Wednesday, September 29, 2010

99ers Legislation Blocked In Senate for Tier 5 Emergency Unemployment Compensation!

First Posted: 09-29-10 04:55 PM   |   Updated: 09-29-10 04:59 PM
Legislation by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to help the "99ers" -- unemployed people who've exhausted the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance available in some states -- failed in the Senate on Wednesday, to nobody's surprise.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) objected to Stabenow's unanimous consent request. "Without knowing how much it is going to cost and how we're going to pay for it, while we're all certainly sympathetic and want to work to make people go back to work -- my home state of Florida certainly suffering with very high unemployment -- we need to know how we're going to pay for it so we don't put this debt on our children and grandchildren," said LeMieux.

Stabenow's bill would have provided an additional 20 weeks of benefits in state where the unemployment rate is above 7.5 percent, and it would have boosted a tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed workers. Stabenow said she wanted the bill to be designated "emergency spending" and exempt from "pay-as-you-go" rules, as is customarily the case with unemployment benefits.

"The reality for us in America is that we will never get out of debt with more than 15 million people out of work," said Stabenow. "So when folks talk about the deficit and leaving the deficit for our children, we will never get out of debt had this country until people get back to work, until they have good-paying jobs, and in between times, we will not move this economy forward until we are helping people be able to keep going in this recession."

Despite the lobbying of the unemployed, additional weeks of benefits seemed like a hopeless cause after the Senate spent 50 days this summer in gridlock over a reauthorization of the existing 99 weeks.

Several unemployed people have told HuffPost over the past few weeks, however, that they appreciated the gesture even if the bill had no chance of success. Stabenow's spokesman ignored repeated requests for info from HuffPost.

To fight recessions Congress has routinely enacted extensions of unemployment benefits, but the 99 weeks currently available in some states is an unprecedented amount. The previous high was 55 weeks during the recession of the early 1980s. The current extensions will be up for reauthorization again in November.

"It seems to be business as usual in the Senate, with yet another attempt to help the long term unemployed blocked by someone who just doesn't understand how truly awful it is for job seekers," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project. "It's a sad day."

Friday, September 24, 2010

NBC NEWS - Education Nation

Education Nation is a nationally broadcast, in-depth conversation about improving education in America.
During an interactive summit on Rockefeller Plaza, parents, teachers, and students will come together with leaders in politics, business, and technology to discuss the challenges and opportunities in education today. In addition, NBC News will turn Rockefeller Plaza into a “Learning Plaza," a series of five galleries, open to the public, which will allow visitors to explore America's educational "ecosystem." During the entire week of September 26th, NBC News will highlight education stories as well as broadcast live from the Plaza.
  • SUMMIT WITH TOP LEADERS IN EDUCATION: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Harlem Children Zone’s CEO Geoffrey Canada, and President of MIT Susan Hockfield will be among those in attendance at the Education Nation Summit.
  • SPECIAL APPEARANCES: The Summit will feature several presentations from guests, including a speech on improving the lives of children from U.S. General Colin Powell, Founding Chairman of America’s Promise Alliance, and Alma Powell, Chair of America’s Promise Alliance.
  • MULTI-MEDIA COVERAGE: During the entire week of Education Nation, "Nightly News," "Today," "Meet the Press," MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo,,, and will highlight stories in education.
  • TEACHER TOWN HALL: On Sept. 26th, NBC's Brian Williams will talk with thousands of teachers on-air and online about critical issues facing educators.
  • THE STUDENT VIEW: The Scholastic Kids Press Corp will cover the Summit from the student perspective.
  • INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS: The latest tools and technologies used in award-winning classrooms across the country will be on display in Learning Plaza.
Education Nation seeks to engage the public, through thoughtful dialogue, in pursuit of the shared goal of providing every American with an opportunity to pursue the best education in the world. More
The Education Nation press room includes NBC News press releases as well as links to recent media coverage on Education Nation. More
Hosted by Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, the Teacher Town Hall will bring together teachers from across the country, both in-person and online, to brainstorm ideas, talk about what works in the classroom, and highlight the challenges of today’s education system. More 
CREDIT FOR ARTICLE:  NBC NEWS - Education Nation :

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Flat-rate tuition system weighed

                                                 Miami Herald


Being a full-time undergrad at some Florida schools may soon mean paying a flat rate for tuition, no matter how many classes you take.

Florida's state university system is mulling a one-size-fits-all tuition structure for full-time students -- an idea that could lead some to graduate sooner, but also carries the risk of students biting off more than they can chew.

