Can President Obama's New Metrics Curb College Costs?

Aug 23, 2013Mike Konczal

(Photo Source: White House)

President Obama just announced a major initiative on higher education. Will it contain or reverse rising costs?

I want to discuss the part of it that seems most tailored to containing costs, which is creating new higher education metrics to compare schools. These metrics will be created by 2015, which will be used to determine access to federal dollars such as student loans and Pell grants by 2018.

From the fact sheet, the to-be-determined rankings will be based on three things: access, affordability, and outcomes. Access includes “percentage of students receiving Pell grants,” affordability includes “average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt,” and outcomes includes graduation rates and earnings.

Here are my initial thoughts as I try to understand this. The tl;dr version is that it is important that these metrics are used to drive down private costs relative to public, expose administrative bloat, put pressure on the states, and bring accountability to the for-profits. If they don’t do that, they’re a waste on the cost-containment front. Now, here are six more detailed points to consider about how the metrics will be implemented and what effects they will have:

1. The Goals Will Run Counter to Each Other. The efforts to increase graduation rates and have better post-graduation outcomes may require more spending by colleges. Some colleges in each of the meta-categories are likely to be booted for bad performance, or the metrics will make attending the worst-performing colleges so expensive as to drag them into a death spiral. Good as that may be for education, it will collapse the supply of higher education in the short term, putting more price pressure on existing institutions.

Which is to say that we should distinguish efforts to increase quality through access and outcomes from efforts to contain costs. Students graduating on time will make colleges de facto more affordable, and perhaps that is mainly what the president is looking for.  But that is not entirely cost containment.

2. The Student-Consumer or the Government? What’s different here? As Sara Goldrick-Rab and others argue, one reason cost containment has failed in the past “may stem from the financial aid system’s strong focus on the behaviors of ‘student-consumers’ rather than education providers.”

It’s not clear to me why empowering these “student-consumers,” who go about rationally analyzing disclosed data in the marketplace for education, would give them the ability to make the demands necessary to contain costs at universities as a whole. One could see them driving out obviously underperforming institutions from the landscape, but it’s much harder to imagine them forcing institutions to contain costs, at least without political struggle.

Students themselves are quite aware of the increasing costs in the past few years, with endless “click here to know what you are borrowing” measures that likely don’t do much. There’s really little evidence that an additional range of disclosures would make the institutions here more accountable or force them to contain their costs.

Which is to say that we should focus less on disclosure and the consumer regime for cost containment, and more on how the government will force changes itself by making aid less available unless an affordability metric is met.

3 The Obvious Information to Disclose. Talking about “the problem of higher education costs” is a major category error, as they vary by institution. The factors that cause community colleges to raise tuition (decreasing public support) are different than those facing for-profits (maximizing aid extraction) or private not-for-profits (maximizing prestige and consumer experience).

Consistent across all of these is the idea that increasing administrative costs are a major driver of costs. This strikes me as the obvious, and perhaps only, metric where the consumer-student could force containment and best practices.

So a very obvious thing to inform consumers of is “how much of my tuition goes to instruction?” If consumer-students want to force down football coach salaries and investment in extravagant non-instructional benefits, this is the most obvious way to do it and can be plastered across every disclosure form.

(Another question I think is important, which would be great to deal with for-profits, is to disclose “how much of my tuition will be paid out to shareholders?” Consumers may or may not be happy with paying extra to build a more gigantic football stadium; they are probably not happy paying money that leaves the educational institution entirely.)

4. Taking on Private Universities. It’s worth noting here that these metrics will be applied to private schools as well, using all of the government’s Title IV money (grants and student loans and everything else) as the leverage. And this is probably the major challenge, as private schools will not like this, and they have a lot of political coverage. Who among the elite hasn’t gone to a prominent private university?

In a recent editorial on these new metrics, Sara Goldrick-Rab notes the danger that President Obama will “cave to the private higher-education lobby.” For if private higher education’s “expenses are so merited, we should see bigger gains at private elites than at we do at less-expensive institutions, not just higher graduation rates. None of that is happening now.”

I’m curious how the metrics will “compare colleges with similar missions.” Will they compare public schools and private schools on the issue of cost containment at a given a level of quality? They should, as directly funded public options can drive down the costs of privately allocated goods, but if they do, that will necessarily put a lot of pressure on private schools.

