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COMMENTARY: DeVos Hands For-Profit Colleges $11.1 Billion Over 10 Years

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Over the next decade, the Education Department projects an $11 billion cost-savings from denying loan forgiveness. But for student loan borrowers, denying $11 billion in loan forgiveness adds an unwieldy and costly burden for an education, and earnings that were never realized.”

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Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Most consumers would likely agree that consumers should get what they pay for. If a product or service fails to deliver its promises, refunds are in order.

That kind of thinking guided the Obama Administration’s decision to address false promises made to student loan borrowers.

A rule known as the “borrower defense to repayment,” came on the heels of successive for-profit college closures that left thousands of students stranded educationally and financially. The federal rule provided a way for snookered students and borrowers to apply for and secure loan forgiveness. Its premise was that both borrowers and taxpayers were assured that the Department of Education was looking out for them.

But with a new administration and Education Secretary, rules that made sense and brought taxpayers financial fairness have been repealed and replaced with other rules that favor for-profit colleges, loan servicers, and other business interests.

Just as many people were about to begin their Labor Day holiday, the federal Department of Education announced it was changing a key rule that provided a pathway to federal loan forgiveness. Instead, a new rule puts in place a process that will be cumbersome, lengthy, and nearly impossible for consumers to successfully secure relief.

Commenting on the rule that will now apply to all federal student loans made on or after July 1, 2020, Secretary Betsy DeVos said, “We believe this final rule corrects the wrongs of the 2016 rule through common sense and carefully crafted reforms that hold colleges and universities accountable and treat students and taxpayers fairly.”

Excuse me Secretary DeVos, the rule was promulgated due to the thousands of wrongs resulting from less than truthful recruitment practices, false advertising, and targeting of vulnerable populations: low-income, first-generation college students who were often people of color, and veterans seeking new skills in a return to civilian life. For-profit colleges largely remain financially solvent by their heavy dependence upon taxpayer-funded student loans.

For Black America, the effects of predatory student lending at for-profit colleges comes with severe consequences. According to research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL):

  • Only 21% of all for-profit students in four-year programs graduate within six years;
  • Four years after graduation, Black students with a bachelor’s degree owe almost double the debt their white classmates owe; and
  • While for-profit college enrollment represents 8.6% of all college students, these schools generate over 34% of all students who default on their loans.

While this new rule may make sense to Secretary DeVos, education advocates had an opposite reaction, quickly and emphatically detailing how the rule change is as negative as it is costly.

“After the collapse of Corinthian College and ITT Tech, two of the largest for-profit education companies in the country, the Obama Administration created the Borrower Defense rule to protect students and taxpayers from deceptive practices that could jeopardize the future of thousands of students and our economy,” said Ashley Harrington, a CRL Senior Policy Counsel, and a primary negotiator during the Education Department’s negotiated rule-making process.

With DeVos’ new rule, both the automatic discharge of federal loans that took effect after a school closed and another provision that allowed group claim relief are now eliminated. Anyone seeking redress on student loans must also bear the full burden of documenting their alleged “harm” before a claim can be reviewed.

The new rule also removes states from opportunities to defend their own constituents. State laws, many enacted before the 2016 Obama-era rule took effect, provided another route to legal redress. But with the new DeVos rule, no state-level claims can be pursued.

“That’s problematic for us,” added Harrington. “The federal standard should be the floor, not the ceiling, for relief.”

Over the next decade, the Education Department projects an $11 billion cost-savings from denying loan forgiveness. But for student loan borrowers, denying $11 billion in loan forgiveness adds an unwieldy and costly burden for an education, and earnings that were never realized.

“The new ‘borrower defense rule’ does anything but defend students,” said James Kvaal, president of The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). “In fact, it makes it almost impossible for students who are lied to, defrauded, or otherwise abused by their colleges to get a fresh start. …By leaving students on the hook for colleges’ illegal actions, today’s rule sends a clear message that there will be little or no consequences for returning to the misrepresentations and deceptions that characterized the for-profit college boom.”

A similar reaction came from Abby Shafroth, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, and like Harrington, participated in the Department’s rulemaking meetings.

“There are over 170,000 pending applications with many borrowers held in limbo for years,” continued Shafroth. “The new rules reflect an ongoing shift to protect the multi-billion-dollar for-profit education industry at the expense of students and taxpayers and come amid concerns about conflicts of interest raised about the rule of former for-profit executives hired by the Department.”

Rather than saving taxpayer dollars, it seems that this new rule is guaranteeing a taxpayer-funded revenue stream for the benefit of for-profit colleges — not students.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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