Thursday, February 28, 2013

a little over half

A little over half over six years would not only get you into the Hall of Fame but would make you the greatest hitter of all time.

Of course, we're talking about college-graduation rates, not baseball or any other game.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

student loan debt and net-worth gap by race

There's another study that shows how the gap in net worth grew by race in America; whereas a previous study demonstrated that African Americans own about a nickel for every dollar whites have secured in Roth IRAs, houses, cars, or collectible baseball cards, this one focuses on families and has the net-worth gap rising to $236,500 in 2009. Here's a paragraph from The Washington Post's article on the study:

Despite that progress, the wealth gap between whites and blacks nearly tripled among study participants, going from $85,000 per family in 1985 to $236,500 in 2009. Overall, the median net worth of whites in the study was $265,000 in 2009, compared with $28,500 for blacks. A broader survey done by federal officials has found even larger disparities, with blacks having a nickel of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by the median white family.

Although the article focuses on how real estate and employment opportunities, or lack thereof, have exacerbated this discrepancy, we should also consider that student loans have played a role as well. On the one hand, the one with the positive digits attached to it, so to speak, many more African Americans have been able to attend and graduate from undergrad and graduate schools over the same time period, and it should be recognized that this is largely a positive outcome of making college more "accessible" to everyone.

On the other hand, and yes, I'm not ambidextrous but you've come to expect to hear from this sad soggy fish, because African Americans arrive on campus from disproportionately poorer backgrounds, they are much less likely to be getting help from family and much more likely to require financial assistance to go to college. Despite any "advantage" they may have at the financial aid office, it's almost undoubtedly the case that African Americans are taking on more debt, particularly if we look at debt-to-degree ratio (compare debt by race at equal levels of attainment and not compare, for example, the debt of a white law-school student to a black undergrad).

If you look at the total picture, not just the loan debt of graduates, but all who attend as well as all who fail to graduate, and then include the community colleges and for-profits, you will see a clear picture of how "higher education" as currently practiced in America unfortunately fails to ameliorate the black-white wealth gap and in fact contributes to the widening difference.

(And, yes, I understand how this could seem anomalous, or unlikely, from a reader's perspective if the reader is a white student from financial hardship or supposed American middle-class "affluence," who has been burdened by student-loan debt, while the reader has noticed a black student from similar circumstance, or even wealthier circumstances, come to receive better grant aid from a specific college and even the much cherished fellowship or "free ride.")

Overall, these are my strong suspicions, of course, and not something I've had to time to "study" or write a peer-reviewed article on. As it happens, I was mostly too busy teaching school.

*In 2017, I've seen student debt for an undergraduate degree cited as above $37,000 for an "average"--what I assume to be a mean--and around $31,000 for median debt. Various articles suggest 70% of college graduates hold debt; it's harder to find exact information on debt held by students who do not complete the degree.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

those were the days

Here's a good follow-up blog to a recent New York Times piece on paying one's way through college. The author of the original article is also the author of this blog, and he notes that many readers accused him of glamorizing paying for college on one's own without realizing how unrealistic this is in 2013.

One of the first commenters from the blog notes with enthusiasm just how out of touch our political leaders may be, even if they serve on our national committees on education:

The national conversation is completely uninformed and unrealistic. Colleges sit on the sidelines tut-tutting while legislators (esp. GOP) shake their heads at the spendthrifts who borrow way too much for college and then go home to live with their parents. Rep. Foxx, a key member of the education committee in the House, boasts about having "paid her way" through UNC in the 1960s when it cost $1,000 for room, board, and tuition.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

no degree, no job

In my life, we've had roughly five to seven different "recessionary economies," depending on how one counts the downturns, and I remember well the one into which I was graduated and gained my "entry-level experience" in the early nineties.

Once I walked into a retail computer "environment," and inquired about work, and in a brief bit of a conversation a guy my age behind the counter exclaimed in anguish, "It's retail," as if that were the worst kind of work possible and not, as a job hunter could see it, a boon opportunity in lean times, a chance to earn a steady check.

Ten years later, talking about the labor market of the early twenty-first century, 2002 to 2003ish, a family member said simply, "You need a college degree to get any job." And now here's the 2013 version of that statement, one of those articles about how you need a college degree to get a foot in the door (i.e. file clerk). It's worth noting that I'm sure there are millions of exceptions to this, people in the workforce without degrees, and many recent college grads are still starting work for someone who doesn't have the "piece of paper."

