policyshop.net — Many Americans pay a lot more than the cost of student loans in order to attain a degree. Over the past year, as the nation’s student debt rolls hit $1 billion, policy makers, parents, and students took a hard look at the costs and benefits of a college education. But, as new data from the Demos household survey reveals, student loans are just the beginning of the story. Alongside the rising cost of education and simultaneous declines in need-based financial aid, households turned to credit cards as a means to finance their investment in a better economic future. Paying for college with plastic often means higher interest payments, rising debt burdens, and for some students, the inability to complete their degree under the strain of tightening household budgets.
thenation.com — Once again, student-loan season is upon us. As a new class of freshmen ships off for a hopeful first year of college or trade school, many are as busy figuring out financial arrangements as lining up classes This year, as these students prepare to sign away their futures, they would do well to consider a report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). On July 20, the agency designed by Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren released “Private Student Loans,” a devastating expose of the $150 billion private student loan industry, one of the banking world’s Goliaths. The report is both an official account of private lenders’ underhanded “subprime-style” tactics as well as a sharp warning against taking out private loans that put students at risk of financial ruin.
salon.com — Liberals and conservatives differ sharply on what the government should do to aid families in poverty, but just about everyone agrees that it should do something. Helping to alleviate the impact of poverty and providing young people with opportunities to escape it: that has historically been one of the essential functions of any national government, right up there with building bridges and defending borders. But while Americans remain as committed as ever to helping their less fortunate neighbors succeed, something important has changed in the past few decades: what was once a noisy and impassioned national conversation about how best to combat poverty has faded almost to silence. It is not that poverty itself has disappeared. Far from it. Something else has happened in the past decade or so that also helps explain why the poverty debate disappeared: it merged with the education debate.
[My guest blogger today is Rob Levine. Rob is a Minneapolis-based researcher whose writing focuses on the media, conservative philanthropy and education. His writing can be found at the Cucking Stool blog.] more »
aflcio.org — As a low-income and first-generation college student in my family, the subject of student loans has been a matter of acute concern to me. High school counselors constantly told me that student loans are “good debt.” This type of information made it justifiable for peers in similar socioeconomic situations to borrow federal and private loans. But lenders take advantage of first-time borrowers by failing to explain in full detail future payment plans, which may cause individuals to be fiscally unprepared for post-graduate life. Current student debt trends must be fixed in order to stop setting up graduates for a lifetime of financial struggles. While the nation engages in debate about the country’s financial future, the topic of student debt must be recognized as an important issue and for its potentially crippling impact on the lives of young college graduates and as an effect of the strength of our economic recovery.
inequality.org — Over the past three years, the economy has grown at an average rate of 2.2 percent per year. The economic recession is economic history. But the jobs recession is reality. The U.S. economy may have gained 2.7 million jobs over the past three years, but it still employs 4.8 million fewer people than it used to. Many of those lost jobs were in public education. Education employment fell by 306,000 in the three school years following the end of the recession in June 2009. It’s set to fall even further this year. If the economy is expanding and job creation is our top priority, why are local school districts laying people off? Governments at all levels are cutting back their investments in public education. The problem isn’t a lack of money. The problem is where the money is going.
huffingtonpost.com — Today's SAT prep question (and answer): Ayn Rand:philosophy as Chuck E.Cheese:fine dining. Even at age 16, when I waded through Atlas Shrugged out of curiosity, I experienced her worldview as cartoonish, filled with absurd caricatures, and about as philosophically sophisticated as a Batman episode. Complex human issues cannot be effectively addressed by seeing the world in heroes and villains, black and white, absolute right and wrong. The direst threat to our national well-being is posed by the Romney/Ryan highly selective embrace of Ayn Rand's so-called philosophy. While avoiding her atheism and other inconvenient dimensions of her amateurish objectivism, the GOP ticket embodies the Randian notion of rugged individualism. This election may present the most profound political choice of our lifetime. Nowhere is this threat more acutely realized than in education.
epi.org — We cannot remedy the large racial achievement gaps in American education if we continue to close our eyes to the continued racial segregation of schools, owing primarily to the continued segregation of our neighborhoods. We pretend that this segregation is nobody’s fault in particular (we call it “de facto” segregation), and that therefore there is nothing we can or should do about it. Instead, we think that somehow we can devise reform programs that will create separate but equal education. One after another of these programs has failed — more teacher accountability and charter schools being only the latest — but we persist. The presidential campaign can be a reminder, though, of the opportunities we’ve missed and continue to miss.
Just like you can count on "Back to School" season cranking up retail sales this time of year, you can also count on it bringing on a new volley of criticism aimed at school teachers and their unions. more »
alternet.org — Once upon a time, labor unions enjoyed a fair amount of political legitimacy among both the public and political elites. Yet over the last three decades, the power of unions has decreased steadily -- especially as a result of the hostility to business regulation that characterized Reagan-era politics of the 1980s, and the anti-communist Cold War propaganda of the time that made the general public more suspicious than ever of labor activism. But if unions as a whole have taken a reputational hit over the last 30 years, teachers unions in particular have found themselves especially demonized. Yet by a number of important measures, there is no doubt that teachers unions continue to play a vital role in the health and well-being of our schools, the teachers who work in them and the children they serve. Here are six reasons teachers unions continue to be good for America’s kids.