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Author Archives: Maegan Vazquez
In my last column, I wrote about how the sequester could deeply impact students of all ages—by cutting education jobs, programs like Head Start, food stamps, and limiting financial aid. Well, once again, kids trying to get an education are at risk of being undercut by the federal government.
The interest rate of new federally subsidized Stafford loans will revert to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. The rate subsidized loans, which go to low-income households, was supposed to rise to 6.8 percent back in June 2012, but the rate’s expiration was postponed for a year. This year’s extension lasts until June 30, 2013. If Congress does not act to change the rules or extend the loan rate expiration date, an estimated 7.4 million college students will be affected.
Note that each year the date to change the rate is extended, the federal government loses out on about $6 billion in revenue. But students don’t necessarily have to be the ones paying the price. If there would have been more oversight on the financial aid process, the federal government could have prevented a loss of $200 million in federal student aid fraud since 2009.
What’s a good solution? Rather than postponing the expiration again, the House Education and the Workforce Committee argued that Congress should reevaluate their rate-setting process for all government-issued college loans.
FoxNews.com reports that the Department of Education has also been sending out letters to inform Direct PLUS Loan borrowers that their fees are being raised as a direct result of the automatic budget cuts (or the sequester) that happened after the federal government could not come to a fiscal agreement. Fees for loans issued after March 1, 2013, will have an adjusted loan rate fee—from 4.0 percent to 4.204 percent.
Once again, we’ve waited until the last minute to try and fix our fiscal problems. This time, it’s the sequester that will go into effect on March 1st unless Congress acts.
If the sequester goes into effect, about one trillion dollars of federal spending will get cut—half of the cuts going towards defense ($42.7 billion). These cuts may cause furloughs in defense sectors (military, airport security) and other cuts may leave many teachers out of jobs.
About $3 billion of sequester cuts will go towards education. According to the National Education Association the sequester will result in:
- Services cut or eliminated for millions of students.
- Funding for children living in poverty, special education, and Head Start slashed by billions.
- Ballooning class sizes.
- Elimination of after-school programs.
- Decimation of programs for our most vulnerable—homeless students, English language learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools.
- Slashing of financial aid for college students.
- Loss of tens of thousands of education jobs—at early childhood, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.
During last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama revealed the new College Scorecard, which aims to help prospective college students determine which schools would be right for them based on several variables (cost, distance, etc.).
A yet-to-be-seen component of the site is each college’s return on investment (ROI). This will highlight colleges that have the most ‘bang for your educational buck’.
Bill Destler for the Huffington Post, argued that forcing all schools through the same ROI filter may hinder some schools’ ability to compete. Destler does not think all schools are equal. He cites the Rochester Institute of Technology, which has a 10% deaf or hard-of-hearing population.
“…deaf graduates from RIT are employed at a much higher rate than the deaf population as a whole, they still have a more difficult time finding employment and they don’t earn as much on average as their hearing counterparts.”
Should RIT be judged on the same level as every other school when it has this special interest in mind?
During times of political strife—heck, even in times of political triumph—the university has been a place of radical discourse that explores and encourages academic examination of political norms. It’s supposed to be a safe haven for dialogues that aren’t so popular in mainstream USA. For example, the recent controversy over a pro-Palestine forum at Brooklyn College.
We’ve always been the liberal crowd, but in recent years, it seems like there’s been a wane of liberal activism within the university. It wasn’t until the Occupy movement that students were reinvigorated with a passion similar to the student strikes against the war in Vietnam. But unlike the anti-war protests, those protesting with Occupy saw few fruits for their labor in terms of government recognition and reform.
For the past few decades, college students have trended more conservative than their 1960’s and 1970’s counterparts. Thus, more and more American students are calling themselves middle-of-the-road. A recent UCLA study claims that college students’ central political views are shifting left. That means that more students who consider themselves ‘middle of the road’ are leaning towards liberal legislation.
This shift from center may lead to a paradigm shift within what all Americans see as ‘middle-of-the-road’. We saw a victory for the left in the 2012 election because of the youth vote. It isn’t far cry off to say that our views will become the new normal in just a couple of decades.
As we begin to infiltrate political ranks and take on powerful leadership roles, our middle will easily become everyone else’s middle. Consider this: our generation of Americans is comprised of more minorities than generations past. Thus, our voting patterns tend to reflect what will benefit minorities the most.
Is it really any surprise that our middle-of-the-road is shifting left, though? Our generation sees their dreams as one student loan away. They are betting on their futures and the government is betting on them, too. Increasingly, our generation is betting on the future in other ways as well. Investing interest in climate change has gained more momentum than ever in the student community.
Last week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow employees to discuss their salary information without the fear of companies pursuing legal action against them.
