Saturday, June 30, 2012

CHE: Federal-Loan Changes May Curb Graduate Study

Beginning July 1, 2012, incoming and current graduate students will accrue interest on federal student loans while in school. The changes to graduate students' loan programs are the result of the congressional debt-ceiling deal signed into law last summer. They are projected to save the federal government $21.6-billion over the next 10 years, money that will be put toward Pell Grants for financially needy undergraduates.
With the elimination of the subsidized-loan option, graduate students who take out large amounts of loans could owe hundreds of dollars more per month. For example, a graduate student who has borrowed $65,000 in subsidized loans from the federal government—the maximum amount now allowed—would have to take out an unsubsidized loan, requiring $207 more in payments per month in interest over the course of 10 years, including while still enrolled in school.

Graduate students also will no longer be eligible for special incentives for repaying their loans on time. Students now pay a 1-percent origination fee when they take out a loan but are given a refund equal to half that amount when they make 12 successive on-time payments in the first year after graduation. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that eliminating this credit would save the federal government $3.6-billion over the next 10 years.

Graduate students are worried about what this will mean for their wallets and for their ability to finish their degrees. And some of their advocates say that enrollment and retention rates may drop. These policy changes may also have a significant negative impact on students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds (i.e., women and racial minorities), who already carry higher debt levels than the national average. Lastly, eliminating the in-school interest subsidy will also increase the cost of attendance at a time when the job market is sluggish and advanced degrees offer little shield from unemployment and underemployment. It is disappointing and worrisome.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Upworthy: 11 Things The Wealthiest Americans Could Buy for the U.S. (That Most Families Can't Afford for Themselves)

Upworthy created an infographic about the 11 things the wealthiest Americans could buy for families in the United States. The facts are disturbing when you think about it. We're living in an era with the greatest income inequality, yet solutions like these sound so far-fetched and unimaginable.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Ferguson's Careers in Activism (2011)

Ferguson's Careers in Activism (2011) is a comprehensive vocational guide that describes a variety of careers for people who want to make a difference in the world. Opportunities exist in politics and with government agencies, at colleges and universities, in law offices, with nonprofit advocacy organizations and foundations, in court system, in offices, in newsrooms and broadcast studios, in foreign countries, and other work settings. The book warms that those with experience and advanced educational training will have the best opportunities in this field.

Each profile focuses on a specific career related to activism. The book is divided into 12 sections: Overview (recommended school subjects, personal skills, and minimum educational requirements); Quick Facts (brief introduction of the industry); History (the history of the job as it relates to the overall development of its industry); Job (primary and secondary duties of the job); Requirements (high school and post-secondary education, certification and licensing, and other training); Exploring (suggestions on how to gain experience in and knowledge of the job); Employers (typical places of employment for the job); Starting Out (best ways to land that first job); Advancement (type of career path to expect from the job); Earnings (salary ranges and typical fringe benefits); Work Environment (typical surroundings and conditions of employment); and Outlook (summary of job in terms of the general economy and industry projections).

It covers the following 20 jobs: animal activists, college professors, community organizers, directors of volunteers, elder law attorneys, environmental activists, federal and state officials, foundation workers, grant administrators, grant coordinators and writers, health advocates, human rights activists, human services workers, lobbyists, photojournalists, public interest lawyers, research assistants, victim advocates, and writers. Overall, this is a good guide for recent graduates and career changers who don't know what careers exist in society. Given its small size (194 pages), it is easy to read and packed with important information to help you get started in the field of activism.

"Activists are committed individuals who seek to correct injustices by educating the public, taking direct action, and urging government officials to act."

Thursday, June 7, 2012 Ann Arbor among Most Well-Read Cities announced its annual list of the Most Well-Read Cities in America. The ranking was determined by compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since June 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents. Ann Arbor ranked #4 on the list. The top three were 1) Alexandria, VA, 2) Berkeley, CA, and 3) Cambridge, MA.

This ranking is not surprising. As a college town, it hosts the University of Michigan, which has over 20 specialty libraries open to faculty, students, staff and the general public. As a family town, the Ann Arbor District Library has five branch locations where residents can borrow books/DVDs, attend special events and exhibits, and register for computer classes.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Loan Forgiveness Options for Social Workers

I know that paying for college or graduate school is an important topic for many social workers. With rising tuition costs, you wonder how can you afford to repay your loans and what options are available for student loan forgiveness. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) created this tremendous online resource, Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers:
NASW is promoting loan forgiveness for social workers as part of its on-going work to improve working conditions, salaries, and other benefits for members of the profession and to ensure that consumers have access to qualified professionals. NASW will continue its support for proposals to provide loan forgiveness for social workers in child welfare and schools, while also working to secure loan forgiveness and educational supports for social workers in other practice areas.

Social workers and other helping professionals should also look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, Special Direct Consolidation Loans (deadline is June 30, 2012!) and Income-Based Repayment Plan.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Improving Library Research Skills Among First-Generation College Students

Since I took a few library science courses in graduate school, I am a big fan of improving information literacy in higher education. I think this is one area that is often under-appreciated and overlooked among academic and student affairs professionals. From, the University of Illinois-Chicago has been tracking the information literacy skills (in this case, library research) of first-generation college students (freshman vs seniors).
Learning how to use a university library can pose a challenge to first-generation college students. Depending on their educational background, many such students might have little or no experience tackling major research assignments and navigating cavernous university libraries.

In a 2009 study, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that many first-generation students, intimidated by the scale and complexity of the campus library, did their research at their more familiar, but less resourceful, local public libraries during the first year of college. Some librarians were concerned that such habits could arrest the development of students' information literacy -- a skill set that is difficult to cultivate in most college students, let alone first-generation ones.

But an encouraging new study out of Illinois-Chicago suggests that first-generation students do in fact improve their information literacy skills over their college careers.