Interestingly, this could lead to a situation where private universities just leave the federal support system. Harvard, for instance, could just say “forget you” to the federal government and fund whatever aid it wants out of its own endowment. This move might split reformers, even though it would likely be for the best.

5. Taking on the States. This is the most incoherent part of Obama’s pitch about the metrics. In the fact sheet, President Obama noted that “[d]eclining state funding has forced students to shoulder a bigger proportion of college costs; tuition has almost doubled as a share of public college revenues over the past 25 years from 25 percent to 47 percent.” Yet at the same time he talks about bloat and waste as drivers. Both could be true, but if the first is a main driver then individual rankings of schools will have a problem.

One way to balance this would be to rank states themselves alongside schools. Demos proposes “an additional ratings system: why don’t we rate state legislatures on their per-student investment in higher education?” This could be useful in giving people in different states a much better sense of what their public higher education looks like. Crucially, it would also adjust for the fact that state education systems function as a continuum with multiple levels and transfers up and down the educational ladder.

6. Political Battles. A lot of commentators are arguing this is a battle between President Obama and liberal professors, so it is unlikely to trigger GOP opposition. I’m not sure about that. The real people who will disproportionately end up in the crosshairs if this is done well, as listed above, are (a) administrators taking inflated salaries, (b) private and flagship schools that provided little value at very high costs, and c) for-profits.

I think Josh Barro misses that for-profit schools are a major GOP constituency. George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Sally Stroup, was a former University of Phoenix lobbyist, and led a successful effort to remove restrictions on for-profit schools. On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney name-dropped a for-profit school that happened to donate to him. Insofar as the Obama administration will try to use these metrics to get a second bite at curbing the for-profit industry as it failed to do in its first term, that will set off alarm bells.

Meanwhile, as noted above, basically every elite within 100 yards of D.C. politics, particularly in elite media and Democratic politics (e.g. “He was my professor actually at Harvard”), functions like a member of a private higher education lobby. How will they react if the hammer comes down there?

There’s a lot of emphasis on getting poor students on Pell grants into high-end schools. That is a good goal. However, the issues with costs and higher education go far beyond this and affect families who are not rich but don’t qualify for means-tested aid. They are the ones who will increasingly demand cost containment.

Something will eventually give. The question remains as to whether or not these metrics will be used to drive down private costs relative to public, expose administrative bloat, put pressure on the states, and bring accountability to the for-profits. If they do, it’s a positive sign; if not, a waste or worse when it comes to cost containment.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:

  

 

(Photo Source: White House)

President Obama just announced a major initiative on higher education. Will it contain or reverse rising costs?

I want to discuss the part of it that seems most tailored to containing costs, which is creating new higher education metrics to compare schools. These metrics will be created by 2015, which will be used to determine access to federal dollars such as student loans and Pell grants by 2018.

From the fact sheet, the to-be-determined rankings will be based on three things: access, affordability, and outcomes. Access includes “percentage of students receiving Pell grants,” affordability includes “average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt,” and outcomes includes graduation rates and earnings.

Here are my initial thoughts as I try to understand this. The tl;dr version is that it is important that these metrics are used to drive down private costs relative to public, expose administrative bloat, put pressure on the states, and bring accountability to the for-profits. If they don’t do that, they’re a waste on the cost-containment front. Now, here are six more detailed points to consider about how the metrics will be implemented and what effects they will have:

1. The Goals Will Run Counter to Each Other. The efforts to increase graduation rates and have better post-graduation outcomes may require more spending by colleges. Some colleges in each of the meta-categories are likely to be booted for bad performance, or the metrics will make attending the worst-performing colleges so expensive as to drag them into a death spiral. Good as that may be for education, it will collapse the supply of higher education in the short term, putting more price pressure on existing institutions.

Which is to say that we should distinguish efforts to increase quality through access and outcomes from efforts to contain costs. Students graduating on time will make colleges de facto more affordable, and perhaps that is mainly what the president is looking for.  But that is not entirely cost containment.

2. The Student-Consumer or the Government? What’s different here? As Sara Goldrick-Rab and others argue, one reason cost containment has failed in the past “may stem from the financial aid system’s strong focus on the behaviors of ‘student-consumers’ rather than education providers.”

It’s not clear to me why empowering these “student-consumers,” who go about rationally analyzing disclosed data in the marketplace for education, would give them the ability to make the demands necessary to contain costs at universities as a whole. One could see them driving out obviously underperforming institutions from the landscape, but it’s much harder to imagine them forcing institutions to contain costs, at least without political struggle.

