Category Archives: Higher Education

‘Flexibility’ Hits University of Wisconsin Custodians

Source: Jason Lee, Labor Notes, August 14, 2014

Glenn Khalar is ex-military, a vet. He’s worked at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for 16 years. He was raised in the area, and brought up his own family there. He loves Superior, and partially credits the university’s program to retrain and hire veterans for getting him his job. But despite his passion, dedication, and modest wage, his job could soon be gone. In May, the campus announced plans to cut half its graduate programs, and sent “at-risk” notices to all 26 custodians and grounds workers—meaning they could be laid off at any time, and their jobs outsourced. The bookstore was outsourced on July 1. Why? It’s the familiar refrain, budget cuts—and jobs like Khalar’s are the first ones to go. In their quest for financial stability in dire times, campus administrators seem to think eliminating his $12 an hour will make all the difference. … But what happens to custodians here isn’t isolated. It’s part of a trend to apply a market-based, private model to public higher education. And the danger is spreading south. The threatened custodians and grounds workers are members of AFSCME. They have held protests and begun an online petition against the layoffs. The AFT local representing faculty and staff is supporting them. …

Closing the Race Gap: Alleviating Young African American Unemployment Through Education

Source: Rory O’Sullivan, Konrad Mugglestone, and Tom Allison, Young Invincibles, June 2014

The Great Recession forced a generation of young adults into joblessness, and no group was hit harder than young African Americans. Meager job opportunities exacerbated economic barriers already faced by this community, including persistent racial discrimination. This report shows how higher education can reduce economic disparities by increasing African Americans’ job prospects and earning potential. …

Educational Segregation, Tea Party Organizations, and Battles over Distributive Justice

Source: Rory McVeigh, Kraig Beyerlein, Burrel Vann Jr. American Sociological Review, Vol. 79 no. 4, August 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Competing visions of who is deserving of rewards and privileges, and different understandings of the fairness of reward allocation processes, are at the heart of political conflict. Indeed, social movement scholars generally agree that a key component of most, if not all, social movements is a shared belief that existing conditions are unfair and subject to change. In this article we consider the role that residential segregation by education level plays in shaping perceptions of distributive justice and, in turn, providing a context conducive to conservative political mobilization. We apply these ideas in an analysis of Tea Party activism and show that educational segregation is a strong predictor of the number of Tea Party organizations in U.S. counties. In a complementary analysis, we find that individuals with a bachelor’s degree are more likely than people who do not have any college education to support the Tea Party; this relationship is strongest in counties with higher levels of educational segregation.

Affirmative Action Bans and Black Admission Outcomes: Selection-Corrected Estimates from UC Law Schools

Source: Danny Yagan, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 20361, July 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The consequences of banning affirmative action depend on schools’ ability and willingness to avoid it. This paper uses rich application-level data to estimate the effect of the 1996 University of California affirmative action ban—the first and largest ban—on black admission advantages at UC law schools. Controlling for selective attrition from applicant pools, I find that the ban reduced the black admission rate from 61% to 31%. This implies that affirmative action ban avoidance is far from complete and suggests that affirmative action at law schools passes the constitutional test of not being easily replaced by non-racial alternatives. I further find that the affirmative action ban far from eliminated cross-sectional black admission advantages, which remained as high as 63 percentage points for applicants at the margin of being accepted or rejected. This suggests that UC schools were technologically able to sustain substantially higher black admission rates after the ban but were either unwilling or legally unable to do so.

Part of the Solution: Pre-Baccalaureate Healthcare Workers in a Time of Health System Change

Source: Martha Ross, Nicole Prchal Svajlenka and Jane R. Williams, Brookings Institution, July 2014

From the summary:
Healthcare occupations account for a large and growing share of the workforce and span the education and earnings continuum. Although many discussions of the healthcare workforce focus on doctors and other occupations requiring advanced degrees, the healthcare system would not function without pre-baccalaureate workers—those with less than a bachelor’s degree. These workers perform a variety of clinical, assistive, and administrative tasks, and like all healthcare staff, should be working at their full level of competence in order to achieve the “triple aim” of improving the experience of care, improving health outcomes, and reducing per capita costs.