Under the plan, which could receive receive final approval from the state Board of Governors as soon as November, full-time students at participating universities would pay a flat rate per semester, regardless of how many classes he or she actually takes.

The pricing structure, known as block tuition, is already the norm at private universities across the country, and has been adopted by some high-profile public universities as well, including The University of Texas at Austin and UCLA.

An exact pricing model for Florida schools has yet to be hammered out, and schools may decide to charge slightly different rates.

If a school chose 15 credit hours as the standard, a student taking only 12 credits would be paying for a class he or she wasn't taking. On the plus side, a student taking 18 credits would be taking an extra class for free.

If approved by the Board of Governors, schools could then request to make the switch -- or they could opt to keep the current per-credit pricing.

``We're giving it serious consideration,'' said University of Florida Provost Joseph Glover. ``It accelerates students' progress toward graduation. . .it's definitely an encouragement for students to take additional hours toward their degree.''

UF could potentially begin charging block tuition as early as fall 2011.

South Florida's two state universities, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University, have yet to take a position on the issue.

``We have not done the analysis of how the proposal would affect FIU,'' spokeswoman Maydel Santana-Bravo said in an e-mail. ``At the moment we are focused on maintaining quality and improving the student experience.''

A class load of 12 credit hours -- the equivalent of four classes -- is considered full time, but students must take 15 credits hours each semester to earn a standard bachelor's degree in four years. Taking less than 15 credits often results in the student needing to stay an extra semester, or year, in school.

Students who in the past might have taken 12 credit hours might take that extra class -- feeling they should get what they pay for -- and end up graduating sooner.

Of course, setting the definition higher than the current average class load would also likely result in increased tuition revenues, as students who decide to stick with their current pace would have to pay for more credits than they are actually taking.

``Usually what this does is it's a way of having a tuition increase without calling it a tuition increase,'' said Mark Kantrowitz, a college financial aid expert who publishes and Kantrowitz cautioned that students who add more classes to get greater bang for their buck may ultimately become stretched too thin, and their grades could suffer.

Five years ago, Florida's universities considered a switch to block tuition, but the idea became bogged down in a tug of war between the Legislature and Board of Governors over who had tuition-setting authority.

The two sides are now working together seamlessly -- paving the way for the block tuition idea to go forward. The biggest hurdle left may be whether each of Florida's 11 public universities decides block tuition is right for them.

The financial wallop to students would likely be more-pronounced at local schools like FIU, where undergrads tend to be working adults who are a couple of years older than traditional undergrads. These students may find it more difficult than their UF counterparts to take a 15-credit or 18-credit classload.

``There's a reason they're only taking 12 credits,'' said William-Jose Velez, the student government senate speaker at FIU's main West Miami-Dade campus.

Velez said the proposal ``would place an unfair burden on those that are not taking a full course load.''

Read more:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cohen Marks Up Bill to Restore Fairness in Student Lending

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-9), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (CAL), today marked up legislation he authored to restore fairness in student lending by treating privately issued student loans in bankruptcy the same as other types of unsecured debt.
“People who seek higher education to better their futures should not be dissuaded from doing so by the threat of financial ruin,” said Congressman Cohen.  “The bankruptcy system should work as a safety net that allows people to get the education they want with the assurance that, should their finances come under strain by layoffs, accidents, or other unforeseen life events, they will be protected.  My bill takes a modest but important step toward achieving this goal.”

The Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2010 (H.R. 5043) was today marked up in CAL, which Congressman Cohen chairs.  Before changes were made to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005, only government issued or guaranteed student loans were effectively nondischargeable during bankruptcy.  This protection has been in place since 1978 and was intended to safeguard federal investments in higher education.

The Cohen bill would restore the pre-2005 treatment of private student loan debt in bankruptcy.  For the past decade, private student loans have been the fastest growing and most profitable part of the student loan industry.  According to the College Board, roughly 15 percent of total student borrowing is in private student loans.  Ten years ago, only five percent of total education loan volume was in private loans.

The interest rates and fees on private loans can be as onerous as credit cards.  There are reports of private loans with interest rates of at least 15 percent, and higher rates are not unheard of.  This can place a tremendous burden on student borrowers with private loans and, unlike federal student loans, there is no government-imposed loan limit on private loans and no public regulation over the terms and cost of these loans.

Private loans involve only private profit and do not have the protections that government borrowers enjoy, including caps on interest rates, flexible repayment options, and limited cancellation rights.  Most types of unsecured debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy, with only a few exceptions for very strong public policy reasons.  For example, the Bankruptcy Code makes it especially difficult for people to escape child support responsibilities, overdue taxes, and criminal fines.  Privately issued student loans should not be on that list.

