• Two Tiers of College Tuition? Not on This Campus

    Jul 28, 2014Mohanned Abdelhameed

    A two-tiered pricing system would create dramatic inequality of access to a college education.

    A college education is believed to help those that sacrifice and pursue their education achieve a better life. However, the graduating class of 2014 is the most indebted class in history. Students will graduate this year owing an average of $33,000 for their hard earned education. This problem grows worse as students currently face rising levels of tuition at all institutions.

    A two-tiered pricing system would create dramatic inequality of access to a college education.

    A college education is believed to help those that sacrifice and pursue their education achieve a better life. However, the graduating class of 2014 is the most indebted class in history. Students will graduate this year owing an average of $33,000 for their hard earned education. This problem grows worse as students currently face rising levels of tuition at all institutions.

    My school, San Bernardino Valley Community College, looked at a different type of tuition increase by volunteering as one of five colleges to pilot a two-tiered pricing system, which effectively gives an advantage to higher income students. Assembly Bill AB955 set up a pilot program of five schools to offer classes at higher prices during intermissions from the standard academic schedule, making students who want to finish school faster pay more out of pocket for their degree. Assembly Member Das Williams, who proposed the bill, argued in The Daily Californian that “at the start of the fall 2012 semester, more than 500,000 students were left on waiting lists and effectively turned away at community colleges throughout the state due to lack of availability.” If the pilot is successful, then the program will open to all colleges state wide.

    My school volunteered to participate in this pilot, because following the 2008 recession, budget cuts had forced the school to cut many classes. The administration needed a way to accommodate students that couldn’t get classes they needed in order to transfer or graduate. Many administrators were for the program because they believed they could make more space by offering classes in summer and winter sessions to students that would have to pay up to 300 percent more per unit. For instance, our normal tuition is $46 a unit, but in order to take the classes offered by this program students would have to pay an additional $230 non-resident tuition fee and a $19 capital outlay fee, totaling $295 per unit. Since most classes are three units, a class under this pricing model would cost $885 as opposed to the usual price of $138.

    Many students were opposed to this legislation. A student protest staged on November 14, 2013 at a meeting of the San Bernardino Community College District Board paused the offering of such a two-tiered pricing scheme for this summer, and the future of the program will be decided at a later date. A huge group of students spoke out against our school's participation by organizing and using our voices to tell our college board we wouldn’t allow our school to be privatized. There was no evidence for the assemblyman's conclusions. He claimed students would prefer the opportunity to finish faster at a higher cost, as opposed to waiting and using needed financial aid to finish their classes. There are almost 15,000 students attending San Bernardino Valley Community College, and 67 percent of the student body receives financial assistance. It is unlikely that students will be willing or able to pay out of pocket for their education, when these higher-priced classes aren't covered by financial aid.

    Students also opposed the bill because the argument that students could transfer out faster was untrue. Under the usual model of one low tuition rate for all units, many students take classes year round. With the two-tier pricing model, students that can’t afford to pay the grossly inflated price of units in winter and summer would be limited to classes in fall and spring, essentially making poorer students stay at a community college longer than their wealthier peers. Students were also concerned about how students paying full-price for these more expensive units would affect financial aid. There were also concerns that when policy makers saw students paying the higher prices, financial assistance given to other students would be at risk of defunding, ending access for those less fortunate.

    Access to college is meant to be a vehicle to success for those willing to work hard for it. This program would be asking students that have very little to pay more for school in the long run. Students' passion against this new law can be a great benefit for implementing change. There is always a beginning of a movement but what actually makes it a movement is the consistency to keep coming back and addressing the issues. The students at my school understand that the effort they showed can be a force. We can have a bright future by fighting for future students, who deserve the same chance those before us received. It would be a shame to stand idly by while students lose their opportunity for an education and a better life.

    Mohanned Abdelhameed is the Vice President of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network chapter at San Bernardino Valley Community College, where he is studying political economics.

    Photo by Amerique via Creative Commons license.

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  • Dorian Warren: Inequality Could Spark a Second Civil War

    Jul 28, 2014

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. Their assignment: be bold, and leave the conventional wisdom -- and their own opinions -- behind. In today's video, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren speculates on the political fallout of growing inequality over the next 20 years.

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. Their assignment: be bold, and leave the conventional wisdom -- and their own opinions -- behind. In today's video, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren speculates on the political fallout of growing inequality over the next 20 years.

    In his introductory post for the Next American Economy speculations series, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter noted that nearly half the participants at our recent convening believed that "if inequality trends continue, the political backlash will be so extreme that our current system will change drastically in the next 25 years." In the video below, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren takes that concept and runs with it, envisioning a scenario in which national cohesion deteriorates as the country becomes increasingly divided between elite enclaves and a decimated hinterland. The consequences: a 20 percent incarceration rate, all-out civil war, and the end of democracy.

