Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CHE: Education and Income Levels Are Key Predictors of Civic Involvement, Report Says

According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the number of Americans civicly engaged in American life is alarmingly declining. Age, income, and level of educational attainment are significant factors in determining who is more likely to vote. Below is an excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Stratification by income and education levels may have dire consequences for the long-term health of civic activities like voting and volunteering, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the Educational Testing Service.

The report, "Fault Lines in Our Democracy: Civic Knowledge, Voting Behavior and Civic Engagement in the United States," explores demographic patterns of civic knowledge, voting, and civic engagement. Age, affluence, and education, the study found, are strong indicators of whether a person is civically engaged and interested in public affairs. The report is based largely on existing data, including federal education statistics and Census data.

Educational attainment, in particular, is a powerful predictor of civic engagement, the report says. In the 2008 presidential election, 83 percent of adults with advanced degrees voted, while only 39 percent of adults who did not finish high school did. Among young adults especially, education appears to shape not just the likelihood of voting, but also interest in civic issues: College graduates reported paying greater attention to public affairs than did people who did not finish high school.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Majority of Unemployed Are College Grads

According to Investors.com, the majority of unemployed over 25 in the United States are college graduates! Could this demographic shift that more education does not guarantee higher lifetime earnings anymore?
For the first time in history, the number of jobless workers age 25 and up who have attended some college now exceeds the ranks of those who settled for a high school diploma or less.

Out of 9 million unemployed in April, 4.7 million had gone to college or graduated and 4.3 million had not, seasonally adjusted Labor Department data show.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Student debt: Where you attend college matters (Reuters)

A Reuters article found that graduates of flagship public universities carried more student loan debt than their Ivy League peers. This news is disappointing because many students attend state universities for cheaper tuition and living expenses. Not everyone can become admitted into an Ivy League institutions (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania). With their arge university endowments, this enables Ivy League institutions to provide more generous financial aid packages (public universities must rely on funding from the state governments). But it also creates a sense of unequal meritocracy that only the privileged--and extremely lucky--can afford to graduate with fewer student loans. It's common knowledge that Ivy League graduates tend to come from wealthier households than flagship public university graduates.
The student debt load of many top private university graduates is lower that the debt load of their peer graduates at top public universities, according to a recent Reuters report.

The report tallied the average debt load at the University of Michigan as about $27,000. Conversely, the average debt load at Princeton University is roughly $5,000, at Yale University is roughly $9,000 and at Harvard University is roughly $11,000.
Forty-four percent of U-M and University of California at Los Angeles students take out loans to attend, whereas less than 30 percent of Harvard, Yale and Princeton students acquire loans, according to the Reuters report.

"Thanks to generous financial aid policies and large endowments, students may find that an Ivy League degree, for example, often requires less borrowing than a degree from many much less expensive state schools," the report states.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NYTimes: Instead of Work, Younger Women Head to School

I know this New York Times article is several months old, but I stumbled upon it during a Google search on graduate education. I wanted to share it to those young women out there who are still struggling to find stable employment in this economy and are seeking refuge in more education and training (whether it be certificates or graduate/professional degrees).
Both men and women are going back to school, but the growth in enrollment is significantly larger for women (who dominated college campuses even before the financial crisis). In the last two years, the number of women ages 18 to 24 in school rose by 130,000, compared with a gain of 53,000 for young men.

The education gap aside, in some ways young women will already have an advantage over men in the coming decade. Many of the occupations expected to have the most growth, like home health aides and dental hygienists, have traditionally been filled by women. That is not to say that men cannot take those positions, but they may not want to.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

AlterNet: Five Things That Put America to Shame

AlterNet.org, the leading online newletter, published this chilling piece, listing the five things that hurts this great nation. The increasing inequality between the rich and poor may inevitably lead to greater demands for reform.

  1. We're Near the Bottom of the Developed World in Children's Health and Safety.

  2. We've Betrayed the Young People Who Were Advised to Stay in School.

  3. The Main Source of Middle-Class Wealth Has Been Largely Wiped Out.

  4. We Give Prison Sentences for Smoking Marijuana, but Not for Billion-Dollar Fraud.

  5. You Can Have Health Care, If You Pay for It.

The article concludes with this statement:
Privatization simply hasn't worked for health care, mortgage banking, higher education, or prison management. There is little incentive for profit-motivated firms to invest in disadvantaged or underemployed Americans. That's why taxes are necessary - to provide for the common good, and to return some of the gains from 60 years of productivity to the great majority of Americans who contributed to our growth. Unfortunately, the golden door on the Statue of Liberty seems to have an invisible hand holding it shut.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CHE Higher Education Blogger, Naomi Schaefer Riley, Fired

Justice has been served! When I first noticed Riley's blog postings arguing for the elimination of Black Studies programs several days ago, I was angry and in disbelief. How can someone publish some ideological-based opinions without substantiated evidence and still call herself a professional journalist? I am delighted that many readers complained and requested the removal of the racists posts on the Chronicle of Higher Education. As a former Black Studies major at Northwestern University, her hateful remarks offended me deeply because she believes the black doctoral students should only focus on contemporary social problems in the black community. Her assertions also imply the black community is culturally deviant, thereby denigrating African-American achievements and experiences for the past 300 years. The Chronicle is the leading higher education newsletter read by many faculty, students and administrators. Black Studies is a legitimate academic field, and scholars should focus on all aspects (cultural, social, economic, political) of African-American history and life.
Naomi Schaefer Riley, a lecturer and author who wrote for the Chronicle's blog, Brainstorm, was let go after readers pushed back on an essay she published last week titled "The Most Persuasive Case For Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations." Riley's essay responded to a sidebar of a story in the Chronicle which profiled several up-and-coming black studies scholars in the process of writing dissertations. Riley looked at the titles of the dissertations -- on subjects like the role of race in housing policy and the history of black midwifery in the United States -- and called them "left-wing victimization claptrap."

