Thursday, March 29, 2012

CHE: A Graduate Student With $88,000 in Student Loans Speaks Out About College Debt

The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights a growing problem in the United States: the burgeoning student loan debt ($1 trillion), which is now higher than credit-card and auto loan debt. I share this woman's pain as more young adults, the best years of our lives, rack up more than $50,000 in student loan debt. How does this generation plan for future children's educational attainment and retirements? Is America becoming a serfdom state where future generations have less financial autonomy and political power?
Across the East River, a 35-year-old Hunter College graduate student named Monica Johnson woke up with debt on her mind. She's always thinking about student debt: the $88,000 she racked up between college and graduate school, and the legions of Americans whose unpaid student loans now total close to $1-trillion, twice the amount owed five years ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Student-loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United States, with full-time undergraduates borrowing an average of $4,963 in 2010, according to the College Board.

Most students do not pay the full cost of college, but more and more are taking out loans. And if borrowers face severe financial problems, their student loans cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy, unlike most other forms of debt, such as gambling debts, that can. Some observers predict that student debt will be the country's next big financial crisis.

Young people like Ms. Johnson, who are starting adult life deeper in debt than students a decade ago, see themselves as part of a new generation of serfdom. Even as their debt grows, she and others say that student activism around the issue is weaker in the United States than in other countries due to a psychology of shame and guilt.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2013 U.S. News Graduate School Rankings

The 2013 U.S. News Rankings are available!

University of Michigan

  • #1 Social Work
  • #1 Social Policy
  • #1 Higher Education Administration
  • #12 Education (overall)

Congrats to Michigan for improving this year!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

End of an Era? Hull House Closes Its Doors

In January 2012, one of the nation’s oldest and most famous settlement houses, Hull House in Chicago, announced that it is closing its doors this spring and filing for bankruptcy. The decision to close came after the agency's management and board of trustees worked for two years to reduce operating costs and improve services, officials said.

Jane Addams Hull House Association has provided child care, domestic violence counseling, job and literacy training, services for senior citizens and housing assistance for 60,000 people annually in the Chicago area at nearly four dozen sites. The organization cited the current economic climate for increasing demand for services while compromising fundraising.
Chicagoans are shocked that a 123-year-old institution providing crucial human services will disappear. For those around the country who work at settlement houses—these days, often called community or neighborhood centers—it feels as if there has been a death in the family. Hull House’s co-founder Jane Addams, who later became the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, is widely thought of as the mother of the early American settlement house movement. Legions of social workers consider Hull House the birthplace of their profession.

The reason Hull House is disappearing is straightforward: it was overly reliant on government funding in a time of public-sector cutbacks for social services, and particularly for child welfare. At one point, the agency was receiving 85 percent of its revenues from various levels of government. When the federal government, the State of Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago began cutting support a decade ago, the agency’s board and staff worked hard to raise more private dollars, but the increased gifts were never enough. Between 2001 and 2011, Hull House’s total revenues dropped from $40 million to $23 million.Other settlement houses struggled with the same problem but managed not to close their doors.

The Hull House agency isn't affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago's Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, which will remain open. The Hull House site on Chicago's West Side is a National Historic Landmark. Nevertheless, I found the closure of the Hull House Association a sad legacy and memory for Jane Addams. I also wonder does this closure mean the settlement house model, the precursor to community practice and macro social work, is irrelevant today?

In graduate school, I concentrated in macro social work. Only 20% of my peers majored in the same area; most concentrated in clinical practice where there would treat individuals and families in case management, psychotherapy, and private practice. I wanted to help change society by learning methods that promote social justice and empowerment in communities. As an MSW alumna, I am disappointed knowing that people still struggle to pay their bills and funding for public assistance services continue to decline. Meanwhile, people seem disenchanted with elected officials. What is the future of community practice? Will Addams' legacy continue to matter in the 21st Century?

[UPDATE 04/2012]: Check out this reflection piece, "Lessons from Hull House." from the New Social Worker magazine. "So, perhaps the greatest lesson from the closure of Hull House is that the field of social work needs to recommit itself to macro policy work."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sign the Petition: Justice for Trayvon Martin (Florida)

There is an active petition on requesting state prosectors to charge George Zimmerman, 28, for the death of Trayvon Martin, 17, on February 26, 2012. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, has not been arrested for his heinous crime. The Sanford police claimed they lacked probable cause to prosecute him (!?!). This is why people are in such an uproar: this travesty could have been prevented, and Trayvon is the real victim.

