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Even Though Blacks Borrow More for College, Enrollment Declines

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Johnny Taylor, the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), speaks during the TMCF 26th Annual Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/NNPA News Wire)

Johnny Taylor, the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), speaks during the TMCF 26th Annual Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/NNPA News Wire)

By Freddie Allen
Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Recognizing that a college degree is one of the surest paths to a job and economic security, Black families are taking on more student loan debt than White and Hispanic families, according to a new report by Wells Fargo.

According to the report, student loan debt increased by roughly 97 percent between the 1995-1996 school year and 2015 and Black undergraduates that started school during the 2011-2012 school year can expect to borrow $28,400 for a four-year bachelor’s degree compared to Hispanics who will borrow $27,600.

The total price of attendance for Black full-time students increased 115.4 percent during the 2011-2012 school year compared to the 1995-1996 school year and White students experience 113.6 percent jump over the same time period.

The report stated, “The average out-of-pocket net price (which is the price after aid plus student loans) increased 88.7 percent for Blacks, 80.8 percent for Asians and 74.7 percent for Whites between the 2011 and 2012 school year compared to the 1995 and 1996 school year.”

In addition, the report found that more than 60 percent of Black undergraduate students qualify “for some type of aid from the federal government” compared to 50 percent of Hispanics and 34 percent of Whites and Asians.

John Rasmussen, the president of personal lending and the head Education Financial Services at Wells Fargo said that two primary realities often frame the conversation about higher education: student loan debt and the growing costs associated with earning a degree.

“The outstanding amount of student loan debt has now exceeded $1.2 trillion,” said Rasmussen. “That is larger than credit card debt and automobile debt.”

He also noted that the cost of college over the past 20 or 25 years has increased at a pace that is significantly faster than inflation.

“Families are trying to be really practical,” said Rasmussen. “Trying to keep costs down now, staying in state more, exploring community college options, and asking tough questions like, ‘Are my kids ready to go to college?’”

Rasmussen added that students and families want federal loan programs that are easier to navigate, better information about the true costs of federal loans and what families can expect for outcomes like graduation rates, job placement rates and salary and earnings and the repayment performance of students.

Even though Blacks are taking on more student loan debt, in recent years that increased burden has delivered mixed results on enrollment rates.

A 2014 report by the Wells Fargo Securities, LLC Economics Group, that linked educational attainment to economic success, found that Black enrollment in degree-granting institutions has increased considerably since the Great Recession, but that enrollment rate “slowed down noticeably in 2011 and 2012.”

The report said, “This slowdown in Black enrollment in degree-granting institutions plus the strong increase in the enrollment of Hispanics has helped push the Hispanic rate above the Black rate for the first time since the early part of the 1970s.”

Still, economists and education advocates agree that a college education continues to be a sound investment, despite the cost.

“Not only do you have the ability to improve your earning potential over your life, you also are employed over a longer period of time and you’re more likely to keep your job during a recession,” said Eugenio Alemán, a senior economist with Wells Fargo.

The 2014 report cited research that showed that individuals that obtained a bachelor’s degree earned a median income of $50,360, compared to people who finished high school that earned $29,423.

“An associate’s degree leads to a median income of $38,607, more than $9,000 higher than a high school diploma. Those with a graduate degree have a median income of $68,064, 35.2 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree,’” the 2014 report said.

Even though Blacks 18-24 years old ranked last in enrollment at degree-seeking institutions in 2012 (36.4 percent vs. 42.1 percent of Whites and 37.5 percent of Hispanics), Blacks 18-26 years-old who earned bachelor’s degrees or more, were unemployed just 4.6 percent of weeks from 1998-2011. Blacks (18-26 years-old) who only earned a high school diploma were unemployed nearly three times as long (12.6 percent of weeks) during that time period.

Whites 18-26 years old, who entered the labor market with bachelor’s degree or higher, were unemployed 2.8 percent of weeks between 1998 and 2011, compared to White high school graduates with no college experience who were unemployed 6.8 percent of weeks.

Rasmussen fears that all of the noise in the mainstream media questioning the value of college will have a negative effect on the Black community.

“We need to be really careful on our messaging around the costs, so that kids and families don’t give up hope,” he said. “It takes work and effort and if people view that it’s not worth the effort, then we will have this unintended consequence of underrepresentation of kids of color going to school.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, agreed.