Students themselves are quite aware of the increasing costs in the past few years, with endless “click here to know what you are borrowing” measures that likely don’t do much. There’s really little evidence that an additional range of disclosures would make the institutions here more accountable or force them to contain their costs.

Which is to say that we should focus less on disclosure and the consumer regime for cost containment, and more on how the government will force changes itself by making aid less available unless an affordability metric is met.

3 The Obvious Information to Disclose. Talking about “the problem of higher education costs” is a major category error, as they vary by institution. The factors that cause community colleges to raise tuition (decreasing public support) are different than those facing for-profits (maximizing aid extraction) or private not-for-profits (maximizing prestige and consumer experience).

Consistent across all of these is the idea that increasing administrative costs are a major driver of costs. This strikes me as the obvious, and perhaps only, metric where the consumer-student could force containment and best practices.

So a very obvious thing to inform consumers of is “how much of my tuition goes to instruction?” If consumer-students want to force down football coach salaries and investment in extravagant non-instructional benefits, this is the most obvious way to do it and can be plastered across every disclosure form.

(Another question I think is important, which would be great to deal with for-profits, is to disclose “how much of my tuition will be paid out to shareholders?” Consumers may or may not be happy with paying extra to build a more gigantic football stadium; they are probably not happy paying money that leaves the educational institution entirely.)

4. Taking on Private Universities. It’s worth noting here that these metrics will be applied to private schools as well, using all of the government’s Title IV money (grants and student loans and everything else) as the leverage. And this is probably the major challenge, as private schools will not like this, and they have a lot of political coverage. Who among the elite hasn’t gone to a prominent private university?

In a recent editorial on these new metrics, Sara Goldrick-Rab notes the danger that President Obama will “cave to the private higher-education lobby.” For if private higher education’s “expenses are so merited, we should see bigger gains at private elites than at we do at less-expensive institutions, not just higher graduation rates. None of that is happening now.”

I’m curious how the metrics will “compare colleges with similar missions.” Will they compare public schools and private schools on the issue of cost containment at a given a level of quality? They should, as directly funded public options can drive down the costs of privately allocated goods, but if they do, that will necessarily put a lot of pressure on private schools.

Interestingly, this could lead to a situation where private universities just leave the federal support system. Harvard, for instance, could just say “forget you” to the federal government and fund whatever aid it wants out of its own endowment. This move might split reformers, even though it would likely be for the best.

5. Taking on the States. This is the most incoherent part of Obama’s pitch about the metrics. In the fact sheet, President Obama noted that “[d]eclining state funding has forced students to shoulder a bigger proportion of college costs; tuition has almost doubled as a share of public college revenues over the past 25 years from 25 percent to 47 percent.” Yet at the same time he talks about bloat and waste as drivers. Both could be true, but if the first is a main driver then individual rankings of schools will have a problem.

One way to balance this would be to rank states themselves alongside schools. Demos proposes “an additional ratings system: why don’t we rate state legislatures on their per-student investment in higher education?” This could be useful in giving people in different states a much better sense of what their public higher education looks like. Crucially, it would also adjust for the fact that state education systems function as a continuum with multiple levels and transfers up and down the educational ladder.

6. Political Battles. A lot of commentators are arguing this is a battle between President Obama and liberal professors, so it is unlikely to trigger GOP opposition. I’m not sure about that. The real people who will disproportionately end up in the crosshairs if this is done well, as listed above, are (a) administrators taking inflated salaries, (b) private and flagship schools that provided little value at very high costs, and c) for-profits.

I think Josh Barro misses that for-profit schools are a major GOP constituency. George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Sally Stroup, was a former University of Phoenix lobbyist, and led a successful effort to remove restrictions on for-profit schools. On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney name-dropped a for-profit school that happened to donate to him. Insofar as the Obama administration will try to use these metrics to get a second bite at curbing the for-profit industry as it failed to do in its first term, that will set off alarm bells.

Meanwhile, as noted above, basically every elite within 100 yards of D.C. politics, particularly in elite media and Democratic politics (e.g. “He was my professor actually at Harvard”), functions like a member of a private higher education lobby. How will they react if the hammer comes down there?

There’s a lot of emphasis on getting poor students on Pell grants into high-end schools. That is a good goal. However, the issues with costs and higher education go far beyond this and affect families who are not rich but don’t qualify for means-tested aid. They are the ones who will increasingly demand cost containment.

