," and for decades it's given U.S. college applicants a leg up in admissions. But no longer in Colorado's public colleges.

Writing a graduation speech is a tricky task. Should you be funny, or sincere? Tell a story — or offer advice? For Yusef Pierce, a graduating senior in California, the job of putting together his public address was a bit more challenging.

"Being inside, I can't really refer to other graduation speeches," Pierce says. He's speaking by phone from inside the California Rehabilitation Center, a medium-security prison in Norco. "I was just trying to come up with what sounded like a graduation speech."

Democrats in the House and Senate are introducing legislation Tuesday that would make pandemic-related food benefits for college students permanent. The push is being led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent.

In Jasmine Williams' family, graduating from the University of Michigan is a rite of passage. Her parents met on the campus, and her older sister graduated from the school a few years ago. She remembers sitting bundled up in the family section for that graduation. "It was overwhelming to feel so many people that proud," she says, "I remember sitting there watching her, and that was probably the first time I was like, 'OK, yeah, I like this. I can't wait to do this.'

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Duke University in North Carolina has announced that it will require students to have a COVID-19 vaccine when they return this fall. And the list of campuses with such policies is growing.

There's a lot that is different this spring on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville. It's quieter, since coronavirus safety protocols restrict large gatherings, and the dorm common areas are often empty. But there's one thing that hasn't changed: On most weekdays, you can find Lavonda Little at Reid Hall, a four-story residential building, working as a custodian, a job she's held for the last 16 years.

Hoarse voices reminiscing about last night's wild time; young people in oversized university t-shirts crowding the liquor store; a cabal of high heels waiting for ride shares, with nary a mask in sight.

Pandemic or not, it's spring break in Miami Beach, Fla.

Almost exactly one year ago, the pandemic caused a cascade of school and university closures, sending 9 out of 10 students home as the coronavirus raced through the United States and the rest of the world.

By Labor Day, 62% of U.S. students were still learning virtually, according to the organization Burbio. That number dropped significantly during the fall and rose in the winter as COVID-19 surged. And today, just under 1 in 4 public school students attends a district that still hasn't held a single day of in-person learning.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to end the program today where we began - in Texas. As we've been reporting, residents there are still struggling to cope with the effects of that powerful winter storm that hit the state several days ago. Officials are warning millions of people to boil their water for safety after heavy damage from burst water pipes contaminated the supply. And even though power has been restored to most people who lost it at the height of the storm, many still don't have electricity, including thousands of people in the city of Houston.

At a CNN town hall on Tuesday night, President Biden was asked if he supported the idea of forgiving up to $50,000 of student loan debt for individuals.

His answer: No. He supports cancelling $10,000 in debt, he explained. But he said he is wary of erasing big chunks of loans for people who went to Ivy League schools: "The idea that ... I'm going to forgive the debt, the billions of dollars in debt, for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn ..."

For months, Democrats in Washington have been debating what to do about student loan debt. About 43 million borrowers owe $1.6 trillion in federal student loans.

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