While individuals with less than a bachelor’s degree work in multiple healthcare occupations, they are overwhelmingly concentrated in a subset of occupations. This report identifies the 10 largest “pre-baccalaureate” healthcare occupations, those in which substantial shares of workers—ranging from 39 percent to 94 percent—have less than a bachelor’s degree, and focuses on those workers in the 10 occupations, unless otherwise noted. Using labor market and American Community Survey data from 2000 and 2009-2011, our analysis across the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas finds that:
∙ Workers with less than a bachelor’s degree in the 10 largest pre-baccalaureate healthcare occupations total 3.8 million, accounting for nearly half (49 percent) of the total healthcare workforce in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. …
∙ Educational attainment varies considerably among workers in pre-baccalaureate healthcare occupations, and earnings largely track education. …
∙ Pre-baccalaureate healthcare workers in the 10 largest pre-baccalaureate healthcare occupations are racially and ethnically diverse and overwhelmingly female. …
∙ The number of jobs held by pre-baccalaureate workers in the 10 largest pre-baccalaureate healthcare occupations increased at a faster rate than jobs held by similarly educated workers overall, but the largest growth was among lower-paying pre-baccalaureate healthcare occupations, and only registered nurses experienced real earnings growth between 2000 and 2009-11. …
∙ The size and nature of the pre-baccalaureate healthcare workforce varies by region, reflecting demographics and healthcare industry mix. …∙

Why Easing Education Debt Won’t Necessarily Help the Economy

Source: Beth Akers, Brookings Institution, Brown Center Chalkboard blog, July 24, 2014

Student loan debt has become the scapegoat for nearly all that ails the U.S. economy, from depressed home ownership, to lower rates of entrepreneurship, and even the sluggish recovery from the great recession. The problem with all of this blame is that the accusations are difficult to substantiate. Much of the discussion about the effects of student loan debt focuses on comparing outcomes faced by individuals with student loan debt to those of individuals without student loan debt. The differences in observed outcomes are cited as evidence of an impact of student loan debt. But, there are two reasons why this approach doesn’t tell us what we need to know about the effects of education debt.

First, the population of individuals who take on debt to pay for college is different from the population of individuals who take on little or no education debt. These differences are sometimes observable and sometimes not. This means that outcomes faced by borrowers and non-borrowers are likely to differ for reasons that are unrelated to the debt itself. In order to effectively measure the effect of debt, we would need to be able to control for all of these differences. This presents a methodological challenge because not all of the differences are observable.

Second, the population of borrowers (and non-borrowers) has been changing over time. This means that longitudinal studies comparing borrowers and non-borrowers are difficult to interpret. The changes in behavior, such as home ownership, that occur over time may be due to trends in borrowing, but could also be due to the changing characteristics of the borrowing population. …

Policies to Address Poverty in America

Source: Brookings Institution, Hamilton Project, June 19, 2014

Millions of people live in poverty in this country. They suffer not only material deprivation, but also the hardships and diminished life prospects that come with being poor. Childhood poverty often means growing up without the advantages of a stable home, high-quality schools, or consistent nutrition. Adults in poverty are often hampered by inadequate skills and education, leading to limited wages and job opportunities. And the high costs of housing, healthcare, and other necessities often mean that people must choose between basic needs, sometimes forgoing essentials like meals or medicine. In recognition of these challenges, The Hamilton Project has commissioned fourteen innovative, evidence-based antipoverty proposals. These proposals are authored by a diverse set of leading scholars, each tackling a specific aspect of the poverty crisis.
Proposals include:
Section 1. Promoting Early Childhood Development
Expanding Preschool Access for Disadvantaged Children
Elizabeth U. Cascio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Addressing the Parenting Divide to Promote Early Childhood Development for Disadvantaged Children
Ariel Kalil

Reducing Unintended Pregnancies for Low-Income Women

Isabel Sawhill and Joanna Venator

Section 2. Supporting Disadvantaged Youth
Designing Effective Mentoring Programs for Disadvantaged Youth
Phillip B. Levine