The bill is on its third try. In a 2010 senate vote, the bill failed to get any Republican support, even by the female Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who all voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
According to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Fair Pay Act will:
• Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race or national origin;
• Require employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions;
• Prohibit companies from reducing other employees’ wages to achieve pay equity;
• Require public disclosure of employer job categories and pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual employees; and
• Allow payment of different wages under a seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
The bill makes perfect sense—give all female workers a chance to see what their equal male counterparts are earning, and see if it matches up without getting sued by employers. In an economy where women earn some 33% less than males, why wouldn’t politicians see this as a good measure for ensuring equal rights?
In your junior high science classes, how many female scientific pioneers were in your textbook? I doubt more that there were more than a handful. In freshmen geometry class, did you learn about any famous female mathematicians? Probably not. I did not know about Sally Ride until I graduated from high school and even today, I could not tell you about any legendary female mathematicians. Pioneering women have been historically absent from all school subjects, not just science and mathematics, since the dawn of the schoolhouse.
Even these days, when more women are going to college than men in this country, there is still a lack of women entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields. The reasons for the interest gap are complicated, according to Christi Corbett, senior researcher for for the American Association of University of Women.
“The direction of scientific inquiry is influenced by the people doing the work,” Corbett told me over the phone. Women comprise of about only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in STEM-related fields. One can concur that women must then only make about 20% of the decisions in, say, scientific research.
Corbett helped compile Why So Few?—a comprehensive report that tries to solve why so few women are entering STEM fields.
Internships are awesome. They look great on a resume and they help you hone your craft with real-world experience. As a journalism student, I’ve heard the same advice many times: “Do as many internships as you can.” So I have done internships, both paid and unpaid, for the sake of gaining some experience while I’m still in school.
Within my school and other universities across the nation, it seems like full-time, unpaid internships are a common practice. For many, these unpaid internships are taken at the cost of relocating away from school (e.g. taking a summer internship in NYC) and/or paying for extra school credit. See, that’s a loophole, folks. As long as it is labeled as ‘educational’, an employer does not have to pay its intern. In reality, paying interns is not about thriving, really; it’s about surviving. Many times, a student is not even reimbursed for housing, food, or transportation.
But there’s a group going against the current, telling students to resist unpaid work. #PayGenY, an initiative sponsored by She Negotiates Consulting and Training, argues that most unpaid internships are illegal.
For now, it seems that the fiscal cliff crisis has been temporarily adverted. The Senate and House approved the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which has prevented old budgeting from sending the country hurtling down the Fiscal Cliff.
But don’t get too excited. The battle isn’t over and in some ways it’s just beginning. The new deal, which is designed to keep our economy from another recession, increases taxing on the wealthy but has temporarily halted many changes in government spending.
In further detail, here’s what some of the new bill entails:
- Tax rates will increase for taxpayers with incomes higher than $450,000
- Changes in estate taxing was adverted
- Middle class has an extension on stimulus tax cuts
- Capital gains taxes increase to 20% for high earners
- Some estimates say the deal will provide bout $600 B in revenue over the next 10 years.
As we sing the last hoorahs of 2012, young politicas and politicos everywhere may feel a bit of uncertainty over where the next year is headed. We’ve seen many victories for our interests, but what will newly elected policy makers do to ensure that they earn their keep?
And what’s next for us?
Here are my five hopes for young people and politics in 2013.
1. For young people to go from special report to necessary demographic in national media.
It seems that the results of the November election came as a shock to the media and pollsters. We have proved that we swing elections and that we here to stay. And our age group piques the interests of many demographics.
I hope that instead of getting a special write up in Huff Post College, we will make it to the front page.
2. For young people to remain politically active.
In the coming year, young people must remain engaged with the political process in order to remain relevant. Just as the media remembered us in the 2012 election, they can as soon forget about us in 2013!
Before the November elections, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already forthrightly assumed responsibility for the Benghazi debacle that resulted in the death of four Americans including much-admired Ambassador Chris Stephens’
But neither her statements nor subsequent departures of State Department officials has quieted the echo chamber of blame. The buck stops at the top, and an independent panel report found plenty of buck to lay on Clinton’s desk. She must own and start to fix the problems of inadequate security at US embassies before she departs.
Still, it’s hard to see the trashing of Susan Rice and the subsequent GOP drumbeat about Hillary Clinton as anything other than blatantly intended to discredit her stellar performance on the world stage this past four years and to mortally wound her candidacy (previously declared unbeatable by Newt Gingrich should she make a second presidential run in 2016.
As Meagan Vazquez points out in her “Young Politica” column below about Susan Rice, the facts are never just the facts but rather come laden with political and cultural meaning.
And by the way, I’m thrilled to tell you that Maegan is going to continue her column into the new year! So if you are one of the many followers of this smart column from a student’s point of view, we’ll return to publishing it on Mondays in 2013. See you then!
After the initial boredom post-election, the political media immediately focused on the eminence of the fiscal cliff. Since those talks are still going nowhere, media sought a new subject to sink their teeth into: Susan Rice and the secretary of state bid. Rice, who was being vetted to take over Hilary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State, has been the subject of scrutiny by some for being the ill-informed messenger to national media after the Benghazi terrorist attacks.