Something will eventually give. The question remains as to whether or not these metrics will be used to drive down private costs relative to public, expose administrative bloat, put pressure on the states, and bring accountability to the for-profits. If they do, it’s a positive sign; if not, a waste or worse when it comes to cost containment.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:

  

 

College graduation banner image via Shutterstock.com

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Daily Digest - August 22: Doing Better Than Student Loans

Aug 21, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Four Ideas For How Obama Could Really Transform The Cost Of College (ThinkProgress)

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Four Ideas For How Obama Could Really Transform The Cost Of College (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert presents four truly transformative ideas, which would have far more effect than keeping student loan interest rates low. She pulls from Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konzcal for her fourth suggestion: make public colleges and universities free.

  • Roosevelt Take: In the piece referenced, Mike looked at how much the government spends on loans and related tax breaks, and suggested that the same funds could cover the cost of public higher education outright.

Elderly More Likely to Be Employed Than Teens (WSJ)

Ben Casselman reports that while ten years ago, a teenage boy was twice as likely to have a job as his 70 year old grandfather, today, the grandfather is more likely to be employed. The decline reflects the jobless recovery of the early 2000s and today's tough market.

How Low Can You Get: The Minimum Wage Scam (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore thinks that the problem isn't just a too-low minimum wage, but a too-low total compensation, including benefits. The nonexistent benefits of low-wage jobs are costing the American government big bucks, while corporate profits skyrocket.

For Retailers, Low Wages Aren’t Working Out (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson looks at the change in how the owners of big retailers consider labor since the 1920s. Back then, retail supported the minimum wage, five-day work weeks, and unions, and retail and labor thrived together.

Two Graphs Showing, Decisively, That Obamacare Is Not Creating a Permanent Part-Time America (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson examines the data, which proves that part-time work has actually decreased since the Affordable Care Act was passed. The big increase began, rather intuitively, with the Great Recession.

Warren Asks DOJ to Explain 'Timid' FHA Settlement (The Hill)

Peter Schroeder reports that Senator Warren finds the settlement between mortgage servicers and the Federal Housing Authority to be shockingly low. The settlement is less than one percent of the maximum liability, and the Senator wants the DOJ to explain their math.

This One Photo From 1998 Includes Everybody Involved in the Fed Chair Decision (WaPo)

Neil Irwin uses a photo of Bill Clinton talking about the economy to demonstrate just how little the Democratic economics team has changed over the years. The only people missing from the photo are Tim Geithner and a certain then-Illinois state senator.

New on Next New Deal

New Rule: Your Financial Advisor Should Actually Work for You

I wrote on the proposed changes to ethical standards for the financial services industry, and why it's necessary for more advisors to be fiduciaries. Under current rules, most advisors only need to provide "suitable" investment products, and suitable doesn't been best.

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Daily Digest - August 14: Disrupting Cable Not So Simple

Aug 14, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

The Future Of Television (Diane Rehm Show)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford discusses the limits of how web-based models like Netfix can disrupt traditional cable television. Without high-speed internet access, none of these models work, and the cable companies control most broadband.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

The Future Of Television (Diane Rehm Show)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford discusses the limits of how web-based models like Netfix can disrupt traditional cable television. Without high-speed internet access, none of these models work, and the cable companies control most broadband.

Bash Brothers: How Globalization and Technology Teamed Up to Crush Middle-Class Workers (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson explains a new study that found that the monolith "globalizationandtechnology" is actually two forces working in tandem. Globalization increases unemployment overall, while technology increases inequality by replacing middle-class jobs.

U.S. Budget Cuts Hitting Long-Term Unemployed Hard (Reuters)

Paige Gance reports on the struggles facing the long-term unemployed as their benefits are cut due to sequestration. A study shows that callbacks for job interviews dramatically decrease after long stretches of unemployment, which doesn't help her interview subjects.

Parents Losing Jobs a Hidden Cost to Head Start Cuts (Bloomberg)

William Selway reminds us that Head Start exists to provide preschool to low-income kids, so now that sequestration is cutting spots, the parents have no where else to turn. Without the means to pay for childcare, they can't go to work.

Paying It Forward on Student Debt (TAP)

Monica Potts reports that following Oregon's new pay-it-forward plan for college tuition, a number of other states are proposing similar plans. The plans are becoming more sophisticated, and begin to address the critiques of Oregon's model.

