Broward County

Miami Herald’s Michael Vasquez wins national education writing prize

Higher-Ed Hustle,” a series of articles by Miami Herald staff writer Michael Vasquez, has won the Eddie Prize for excellence in education reporting.

The award, announced Monday at the Education Writers Association annual seminar in Boston, recognizes the best work on the challenges low-income students face completing college.

The Herald series focused on the political influence of private for-profit colleges in Florida, where nearly one in five students attend such institutions, an unusually high percentage. Growth of the sector had been aided by Florida lawmakers, who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and passed a series of laws benefiting for-profit schools and hindering the growth of lower-cost community colleges.

The reports underscored how for-profit colleges, which tend to target poorer students, as well as minorities, veterans and single parents, can saddle them with unmanageable debt and — in some cases — a substandard education.

The series led to legislative action and the closure of Dade Medical College, a politically influential chain whose owner, Ernesto Perez, was prosecuted for illegal campaign contributions.

The Eddie Prize — sponsored by the Edwin Gould Foundation, which provides an array of services for children and families in New York City — comes with a $7,500 honorarium.

“Failure Factories,” a series in the Tampa Bay Times by Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia that focused on a decline in performance at five Pinellas County schools, won the Education Writers Association’s Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Reporting. The series tied the decline in performance to a decision by the school board in 2007 that effectively resegregated the schools.