Congressman Cohen is a longtime advocate of making higher education more affordable and accessible, most notably through the establishment of the Tennessee Lottery.

Monday, September 13, 2010

SPECIAL REPORT: College Loan Default Rates Rise!!!

The number of college students defaulting on their federal student loans is climbing, and those who attend for-profit schools remain the most likely group to default, according to new government data released Monday.

The U.S. Department of Education says numbers from fiscal year 2008 show 7 percent of borrowers of federal student loans default within two years of beginning repayment, up from 6.7 percent the previous year.

The default rate for students at for-profit schools rose from 11 percent to 11.6 percent.

For-profit colleges are fighting proposed Education Department regulations that would cut off federal aid to for-profit college programs if too many of their students default on loans or don't earn enough after graduation to repay them.


© 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Obama's Plan May Do Little to Help the Unemployed

President Barack Obama's new stimulus plan directs government assistance to some of the strongest parts of the economy without solving the biggest problem: finding work for the 14.9 million unemployed.

The three main ideas he plans to introduce Wednesday—$50 billion in infrastructure spending plus two sets of business tax incentives—could provide a modest burst of activity in a slow-growing economy.

The risk is that they succeed only in pulling forward planned investments, which would do little to spur hiring and alter the sluggish growth trajectory.

"They could be helpful but are unlikely to have a large effect on growth," said Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius.

Some of the proposed programs cover multiple years, spreading out the potential benefit; others are merely modifications or extensions of old ideas or policies, he said.

The White House hopes the programs will get idled construction workers back on the job and shake loose some of the spare cash held at corporations if it can convince wary lawmakers to go along.

The infrastructure plan—the most likely of the three proposals to generate a significant number of jobs—may face a particular fierce challenge in Congress.
Republicans and some deficit-hawk Democrats have repeatedly blocked spending packages for fear of adding to an already large budget gap.

The timing also looks challenging with only about a month left before lawmakers leave to prepare for November elections.

Think Small

Obama administration officials argue that the United States is grappling with two deficits, budget and jobs, and can't afford to ignore either. The jobless rate hit 9.6 percent last month and is likely to drift higher in the coming months. As long as it remains elevated, demand will be subdued.

But there is reason to doubt whether the business incentives will do much to close the jobs gap.
Tax writeoffs for plant and equipment investment may not generate much new activity because there is plenty of unused factory space available. Capacity usage was 7 percentage points below normal as of 
 July, according to Federal Reserve data.

And businesses were busily buying equipment and software even without special tax writeoffs. Those categories grew at a 25 percent clip in the more recent quarter, which marked the third consecutive period of double digit growth.

The third idea, research and development tax breaks, is a recycled policy proposal that is normally renewed every year and therefore unlikely to spark a major new wave of investment.
And it would likely benefit larger companies far more than the small businesses that remain reluctant to hire.

Obama acknowledges there is no magic policy prescription that can repair the badly damaged job market. But his critics propose a laundry list of ideas including lower payroll taxes, a public works program akin to those of the Great Depression, or perhaps offering older workers early full retirement benefits to help young people get on the job ladder.

Brian Bethune, an economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said Obama's latest proposals fell short in addressing the needs of small businesses which normally account for the biggest portion of new jobs.

Large businesses, particularly those that export to fast-growing economies such as Brazil, China and India, have fared far better than their smaller counterparts in recent months, and that shows up in their hiring decisions.

The National Federation of Independent Business's monthly employment survey showed small companies remain reluctant to hire. NFIB has said its members are most concerned about sluggish sales, but their worry list also includes taxes, healthcare costs and regulatory reforms.
Companies with fewer than 50 workers employ almost three times as many people as firms with more than 500 employees.

Wall Street Shrugs

Even if Obama's proposals succeed in encouraging business investment, they may be borrowing from future quarters, much like tax incentives for home buyers that drove a frenzy of activity followed by the steepest sales decline on record.

"You just change the timing," Bethune said. "That creates distortion and noise in the quarterly pattern of economic activity."

Wall Street seemed unimpressed by the stimulus proposal. Major stock indexes were lower at midday, dragged down by fresh worries about economic growth prospects in Europe.

Andrew Busch, a currency and public policy strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Chicago, said there were big question marks about how Obama intended to pay for them.

"If he chooses to take away a corporate tax break to pay for this proposal, the net gain is zero," he said. "This is likely why U.S. stocks are not seeing much of a bounce on the news."


© 2010