Don’t Take My Pension!: The Looming Public Worker Nightmare (Salon)

Adam J. Levitin suggests that public pensions ought to be insured, just like private guaranteed-benefit pension plans. That would solve the problems facing municipalities like Detroit as they face difficult decisions regarding retirees during bankruptcy.

Best-Paid Women in S&P 500 Settle for Less Remuneration (Bloomberg)

Carol Hymowitz and Cécile Daurat look at the compensation of top female executives, and find that even on that level, women are being paid less than men. Their 82 cents to men's dollar can't be explained by levels of experience or skill.

The Justice Department is Blocking the US Airways-American Merger. Here’s Why. (WaPo)

Brad Plumer says that the Department of Justice lawsuit claim that the merger would reduce competition in several key markets is probably true. The merged airline would have absolutely no nonstop competition on seven routes.

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The History of Higher Ed Shows Education is a Right, Not an "Investment"

Jul 29, 2013Mario Goetz

Tuition wasn't always so high, student loans didn't always have those interest rates, and the public higher education system could still return to its roots in social mobility and inclusion.

Tuition wasn't always so high, student loans didn't always have those interest rates, and the public higher education system could still return to its roots in social mobility and inclusion.

For many Millennials, the present higher education system exudes an overwhelming sense of permanence. In our short lives, college tuition has always been high, education funding has always been decreasing, and college has always meant a risky “investment in our futures.” We know that these yearly tuition hikes are wrong, and that the current tuition rates already saddle us with debt we probably won’t pay off until we retire, if we retire. For many of us, the consequences are much more immediate, as many low-income students cannot afford higher education anymore. Yet we continue to shell out the money, or take out the loans. Confronted with the institutional power of the higher education system, we feel powerless.

Depressing, right? But history shows us that all is not lost by exposing the mechanisms that brought about the status quo. In their Fall 2012 article in Dissent, Aaron Bady and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal reveal what higher education used to mean and how it was systematically destroyed. Bady and Konczal transport us to 1950s-'60s California, where bipartisan support for a University of California system built the state into a land of prosperity and innovation, a burgeoning middle class sent its children to college for free, and progressive Republicans happily funded education to support inclusion and social mobility for California’s next generation. In 1960, the Donahoe Act, or the Master Plan for Higher Education, represented California’s commitment to educate anyone who wanted to be educated. Despite the concurrent trends of racism, sexism, and American imperialism that pervaded that era, California’s higher education system was a golden example of what America could achieve.

So what happened? Where did it go? In 1966, Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California and began dismantling the promising work of the past 20 years. Previously, admission had been free, except for a few relatively small fees, but the Reagan government lifted regulations on how much schools could charge in fees, allowing costs to skyrocket. Also, incentives were created for colleges to accept out-of-state students, who would pay higher fees. Both of these strategies shifted the financial responsibility for higher education onto students rather than the state. The process of culturally redefining higher education as not a right, or a public good, but an investment, subject to the whims of the marketplace and corporate capitalism, had begun.

Reagan’s policies continued to affect Californian higher education after he left office. Bady and Konczal point out two of the most important elements of his legacy: Proposition 13, which cut property taxes and capped their growth rate, limiting state property tax revenue; and the prison-building boom. These policies not only decreased the amount of money the state could use to fund higher education, but also diverted a greater portion away to build prisons. Since then, state investment in higher education has decreased dramatically. Such cuts in spending came as demand for higher education continued to rise, driving up costs even further and restricting access.

This conservative rethinking of higher education did not stay in California. The destruction of public education in California was the first domino in the Reagan revolution, reflected in Reagan’s policies as president and in the policies of governors in other states. Bady and Konczal appropriately call California policies “the beginning of the end of public higher education in the United States as we’d known it.”

These policies were the first cells of a virus that grew and replicated so effectively that it eventually posed as the institutional normal. Today, it can be hard to see through the elaborate and restrictive veil that separates us from our education. However, by understanding how it all began, we can see that the all-powerful system we inherited is not permanent. By identifying how it started, we can condemn it and clear a path toward restoring our values and our institutions.

Higher education was never meant to be an “investment.” It was meant to be a public good -- a right. Pursuing dreams of a college education should not require dire consequences that threaten to cancel out its benefits. Progressives and Millenials will not continue to absorb the seemingly incremental infringements on our rights and liberties. We understand history. We understand that the system was not and is not forever. Today, students fight increases in student loan interest rates, challenging the institutions that say the higher interest rates are necessary. We can take back higher education for ourselves: fight to decrease tuition and fees, increase access for all, and make higher education something we can truly be proud of as Americans.