And yet the trend, even if not invariably true, is legitimate.

And, of course, it will seem much less apparent the next time we move into a bubble economy where not the only the jobs, but the money itself, appears like low-hanging fruit and even falling from the trees.

This piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that the current recession is "easing," and yet it also reminds us of how companies find unpaid temporary workers to be an affordable convenience.

What else is new?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

college class

This article has some interesting tidbits on transparency and economic class in higher education. I understand and relate to these issues, particularly the way in which lower income white students face enormous obstacles when seeking to gain admittance to elite universities although this is a contested issue, too, and we need to recognize the "enormous obstacles" experienced by everyone these days, or most everyone save for the economic elites.

And smack in the middle of the article, the author acknowledges clearly why, most likely, little or nothing, will be done about it:

"Addressing class inequality is more expensive than addressing racial and gender inequities because low-income students need financial aid, which may mean smaller budgets for libraries or faculty salaries."

And this anecdote pretty much sums up why recent American Presidents have avoided the topic entirely:

"Class issues popped up periodically in public discussion but never gained traction. In the mid-1990s, when President Bill Clinton briefly suggested shifting the basis of affirmative-action policies from race and gender to class 'because they work better and have a bigger impact and generate broader support,' civil-rights and women's groups killed the idea. While Clinton was right that public opinion supported a class-based approach, no organized constituency championed preferences for the poor and working classes."

Somehow, to move forward, we have to bring all concerned parties, which in the case of accessible, affordable college education is all of us, to the table and clarify why this sort of "either him or me" is not good for anyone.

Meanwhile, college grads are getting better and better at becoming eligible for food stamps, and their economic prospects remain "grim."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

#pdftribute redux

So the highlight of giving the story away at amazon, smashwords, and everywhere else e-books are downloaded has been watching it move as high as #15 in the amazon "coming of age" free-e-book category where it remains at #30. It may not even be "coming of age," but I'll take anything I can get. Within literary fiction, #30 or so was the high, and it's currently #53, just behind a cool-sounding Concrete Underground by one Moxie Mezcal.

There's a chance I'll break out of my rut and publish one all by myself although the usual factors seem to be impeding my march in this direction.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

the poetics of pensions

Dow 14,000 or not, according to plenty of sources, we're in a persistent recession for black Americans, older workers, and more or less, the rest of the country.

With an impending sequester and the promise of a million or more job cuts, things could get even worse before they get better, or possibly, they won't ever get better for most human beings on the planet. So to recap, that'd be worse and then worse again. . . maybe a meandering, a lull between worses upon occasion, but we'll see.

Somehow it all reminded me of this Kevin Varrone poem posted on the homepage of the Pennsylvania Book Center. I'll be sure to hit him up for some cash if I ever run into him in Philly.

Friday, February 1, 2013

market update

Bond-bookie Bill Gross wades into the waters of inflation-protected literature and is decidedly unamused about recent strength in the markets. He resorts to quoting T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men," (and not Yeats!) to insist the center, as in the bond market, cannot hold. After the bang, the whimper, and all that, his blog post's first rather pedestrian suggestion is to purchase TIPs if you're among the many who can't purchase land in New Zealand. Later in his list of suggestions, he does offer meatier bits such as, "Be cognizant of property rights and confiscatory policies in all governments."

And yet, despite Gross's glooming over the monetary system and unemployment inching higher (enough other positive indicators to send the curious off the couch and back into the job market), the Dow Jones Industrial Average appears to have closed above 14,000 for only the ninth time in its history. According to Christina Rexrode in The Huffington Post,

If there's dissent over what Dow 14,000 means, what's undeniable is that it's a rarefied event: The Dow has crossed 14,000 only 15 times in its history, and the last time was more than five years ago, on Oct. 17, 2007.

If the gains hold throughout the day and the Dow closes above 14,000, that would put it in territory even more uncommon. On just nine days has the Dow managed to stay above the 14,000 mark until the end of trading. Friday's gains also mean that the Dow is within striking distance of its all-time record of 14,164.53, which it reached on Oct. 9, 2007.  

Now I'm waffling between quick conclusions:

a) everything will be fine


b) let's enjoy our last nine months together


c) remember to hedge your bets


d) oh, yeah, i get it; Eliot worked in a bank


e) several of these above


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