“If the message in high schools is consistently ‘Don’t go to college, because it’s too expensive and you’re going to take on all of this debt and you should just go and get a job,’ America is going to have a real challenge as it browns and grays at once,” said Taylor. “Twenty years from now, when you look around and say, ‘There are no African Americans in leadership roles within industry, within government, within any job that requires a bachelor’s degree,’” it will be because people who criticized the high costs of college talked the Black community out of going to college.”

Taylor continued: “The reality is that college is still a great investment.”

Activism

Greater Justice is Coming: Taking on Abusive and Deadly Policing with New DOJ Leadership

And I am not just talking about justice as an idea. I am talking about a Department of Justice that is willing to take on abusive policing and law enforcement agencies that are corrupted by racism.

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Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta

Thanks to the voters who elected President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we now have a Department of Justice that actually cares about justice.

And I am not just talking about justice as an idea. I am talking about a Department of Justice that is willing to take on abusive policing and law enforcement agencies that are corrupted by racism.

In his first month on the job, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland reversed a Trump-era policy that made it harder for the Justice Department to investigate police departments and hold them accountable for violating people’s civil rights.

And he was just getting started. In the past few weeks, the Justice Department has announced that it is starting an investigation of the police departments in Minneapolis—where George Floyd was murdered by former officer Derek Chauvin while other officers watched. The Minnesota AFL-CIO has called the city’s police union a white supremacist-led organization.

The Justice Department has also launched an investigation of policing practices in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was shot to death in her own home.

These investigations will look at more than those individual killings. This kind of “patterns and practices” investigation looks at the big picture to determine whether and how a law enforcement agency is violating people’s civil rights. They are a way to evaluate—and do something about—the impact that systemic racism has in a police department and the communities it is supposed to serve.

“Patterns and practices” investigations can lead to consent decrees — agreements that require police departments to change the way they operate, with oversight from the Justice Department to make sure change actually happens.

In the past, Justice Department investigations and consent decrees have been important tools for getting violent police behavior under control and changing abusive cultures in out-of-control departments.

When the Trump Administration shut down this kind of investigation, it sent a signal to police departments that the Justice Department would look the other way rather than hold them responsible for misconduct. Of course, Trump himself repeatedly made it clear that he was not opposed to violent policing. In fact, he encouraged it.

Biden has spoken personally about the importance of ending police violence and reimagining public safety. He has called on Congress to pass the imperfect but important George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Another good sign was the announcement that the FBI is doing a civil rights investigation of the killing of Andrew Brown, Jr., who was shot in the back of the head by police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

All of these are important steps in protecting Americans, especially Black Americans, from abusive policing.

Biden has also spoken out against Republicans’ racist efforts to pass new voting restrictions in states all over the country. Biden has called those efforts “sick” and we can count on his Justice Department to do what they can to challenge voter suppression—even though right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have greatly weakened the tools that the Voting Rights Act gave the department to prevent Black voters from having their rights denied.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has just written the Arizona Senate president to raise concerns that a bogus “audit” of ballots from last year’s presidential election that is being conducted by private contractors from the so-called “Stop the Steal” movement could be violating the Voting Rights Act.

There are more signs that we can expect changes at the Justice Department. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate, started her career as a civil rights attorney by winning freedom for dozens of mostly Black people wrongly jailed in a small Texas town.   And the Senate should soon confirm Kristen Clarke to head the civil rights division, where she started her legal career investigating police conduct, hate crimes, and human trafficking.

Together with Biden and Garland, Gupta and Clarke will save lives, defend civil rights, and give millions of Americans hope that greater justice is coming.

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Bay Area

Asian/Black Relations Can Get Better Together During Heritage Month

Heritage months are ways to benchmark our progress and see what urgently needs to be done now. 

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Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

President Joe Biden has given May a new name. It’s no longer Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as proclaimed by Obama in 2009.  And it’s definitely not Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, as proclaimed by Jimmy Carter in 1978. It’s Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Month, as proclaimed by Biden on the last day of April this year. 

That’s our new umbrella. A big one, incorporating everyone. From the East Bay’s Rocky Johnson, the father of Dwayne the Rock, an African American/Samoan American. To Vallejo’s Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, a/k/a H.E.R., the African American Filipino of Grammy- Oscar-winning- songs fame.