When I heard this story, I was shocked and outraged that this kind of killing and cover-up could happen in the 21st century. I was also in tears when I heard the tapes: Trayvon is clearly asking for help before a fatal shot ended his life. It took three weeks just to reach this progress in the investigation! Zimmerman claimed he shot the teenager in self-defense, but the tapes tell a different story. The family has concluded that this is a clear case of murder and have asked for Zimmerman's arrest.

Please spread the word to family, friends and colleagues. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) will intervene in the coming weeks. Trayvon's civil rights were violated, and everyone demands justice. There is a NYTimes Op-Ed that raises questions about vigilante justice, racial-profiling and equitable treatment under the law. The Martin family needs closure for this horrible tragedy.

UPDATE: CNN published an editorial that discusses how Trayvon Martin's death eerily echoes the murder of Emmett Till nearly 57 years ago: “The murders themselves were appalling, but what really angered the general public was the injustice - highly questionable laws and customs that allowed for whites to freely murder blacks in the Jim Crow South and for someone to almost randomly shoot anyone in the Martin case.” (03/24/12)

UPDATE: Trayvon's family delivered 2 million petition signatures to Sanford police authorities. See infographic for more details. (03/27/12)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Labor coalition aims to get union amendment on November ballot

Fantastic news! In the Detroit News and WJBK Fox Detroit, Michigan residents would have a constitutional right to join and form labor unions in public and private employment under a proposed constitutional amendment unveiled Tuesday at the Michigan State Capitol.
Protect Our Jobs, a coalition of labor unions and workers, needs the signatures of nearly 322,609 registered voters by July 9 to get the amendment on the November ballot, according to the Michigan Department of State.

The proposed amendment would afford workers a guaranteed right to bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions with employers in the public and private sectors, said Todd Cook, state director of We Are the People, a coalition of labor unions, students and social groups backing the initiative.

Cook said the amendment also could prevent the Legislature from imposing a proposed right-to-work law in Michigan.

Right-to-work laws are bad for the middle class and local communities because it cuts wages and salaries, health care benefits, retirement security and safety protections! The Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature wants to protect Wall Street-related corporate special interests. Help Michigan remain a pro-collective bargaining state.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Women's History Month 2012 Theme

The 2012 theme of Women's History Month is "Women's Education – Women's Empowerment."

As a woman of color who cars deeply about education, I thought it would behoove me to highlight this significant occasion. Women from diverse backgrounds have accomplished many social, political, and economic milestones in the United States. I hope you take the time to learn, reflect, and engage on how to improve educational access and equity among women in your community as well as internationally.

For more information, check out the links below:

Monday, March 5, 2012

2012 World Social Work Day / UN Social Work Day Theme

World Social Work Day is March 20, 2012.

United Nations' Social Work Day is March 26, 2012.

This year's theme is "A Week of Action:"
"We commit wholeheartedly and urgently to people having power over their own lives to address the root cause of oppression and inequality to work together with others to create a more socially-just and fair world that we will be proud to leave for future generations."

For more information, please visit the International Federation of Social Workers' website. This website may also interest those in international social work: Global Agenda on Social Work and Social Development.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Social Work Month 2012 Theme

The official 2012 Social Work Month theme is “Social Work Matters.”
Social work is the profession of hope. Social workers help people navigate through life’s difficult challenges.
Social workers and other professionals can access the NASW toolkit for logos, messages, merchandise, and topics in Adolescent and Youth Development; Mental and Behavioral Health Treatment; Aging and Family Caregiving; Military and Veterans Assistance; Child Protection and Family Services; Non-Profit Management and Community Development; Health Care Navigation; and Poverty Reduction.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will also host the 2012 national conference, Restoring Hope: The Power of Social Work on July 22-25, 2012 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC . There will be three sessions: Interventions with Individuals, Families & Groups (Micro/Mezzo); Community and Policy-Level Interventions (Macro); and Interventions with/on behalf of Social Workers (Spirit of Social Work). I hope you have the opportunity to attend this exciting event.
In July of 2012, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will bring together hundreds of Social Workers and other helping professionals from across the country to expand their understanding about the importance of hope and resiliency in their work. Participants will enhance their understanding about the clinical and community uses of hope, discuss best practices, and identify topics for future research.

Details about the essay contest can also be viewed here.
Why do you believe that social work is the profession of hope? NASW is holding an online essay contest to find out why professional social workers, and social work students, believe that social work is the profession of hope. Answer the question above in 500 words or less and two winners will be selected to win an iPad.