Mario Goetz is a Junior at the University of Michigan and a Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Summer Academy Fellow working as the Campus Network Field Intern.

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Daily Digest - July 26: The Trouble with Summers's Silence

Jul 26, 2013Tim Price

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Should Obama pick Larry Summers to head the Fed? (Politico)

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Should Obama pick Larry Summers to head the Fed? (Politico)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal writes that while Ben Bernanke led the Fed through a crisis, his successor will need to build consensus and establish the central bank's new normal. That's a problem given that Summers hasn't said a word about the biggest debates he'll have to settle.

Even as economy rebounds, income inequality festers (MoneyWatch)

Charles Wilbanks notes that most American remain deeply dissatisfied with an economy in which workers at the bottom see their wages fall while those at the top are making money hand over fist. And to add insult to injury, taxpayers are forced to subsidize their bosses' raises.

The day the right lost the economic argument (Salon)

Michael Lind argues that President Obama's Knox College speech offered a strong and broadly appealing summary of progressive economic theory focused on manufacturing, innovation, infrastructure, and education, while the House Republicans' alternative plan offered nothing in particular.

Some Democrats Look to Push Party Away from Center (NYT)

Jonathan Martin writes that as Democrats contemplate their future post-Obama, many are advocating for a populist approach to economic policy, financial reform, and rising inequality rather than the murky middle ground that the party's leaders have settled for since the '90s.

White House hardens stance on budget cuts ahead of showdown with Republicans (WaPo)

Zachary Goldfarb and Paul Kane report that the Obama administration may force a government shutdown come September if Republicans in Congress refuse to undo sequestration and continue to demand deeper cuts to a budget they've already carved to the bone.

Congress to Fed: End Too-Big-to-Fail Already! (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger notes that Dodd-Frank requires the Fed to implement rules to scale back its emergency lending powers, but three years since the law was passed, the central bank still just says it's working on it. Things like this don't happen overnight. Or even over 1,095 nights.

Why 17 liberal senators voted against the student loan "deal" (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm writes that while the Senate finally passed legislation to address the doubling of federal student loan interest rates, progressives weren't willing to swallow a compromise that lowered students' rates now while guaranteeing they'll have to pay even more in the future.

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Daily Digest - July 19: Shouldn't Students Like a Student Loan Deal?

Jul 19, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Senate Strikes Student Loan Deal; Not Good Enough, says U.S. Student Association (USA Today)

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Senate Strikes Student Loan Deal; Not Good Enough, says U.S. Student Association (USA Today)

Sean McMinn reports that the Senate has reached a deal on student loans, but the plan would allow rates to rise over time, even above the 6.8% that caused this fight. Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's partner on this issue, USSA, finds that to be an unacceptable compromise.

The Student Victims of Washington's Deficit Obsession (The New Yorker)

James Surowiecki argues that the student loan fight is really about the differences in fiscal and monetary policy desires in the U.S.. The obsession with cutting the deficit calls for higher rates and lowers growth, while the Fed wants low interest rates that help pump money into the economy.

Get a Clue, McDonald’s: The Other Insult No One’s Talking About (Salon)

Paul Campos argues that the most offensive part of McDonald's new budget website for their employees isn't that it calls for two nearly full-time jobs, but that it even exists. Poor people, he claims, know how to budget better than anyone, because otherwise they cannot buy necessities.

The Lessons of Belle Glade (NYT)

Cindy Hahamovitch worries that Congress has forgotten lessons of the past regarding abuse of migrant farmworkers. The House Republican alternative to the Senate immigration bill is particularly concerning, because it entirely lacks protections for migrant workers.

Why the Gender Pay Gap Is Worse for Whites Than Blacks (National Journal)

Niraj Chokshi explains why the gender pay gap is so much smaller for blacks and Hispanics. They earn less overall, and the jobs at that end of the labor market have less room for men to pull ahead.

New Class Of Businesses Look To Boost Support For Pro-Worker Policies (ThinkProgress)

Katherine Richard looks at benefit corporations, a new corporate legal status that requires third party evaluation of social and environmental performance. This structure encourages worker-friendly policies, like flexible scheduling and paid sick leave.