Despite how huge the umbrella is incorporating more than 23 million people from more than 20 countries of origin, we are all American. And we’re the fastest-growing group in the nation, set to double in size, overtake the Latinx population and, with 46 million people, become the largest ethnic group in America by 2060. 

And so we’ve come to expect people seeking to divide us up. During a Zoom conference of attorneys general last week, a member of the audience had a question. “There seems to be an emphasis on attributing anti-Asian violence to white people,” said a white male to the panel. “And I’m just wondering if it is healthy to do that, or an effort to do that…when in some incidents, the attacks were committed by non-white people.”

Essentially, the man was saying, “Don’t blame white people,” implying that Blacks have often been perps in some high profile crimes against Asians. 

But it seemed more like a question to drive a wedge to break up our solidarity.

Fortunately, civil rights activists John Yang knew exactly how to answer that one. 

“Yes, there have been attacks on Asian Americans by people that are not white, no question about that,” he said. “But I would ask everyone to be really, really careful about what the actual statistics are, because the statistics show that the predominant number of people attacking Asians are Caucasian.” Then he referred to some high-profile cases in the Bay Area where Blacks attacked elderly Asians, once again pointing out it was the exception, not the norm.

It was the right response to avoid creating divisiveness and to let everyone know that the only way to end racism is to fight it together.

But he also said something that rang true to most Asian Americans. 

“Let’s be clear, there (are) elements of anti-Blackness in the Asian American community, that we do need to unlearn as well,” he said. Then he made it personal. “And that’s something that I’m going to call out on myself, and in our community, and we would ask everyone to do the same thing as we’re all learning together.”

It was a rare candid public moment that unveiled a sense of friction between Asian and Black communities that has existed since the days I wrote op-ed pieces in the 1990s in the Tribune. 

Heritage months are ways to benchmark our progress and see what urgently needs to be done now. 

Like the speaker said, a lot of it involves calling out where we have fallen short of the ideal.

That’s what Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month is really for—to learn the good, and unlearn the bad, together. 

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Bay Area

Newsom Announces New Round of Stimulus Checks, Budget Surplus of Nearly $76 Billion

If approved by the Legislature, the $600 payments announced Monday would go to income-eligible taxpayers who did not receive the first stimulus payment as well as additional $500 payments to families with dependents and families living in the state without legal permission.

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California residents who made up to $75,000 last year would be eligible for a $600 stimulus check under a budget proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined Monday in Oakland.

     In a briefing at the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, Newsom said the state would spend some $12 billion on the payments, made possible by a projected general fund surplus of $75.7 billion. 

     Roughly $38 billion in total from that surplus would be used for pandemic relief programs like the stimulus checks, $5.2 billion to assist low-income renters pay off their back rent and $2 billion to help residents pay off unpaid utility bills. 

     “We think this is a significant, direct not only stimulus, but direct relief to millions and millions of Californians in need,” Newsom said.

     The state sent out initial $600 stimulus payments earlier this year as part of Newsom’s initial budget proposal in January.

     Those payments, which the Legislature approved in February, were targeted at residents who made less than $30,000 in 2020, received the California earned-income tax credit or filed their taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number. 

     Just as with those initial payments, the $600 checks Newsom announced Monday would be dispersed to state residents regardless of their immigration status, as people living in the U.S. without legal permission were not eligible for the three federal stimulus payments issued over the last 15 months.

     If approved by the Legislature, the $600 payments announced Monday would go to income-eligible taxpayers who did not receive the first stimulus payment as well as additional $500 payments to families with dependents and families living in the state without legal permission.

     “I love saying Oakland, California, is the most unapologetic sanctuary city in America,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said at the briefing. “I also commend Gov. Gavin Newsom for recognizing that our immigrant workers will be taken care of by the state of California.”

     The funding to assist with unpaid rent and utilities, Newsom said, is part of an effort to pay off all back rent owed in the state as a result of the pandemic. 

    The governor noted that the results of studies on the amount of back rent owed in the state have varied between $2.5 billion and north of $5 billion, but the proposal sets aside $5.2 billion for back rent out of “an abundance of caution.”

      Newsom is expected to tease out other portions of his May budget proposal revision this week before unveiling the full proposal on Friday.

     Newsom and the state legislature will then have until June 15 to approve the budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. 

   

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