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When Schools Offer Free Laundry Services, Attendance Goes Up

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iStock

Many factors can contribute to a child's chronic absence from school, from problems at home to anxiety about school itself. To tackle this complicated issue, some schools are using an unexpected strategy: They've installed on-campus laundry machines that are free for all students.

By the end of this year, Whirlpool will have donated washers and dryers to dozens of schools with poor attendance numbers since launching the Care Counts program in 2015, Fast Company reports. The schools that Whirlpool selects are often located in low-income neighborhoods where throwing a dirty school uniform into the washing machine after coming home isn't an option for many students. Without access to laundry facilities where they live, some kids choose to skip class rather than go to school in their unwashed clothes.

But when washing machines are made available to children at school, the results are clear. The first year the Care Counts program was implemented in schools in St. Louis, Missouri, and Fairfield, California, average attendance rates rose by two days per chronically absent student. On top of that, teachers saw a 95 percent boost in class and extracurricular participation from students who'd previously missed more than 10 school days a year. And there's no need for schools to worry about the machines posing a distraction: Laundry is washed either by parents or school staff members and returned before the final bell. Each student who participates has around 50 loads of laundry washed at school in a year.

After finding success with the program in over 35 schools in six cities, Whirlpool is teaming up with Teach for America to bring it to 60 more schools in 10 cities across the U.S. About 1000 schools have expressed interest in receiving laundry appliances of their own, and Whirlpool hopes to eventually make that happen by gradually increasing their reach.

Care Counts isn't the only program with the mission of giving kids the basics they may not find at home. Some schools, like Washington High in Washington, North Carolina, offer free pantries that students can visit discreetly. The organization Catie's Closet provides a similar resource, but with free clothes instead of food. Looking for your own way to help kids who are struggling? Call a school in your community to see if there are any lunch debts you can help pay off.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Jeremy Freeman, TruTV
A New Game Show Helps Contestants Pay Off Their Student Loans
Jeremy Freeman, TruTV
Jeremy Freeman, TruTV

Most game shows offer flashy prizes—a trip to Maui, a million dollars, or a brand new car—but TruTV’s latest venture is giving away something much more practical: the opportunity to get out of student loan debt. Set to premiere July 10 on TruTV, Paid Off is designed to help contestants with college degrees win hard cash to put towards their loan payments, MarketWatch reports.

The show gives college graduates with student loan debt "the chance to test the depth of their degrees in a fun, fast-paced trivia game show,” according to TruTV’s description. In each episode, three contestants compete in rounds of trivia, with one contestant eliminated each round.

One Family Feud-style segment asks contestants to guess the most popular answer to college-related poll questions like “What’s the best job you can have while in college?” (Answer: Server.) Other segments test contestants' general trivia knowledge. In one, for example, a contestant is given 20 seconds to guess whether certain characters are from Goodfellas or the children’s show Thomas & Friends. Some segments also give them the chance to answer questions related to their college major.

Game show host Michael Torpey behind a podium
TruTV

Based on the number of questions they answer correctly, the last contestant standing can win enough money to pay off the entirety of their student debt. (However, like most game shows, all prizes are taxable, so they won't take home the full amount they win.)

Paid Off was created by actor Michael Torpey, who is best known for his portrayal of the sadistic corrections officer Thomas Humphrey in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Torpey, who also hosts the show, says the cause is personal to him.

“My wife and I struggled with student debt and could only pay it off because—true story—I booked an underpants commercial,” Torpey says in the show’s pilot episode. “But what about the other 45 million Americans with student loans? Sadly, there just aren’t that many underpants commercials. That is why I made this game show.”

The show is likely to draw some criticism for its seemingly flippant handling of a serious issue that affects roughly one in four Americans. But according to Torpey, that’s all part of the plan. The host told MarketWatch that the show is designed “to be so stupid that the people in power look at it and say, ‘That guy is making us look like a bunch of dum dums, we’ve got to do something about this.’”

Paid Off will premiere on Tuesday, July 10 at 10 p.m. Eastern time (9 p.m. Central time).

[h/t MarketWatch]

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Amazon
Northeastern University Is Now Handing Out Echo Dots to Its Students
Amazon
Amazon

Northeastern University is welcoming new students with an unusual addition to their dorm rooms this fall: an Echo Dot. According to USA Today, the Boston university will give some of its incoming students the option to receive a specialized Echo Dot smart home device that can help answer questions related to their school experience.

Northeastern's Echo Dot program doesn't just provide standard-issue smart home devices. The university has developed a special "Husky Helper" skill (named after the university mascot) that can answer common questions that students might otherwise pose to student services over the phone. The idea is that students will get answers to their questions quickly, and student services won't have to put so many employees to work answering basic queries about issues like dining hall meal card balances.

They can ask it things like whether they have a health insurance waiver on file with the university (a requirement for students who don't have university insurance) or have the device set a timer when they have to leave for their next class. Of course, they can also use it for all the things a non-student might use a Dot for, like playing music or getting weather updates.

Students can decide whether to opt in to the program and how much access to give Amazon. They can add information about their class schedules, meal plan accounts, tuition payments, and more. Students who ask about some sensitive information, like their grades, are instead directed to the proper university department to call, rather than their private data being read out for the whole dorm to hear.

The Northeastern Echo Dot program started out with a 60-student pilot for the 2017 - 2018 academic year, but will expand to more students in the fall.

[h/t USA Today]

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