Obamacare a Boon to Entrepreneurs (TAP)

David Callahan argues that the Affordable Care Act is great for small businesses. Reports from New York show that the law is bringing down insurance premiums in that state, so potential entrepreneurs and small business owners will have access to better, more affordable plans.

Detroit Just Filed for Bankruptcy. Here’s How It Got There. (WaPo)

Brad Plumer breaks down the problems the city faced that led to bankruptcy. Between population decline, high unemployment, and low tax revenue, it's clear how Detroit reached this state, but solutions aren't yet apparent.

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Daily Digest - July 12: Stand Up for Workers and Wages

Jul 12, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Wal-Mart Won’t Open 3 D.C. Stores Due to Wage Law (Bloomberg TV)

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Wal-Mart Won’t Open 3 D.C. Stores Due to Wage Law (Bloomberg TV)

Erik Schatzker speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren on the D.C. living wage law. Dorian suggests that the mayor shouldn't veto the bill, because Wal-Mart's need to expand in new markets will overpower its distaste for higher wages.

An Oregon Trail to End Student Debt (The Nation)

Katrina vanden Heuvel sees Oregon's new model for financing post-secondary education as an example of how progressives can still achieve real innovative change. Instead of paying tuition up front, Oregon students will pay a percentage of their income for twenty years after graduation.

Want to Fix the US Student Loan Crisis? Put Colleges on the Hook (The Guardian)

Helaine Olen suggests that student loan risk should be put on the schools, by financially penalizing those with high default rates. The price of college needs to drop, but for now this would create an incentive to minimize loans in students' aid package.

Going Abroad With Dodd-Frank (TAP)

David Dayen carefully lays out the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's struggle with a rule regulating foreign derivative trades that is scheduled to be finalized today. He explains why it isn't likely to happen, and how this relates to the broader picture of financial regulation.

Senators Introduce Bill to Separate Trading Activities From Big Banks (NYT)

Peter Eavis reports on the 21st Century Glass-Steagal Act, sponsored by Senators Warren and McCain, and two others. Like the original, passed during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term, this bill would mandate a strict separation between banking and speculative activities.

The House Just Passed a Farm Bill with no Money for Food Stamps. What Does That Mean? (WaPo)

Brad Plumer looks at three options for what could happen now that the House has passed the SNAP-free farm bill. The scariest option would cause SNAP funding to lapse on September 30, leaving millions of people scrambling to afford groceries.

Child Care on the Third Shift (WaPo)

Brigid Schulte explains just how difficult it can be for low-wage workers to obtain child care. In retail and hospitality, the fastest growing sectors in today's economy, schedules are erratic and non-traditional, which only increases child care costs.

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Daily Digest - July 2: Staying in Small Town, USA

Jul 2, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Roosevelt’s Legacy, Burning Brightly (NYT)

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Roosevelt’s Legacy, Burning Brightly (NYT)

Edward Rothstein reports on the newly renovated Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. The overhaul, the first since FDR dedicated the library in 1941, has been open to the public since Sunday.

Bright Kids, Small City (TAP)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz speaks to Millennials who have chosen to live in Harrisburg, PA on why they are staying in the Rust Belt, reversing a fifty-year trend of young people moving away. A risk-averse approach to money is central to that decision.

Washington Shrugs as Student Loan Rates Double (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm explains why no one in Congress seems to be doing anything about yesterday's student loan interest rate hike. Congress feels no urgency when the next set of loans won't be taken out until August, so they’re taking a break for the holiday instead.

We Must Hate Our Children (Salon)

Joan Walsh can't come up with any other reason that we would accept the idea that incurring massive amounts of debt for school is a necessary part of starting out in life.

Don't Blame Unemployment Insurance for Our Jobs Crisis (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien looks at a study that shows that the labor market is just broken, and collecting unemployment insurance doesn't stop people from looking for jobs. Cutting benefits just keeps people from being able to pay their bills, which doesn't exactly help the economy.

War on the Unemployed (NYT)

Paul Krugman questions why the benefit cuts in North Carolina and other actions against the unemployed aren't getting more attention. Punishing the unemployed won't increase economic growth, which means it won't help anyone get a new job faster.

Non-Union Federally-Contracted Workers Will Stage Second Strike Today (The Nation)

Josh Eidelson continues to report on the strikes organized by Good Jobs Nation to pressure the federal government to raise labor standards for federal contractors. Strikers report violations of minimum wage and overtime laws by contractors who work in federal buildings.