    In his tragicomic scenario, he says, "Because politics was so hopeless, liberal democracy was a historical artifact. Since we transitioned to a civil oligarchy under one-party rule, many colleges and universities replaced political science departments with departments of molecular gastronomy."

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  • Mike Mathieu: Big Data is Watching You

    Jul 25, 2014

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. Their assignment: be bold, and leave the conventional wisdom -- and their own opinions -- behind. In today's video, tech entrepreneur Mike Mathieu imagines what happens when data-mining is done directly to the human brain.

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. Their assignment: be bold, and leave the conventional wisdom -- and their own opinions -- behind. In today's video, tech entrepreneur Mike Mathieu imagines what happens when data-mining is done directly to the human brain.

    Mike Mathieu, entrepreneur and founder of high-tech business incubator Front Seat, speculates on the future of technology, imagining a 100-million-fold increase in computer power that leads to a revolution in data and the "sensor-fication" of the entire world. By 2040, he says, we can wire computers directly to the brain to capture data. The economy grows, but some suggest "data becomes America's Dutch Disease." In a darker turn, we begin to see a loss of human freedoms as behavior is increasingly predicted, tracked, and incentivized according to data models.

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  • White House Summit Speakers: Look Beyond Congress for Action on Working Families

    Jul 24, 2014Julius Goldberg-Lewis

    The White House Summit on Working Families showed paths to creating change that work around a gridlocked Congress.

    The White House Summit on Working Families showed paths to creating change that work around a gridlocked Congress.

    On Monday, June 23, Roosevelt Institute Fellows and Campus Network members attended the White House Summit on Working Families in Washington, DC. The Summit, which was the culmination of months of town halls across the United States, presented the audience with the stark reality that in order to truly help working families, there must be a dramatic culture shift. The day was filled with speakers like the President, the Vice President, and both their wives, and the CEOs of multibillion-dollar companies and startups alike, all of whom shared anecdotes about their experiences as the breadwinners of working families.

    The focus of the conference was the need to change the outdated laws and culture that govern the modern-day workforce. Today, women make up 47% of the labor force, and 60% of children grow up in a family where both parents work. The status quo, however, leaves most Americans without access to any form of guaranteed leave, and even fewer with basic necessities such as paid maternity leave. Everyone has endured challenges finding a work/life balance, and as Vice President Biden explained in his own experience, not all employers are as forgiving as the people of Delaware when one needs to miss work to take care of a child. He pointed out that in his first years in the Senate he had the lowest attendance rate — but that his constituents gave him a chance. The summit challenged its participants to bring that kind of culture of flexibility and empathy to the workplace.

    The Summit illuminated the two mutually reinforcing paths that are necessary to ensure that working families have the ability to support themselves and care for their children and elderly parents. On a policy front, there is already the Family and Medical Leave Act, which stands as one of the few policy solutions in place to alleviate the burden on working families. However, this only covers 60% of workers and only guarantees unpaid leave, which is often an unworkable option for families that rely on a daily wage. The United States is alone among OECD countries in that we do not guarantee paid parental leave. Paid leave is necessary not only to soften the financial burden associated with having children, but also, as was repeated throughout breakout groups and panels, because parents who take maternity/paternity leave are far more likely to reenter the workforce than those who don’t. There also need to be long-term policy solutions that will ensure that a working family can earn a living wage. The Summit reiterated the push for a $10.10 minimum wage, and invited several business owners who pay a living wage and provide paid leave to share their success stories.

    Legislative change is not the only means of tackling this issue, and the Summit pointed out that as long as Congress remains gridlocked, it is up to businesses to implement higher wages and better leave policies on their own. Change at the business level requires that companies change both their explicit policies and their workplace cultures. Both in multinational companies and small businesses, it’s just as important for managers to offer paid leave as it is for them to take it themselves. While many workers in the US do, in fact, have access to some form of leave, workers often do not take full advantage of these benefits because of stigma or because no one else in the office uses all of their leave. The private sector must lead by proving that businesses can provide paid leave without hurting their bottom line (and sometimes even helping it), and by ensuring that people feel comfortable using that leave.

    Working families in the United States face numerous challenges, from providing care to their families when they need it to having the resources to do so, but if there was one message that was repeated throughout the Summit it was that there is a tremendous amount of energy to work with. On the legislative front, vast majorities of voters support a higher minimum wage and family leave. While Congress has not taken up the call to action, cities like New York and Seattle have taken it upon themselves to raise wages and ensure time off. The energy around this issue must be channeled in every way possible: by pressuring elected officials to pass laws, by encouraging business to raise their wages, and by fostering a culture where everyone feels comfortable putting their family first. 

    Julius Goldberg-Lewis is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Regional Coordinator for the Midwest and a Summer Academy Fellow in Washington, DC.

    Photo by Pete Souza.

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