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Trade Schools Have to Find Grads Jobs, or Lose Financial Aid

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This July 8, 2014 file photo shows an Everest Institute sign on an office building in Silver Spring, Md. In the two decades since trade schools started popping up on U.S. stock exchanges to maximize profits, allegations of misconduct have been rampant. On July 1, 2015, new rules go into effect for any school with a career-training program. The Education Department estimates it loaned some $3.6 billion in the past five years to Corinthian students before the government forced it to sell or close its campuses. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

This July 8, 2014 file photo shows an Everest Institute sign on an office building in Silver Spring, Md. In the two decades since trade schools started popping up on U.S. stock exchanges to maximize profits, allegations of misconduct have been rampant. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exotic dancers hired as admissions counselors. Recruiters told to seek out “impatient” individuals who have “few people in their lives who care about them.” Military personnel still recovering from brain damage told to sign on the dotted line.

In the two decades since trade schools started popping up on U.S. stock exchanges to maximize profits, allegations of misconduct have been rampant. On Wednesday, new rules go into effect for any school with a career-training program. Graduates have to be able to earn enough money to repay their student loans, or a school risks losing access to financial aid. In general, annual loan payments shouldn’t exceed 20 percent of a graduate’s discretionary income or 8 percent of total earnings.

It’s a modest step, consumer advocates say, that will probably succeed in shutting down the most obviously fraudulent programs, often criminal justice and medical training programs that can cost as much as $75,000 but aren’t sought after by employers. Still, the government’s new definition for “gainful employment” is unlikely to change what’s become a complicated, enduring problem in the U.S.

Too many poor kids, mostly minorities, are reaching adulthood with little education, no prospect of attending a four-year traditional college and not enough time, money or knowhow to figure out an alternative path through a local community college. What these students do have is eligibility for government-backed student loans and grants, making them targets for predatory lending schemes that look much like tactics used by subprime lenders during the housing crisis.

Meanwhile, there remains little appetite in Congress and the White House to wade into the business of deciding which diplomas and schools are worthwhile. House and Senate Republicans have proposed blocking enforcement of the regulations, while the White House said it’s backing off from the idea of developing its own college ratings plan.

“This is a civil rights issue, plain and simple,” said Maura Dundon, senior policy council at the Center for Responsible Lending, which estimates that 28 percent of black students studying for a four-year degree are enrolled at a for-profit college compared to only 10 percent of white students.

For-profit schools say they are meeting a need of students looking for job training.

“Who else in higher education is educating these students? I have yet to get a cogent answer to this,” said Noah Black, a spokesman for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, or APSCU, a group that represents the $30 billion-a-year industry and sued unsuccessfully to block the regulations.

Republicans in Congress have swung behind the industry, saying the Education Department’s debt-to-earnings ratio doesn’t make sense.

“If every graduate in the University of Tennessee’s political science program were to come work on Capitol Hill, then that program would be shut down,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee that oversees education and labor issues.

Well intentioned or not, the unfettered rise of for-profit colleges since the 1990s is costing taxpayers. For-profit schools consistently take in more federal loan money than nonprofit schools, despite enrolling a smaller number of students. Yet, for-profit students also account for 47 percent of all federal student loan defaults, according to a 2012 Senate investigation.

In addition to loan defaults, state and federal investigations have turned up widespread allegations of fraud and deceptive business practices, particularly in the case of the now-defunct for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges. The findings have been so startling that last month the Education Department launched a major consumer bailout program and appointed a “special master” to oversee debt relief for students.

Certain Corinthian-related programs, including those at Heald College, were deemed so unfair and predatory that the Education Department set up a website to make the process of debt relief easier for those students. Officials estimate bad debt resulting from Heald College at about $542 million.

The total could climb. The Education Department estimates it loaned some $3.6 billion in the past five years to Corinthian students before the government forced it to sell or close its campuses.

Other for-profits too are showing signs of trouble: ITT Educational Services, Education Management Corp., University of Phoenix, Career Education Corp., Kaplan and DeVry University are among those that have disclosed to shareholders that they are or have been subjects of investigations by state or federal authorities.