The Truth About Immigration Reform and the Economy (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich counters three myths about how immigration reform will affect the economy. Our economic struggles, both short-term and long-term, could actually be nicely solved by a large increase in young workers paying into the system.

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Daily Digest - July 1: New Pot Industry, New Pot Regulations

Jul 1, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Legalizing Marijuana is Hard. Regulating a Pot Industry is Even Harder. (WaPo)

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Legalizing Marijuana is Hard. Regulating a Pot Industry is Even Harder. (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal looks at the questions surrounding the new legal marijuana market in Washington state, which is regulated by the Liquor Control Board. The challenges are numerous, and the state's priorities for regulation are still unclear.

Limits to Growth – of What? (TripleCrisis)

James K. Boyce sees growth of national income as a poor measure of national prosperity, because everything from the BP oil spill to the prison system contributes to growth. He thinks policy goals need to shift from pro-growth to growing the good and shrinking the bad.

Signed, Sealed, Deposited (Pacific Standard)

David Dayen suggests that we save the Postal Service by returning to postal banking, which would not only bring in new income but also offer simple inexpensive banking services to the millions of unbanked and underbanked Americans.

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Stephanie Clifford reveal the hidden costs of being paid via payroll cards. The fees for withdrawls, statements, inactivity, and more can result in employees who functionally make less than minimum wage.

North Carolina Axes Benefits for Long-Term Unemployed (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports that because they cut their maximum benefit, North Carolina is ineligible for federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation. They've also cut the timeline, so where other Americans can collect unemployment for up to 99 weeks, North Carolinians will be limited to 19.

44% of Young College Grads Are Underemployed (and That's Good News) (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissmann looks at 23 years of recent college graduate unemployment and underemployment, and it's clear that things haven't changed much: unemployment remains in step with all working adults, and underemployment hasn't changed much either.

It’s Not Just the Interest Rate: How Congress Can Help Students (The Nation)

Zoë Carpenter examines other changes Congress could make to the student loan system, even as they've failed to stop the interest rate increase. Her suggestions, such as better income based repayment options, would have far more effect on current debtors.

New from the Roosevelt Institute

Are Less Visible Taxes Really the Answer?

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Elizabeth Pearson makes the case that public opinion about taxation is malleable and that progressives should focus on raising awareness of the purpose of taxation and the benefits taxes will produce.

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Daily Digest - June 14: When Labor Laws are Applied

Jun 14, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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New York Aims to Treat Underage Models as Child Performers (NYT)

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New York Aims to Treat Underage Models as Child Performers (NYT)

Eric Wilson reports that the New York State Legislature has approved a measure that changes labor laws affecting fashion. It's possible that this could force an aesthetic change on the industry, which produces clothes for women and shows them on girls.

Congress Turns Its Back on Rural America (Bill Moyers)

Greg Kaufmann continues to examine the effect of sequestration across the country, this time with an emphasis on rural areas. If the only Head Start center in a small town in Kansas is closed, the nearest option will be many miles away.

The Student Debt Crisis Is Everyone's Problem (The Nation)

Robert Applebaum reminds us that higher education is not a product to be sold but a public good and an investment in the country's future. The entire economy is dragged down when graduates lack disposable income due to their loan payments.

The Two Centers of Unaccountable Power in America, and Their Consequences (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich compares the powers of the intelligence community to that of Wall Street and the big banks. He doesn't trust either of these groups with the power they have, but the law provides little accountability for any of their actions.

Fortress Unionism (Democracy)

Rich Yeselson lays out a history of private-sector unions in the United States, with suggestions for what unions can do today to maintain their work despite an unfriendly legal climate and low union participation.

Are unpaid internships illegal? (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews discusses this week's ruling that Fox Searchlight violated minimum wage and overtime laws with its interns, and questions how it will affect for-profit versus non-profit sectors. Media coverage of current cases already has many companies reviewing their internship programs.

Sympathy for the Luddites (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that as disruptive technologies eliminate jobs at all levels of skills and education, we must question whether education is still a solution to inequality. He says no, and that a stronger social safety net is needed to maintain the middle class.

Court: Human genes cannot be patented (CNN)

Bill Mears reports on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, which concerned one of the ultimate cases of patent trolling: a company patenting a human gene. In this case, it was the breast cancer gene, which Myriad developed the first test for but certainly did not create.

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