Expanding Summer Employment Opportunities for Low-Income Youth
Amy Ellen Schwartz and Jacob Leos-Urbel

Addressing the Academic Barriers to Higher Education

Bridget Terry Long

Section 3. Building Skills
Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities in the United States
Robert I. Lerman

Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students
Harry J. Holzer

Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market
Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, and Jillian Berk

Section 4. Improving Safety Net and Work Support
Supporting Low-Income Workers through Refundable Child-Care Credits
James P. Ziliak

Building on the Success of the Earned Income Tax Credit

Hilary Hoynes

Encouraging Work Sharing to Reduce Unemployment
Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman

Designing Thoughtful Minimum Wage Policy at the State and Local Levels
Arindrajit Dube

Smarter, Better, Faster: The Potential for Predictive Analytics and Rapid-Cycle Evaluation to Improve Program Development and Outcomes
Scott Cody and Andrew Asher


The Limitations and Possibilities of Student-Labor Coalitions

Source: Sarah Jaffe, Talking Union blog, July 9, 2014

….The subpoena brouhaha was only the latest chapter in an expansive battle with Straus’s companies on one side and 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East, 1199 SEIU New England, and the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) at NYU on the other—while NYU, claiming neutrality, remained in the middle. It’s a multi-year, multi-state struggle that began with low-wage care workers being locked out in 2011 and hasn’t ended with Straus losing his seat on the law school’s board. A close examination of the story yields important lessons about the possibilities and limitations of student-labor coalitions, the latest anti-union strategies of corporations, and the current state of labor struggles…..

…Universities, particularly large research universities, of which NYU is the prototype, provide useful points of pressure on corporate bad actors because of the customer-service relationship with their students that they cultivate. That means that students making demands, whether in response to labor law violations or investments in dirty energy, have some sway with administrators, who in turn control large chunks of money or, in the case of Straus, prestigious board appointments.

But once Straus is off the board, the university students no longer have much power, though their solidarity and support is still appreciated. The workers at HealthBridge and CareOne continue to struggle, and the RICO suit goes forward; the subpoenas have not gone away…..

California Grad Employee Contract Shows Reform Works

Source: Katy Fox-Hodess, Labor Notes, June 24, 2014

This week 13,000 teaching assistants, readers, and tutors at the University of California ratified a new four-year contract.

We made big gains on both bread-and-butter and social justice issues, with a 17 percent wage increase over four years, new language on class size, longer paid parental leaves, a larger child care subsidy with expanded coverage, a new committee to equalize opportunities for undocumented students, and a mandate to create lactation stations and all-gender bathrooms. (See box.)

It’s a good moment to look back on how we got here. This is the first contract since our reform caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, took the helm of our union, UAW Local 2865, in the spring of 2011….

Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy: An Empirical Assessment

Source: Daniel A. Austin, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 188-2014, May 27, 2014

From the abstract:
Education loan debt in the U.S. recently reached $1.2 trillion. Thirty-nine million Americans — nearly 20% of U.S. households — owe student loans, and student loans are by far the fastest growing component of non-housing consumer debt. For example, in fourth quarter 2013, U.S. households incurred $82 billion in debt (exclusive of housing debt), a 3.3% increase from the previous quarter. Of this amount, $53 billion (65%) was student loan debt. In contrast, auto loans and credit card debt accounted for only $29 billion.

Student loan debt is also a rapidly increasing element in consumer bankruptcy. This study examines the growth of student loan debt in consumer bankruptcy cases filed each year from 2005 to 2013. In this study I obtain data from 500 randomly-selected cases per year to calculate values such as annual percentage of filers with student loan debt, average annual amount of student loan debt, and student loan debt as a percentage of debtor income and percentage of total unsecured debt. Among the findings of this study, the percentage of debtors with student loan debt increased from 15.7% in 2005 to 22.3% in 2013, while the average student loan debt load for such debtors more than doubled from $15,350 to $32,096 during the same period. As these and other numbers reported in this study show, student loan debt is a rapidly increasing component of consumer bankruptcy.