Nearly 6,500 people signed a petition calling for her dismissal from the blog. Yesterday, Liz McMillen, the site's editor, wrote a note apologizing for Riley's post, and said that the publication had decided to part ways with the author, who is also an affiliate scholar of the Institute of American Values, a conservative think tank based in New York.

UPDATE [05/11/12]: The three black doctoral students at Northwestern University respond to Riley's post about African-American Studies.

Monday, May 7, 2012

CHE: From Graduate School to Welfare

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article about the rising number of graduate students on welfare assistance. In some ways, I think it's horrifying to know that college students may come across instructors with advanced degrees who must rely on food stamps, WIC (known as women, infant and children program), and/or Medicaid.
Ms. Bruninga-Matteau is part of an often overlooked, and growing, subgroup of Ph.D. recipients, adjunct professors, and other Americans with advanced degrees who have had to apply for food stamps or some other form of government aid since late 2007.

Some are struggling to pay back student loans and cover basic living expenses as they submit scores of applications for a limited pool of full-time academic positions. Others are trying to raise families or pay for their children's college expenses on the low and fluctuating pay they receive as professors off the tenure track, a group that now makes up 70 percent of faculties. Many bounce on and off unemployment or welfare during semester breaks. And some adjuncts have found themselves trying to make ends meet by waiting tables or bagging groceries alongside their students.

Of the 22 million Americans with master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance, according to the latest Current Population Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2011. In 2010, a total of 44 million people nationally received food stamps or some other form of public aid, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sign the Petition: Stop selling credit reports to employers

I have heard horrific stories that some companies refuse to hire employees with large student loan debt on their credit reports. This college graduate, who earned a permanent accounting position by her own merit, was later reneged the job offer because the company discovered she owed too much in student loans (!?!). She had proven herself a stellar worker on the job for six months, but a golden opportunity disappeared because she took out student loans to finance her education. Here are the details of the petition:
However, just a few weeks after starting in my new positon the company fired me because my debt-to-credit ratio was too high. I later learned that 60% of employers now check credit reports, which typically include student debts. How are you supposed to pay off your student debts if you can’t get (or keep) a job BECAUSE of your debts? And what do my student debts have to do with my ability to do a job well anyway?

I know some viewers are wondering, "What's with all the petitions?" I care deeply about social and economic justice issues, and I believe credit reports should not penalize college graduates on the amount of student loans they borrow. Why is society punishing college graduates when the same social forces told us a college education is a good investment?? This type of policy prevents people from establishing their careers and eventually repaying their student loans! The EEOC recently established new rules on criminal background checks to prevent hiring bias and discrimination against low-income and minority job seekers. Please support this cause and tell states to pass similar legislation that will ban this anti-poor hiring practice.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sign the Petition: KeyBank forces deceased son's family to pay student loans

In the past week alone, national media outlets have highlighted the growing student loan debt crisis in America, particularly private loans without bankruptcy options. In 2011, student loan debt ($1 trillion) has already outpaced credit card and auto loan debt. Even after bankruptcy, many borrowers are still trapped because a 2005 congressional law made it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debt. It's time to take a stand against the tyranny of debt slavery and support movements like Occupy Student Debt.

Since today is May Day (in honor of the international labor movement), I want to bring your attention to this disturbing news and how you can get involved. Here are the details of the petition:
You see, our dad cosigned Christopher's private student loans with Key Bank. When Christopher died, Key Bank came after my dad to get their money back. Our dad has had to come out of retirement to make the monthly payments. When Christopher died, my family didn't just lose a loved one -- we inherited debt for an education that will never be used.

Key Bank's action's are dramatically out of step with the status quo. The federal government and even large private student lenders like Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo all forgive student loans once the borrower dies. But over the years, Key Bank has ignored our calls to take this humane step.

In the years since Christopher's death, my family has tried to keep others from facing what we have. We've worked with members of Congress to pass "Christopher's Law," which would make sure student borrowers and their families know exactly what could happen if they die or become disabled, and we've started a website about our efforts to get Christopher's Law passed (http://chrisbryski.blogspot.com).

Please support this family by telling KeyBank and other private student loan lenders that they cannot continue to collect money from the deceased! This is an extreme form of economic injustice on the working class. You can help make a difference by supporting the Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, which requires private lenders to clearly explain the responsibilities of co-signers in the event of death or disability.

UPDATE [05/03/2012]: Hansen Clarke (D-MI) announced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012. "If you make payments equal to 10% of your discretionary income for 10 years, your remaining federal student loan debt would be forgiven." You can read the brief summary here.

UPDATE [05/10/2012]: In early May, KeyBank finally decides to forgive the deceased son's private student loans: Since 2006, the family has paid $20,000 of the $50,000 balance. It took an awful lot of negative publicity, but Key says that they will forgive the debt, and might not even put future families in the same terrible situation.

"Going forward, we will evaluate any similar situation involving a deceased student with outstanding loans - and we sincerely hope there are none - on a case-by-case basis," a Key representative told the Newark Star-Ledger.