“These are our taxpayer dollars that form federal student loans, that are used to educate people and supposedly place them in jobs. When did that cease to be a public trust?” said Jack Conway, the state attorney general in Kentucky and the leader of a working group of 37 states investigating for-profit schools.

The latest regulations have so far survived two challenges in court, but include what reform advocates say is still a big loophole: The regulations only consider graduates of a program and whether they can find employment. The rules don’t consider how many students attend a school and drop out, either because they were never qualified in the first place or because they realized the program wasn’t going to get them a job.

White House officials said the rules are the toughest viable legal option at a time when many lawmakers are defending the industry. They estimate the regulation will affect some 841,000 students enrolled in training programs that won’t result in employment.

“This industry is well-funded, has powerful backers in Congress and has worked relentlessly to avoid even the most commonsense measures,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “But today, despite their efforts, new safeguards for students become a reality.”

APSCU’s Black said the administration’s focus on employment makes the regulations unfair. Nonprofit public and private colleges churn out numerous degrees that don’t immediately translate into jobs, he said.

“By whose metric are these worthless degrees?” he asked.

___

Follow Anne Flaherty on Twitter at https://twitter.com/annekflaherty.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Commentary

On Ishmael Reed’s Inclusion and Van Jones’ Amazon Prime

Complain about the media representation of Oakland all you want. Last week, in the national media, Oakland was portrayed as a great place to live, work, and dine, with restaurants where people come up to your table and greet you like a long-lost neighbor. 

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Ishmael Reed/Photo by Emil Guillermo

Complain about the media representation of Oakland all you want. Last week, in the national media, Oakland was portrayed as a great place to live, work, and dine, with restaurants where people come up to your table and greet you like a long-lost neighbor.

That Oakland. You know it? It’s the backdrop of a profile in the New Yorker magazine on Ishmael Reed, novelist, playwright, poet, and resident of Oakland. Hills? Oh no, the flats. Reed is a jazz guy; He B-flat. 

Hopefully, the joker in Reed laughs at that pun. It’s because of Reed that I am a writer. But let me not forget Flossie Lewis, my high school English teacher, and current Oakland resident. Lewis set me up. Reed delivered the punch.  

I first met Reed in St. Louis, Mo., where he was the “artist in residence” for Washington University’s first Writer’s Program. Intended to become a better Iowa Writers Workshop, it had all white writers like William Gass and Stanley Elkin. Reed was the token-in-resident. I was the token minority grad student. When one writer told me to stop writing about my Filipino family, Reed was there to tell me to put them back in. 

That’s what Ishmael did for me. 

The New Yorker profile published on July 19 compelled me to pull out Reed’s work again. “Mumbo Jumbo” (1972) re-read during the pandemic jumps off the page and is funnier than ever. People coming down with a virus that makes people dance the boogie?  It was a finalist for the National Book Award and considered for the Pulitzer Prize. 

The New Yorker also details Reed’s life with his wife, the dancer/choreographer/director Carla Blank, and their daughter, the poet Tennessee Reed. And you’ll learn how the writing all started–as a jazz columnist in the Black press for the Buffalo Empire Star.

That’s the enduring value of the ethnic media, the Black press, and newspapers like the Oakland Post. It’s still a place where diverse voices can let it all out.  

Asked about his legacy, Reed was simple and humble. “I made American literature more democratic for writers from different backgrounds,” he said. “I was part of that movement to be heard.”

I heard that. 

Van Jones’ $100 Millon Speech

Ishmael Reed is one of the only MacArthur Genius grant winners I know.

But Van Jones is the first winner of the Courage and Civility Award, which he received on July 20. Yes, that Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center. Way before CNN. I hope he remembers how he was a guest on my old New California Media roundtable talk TV show on the ethnic media more than 20 years ago on KCSM-TV. 

Because the Courage and Civility Award is $100 million unattached–from Jeff Bezos.

I wasn’t crazy about Richard Branson’s flight, so you know I’m not out-of-this-world over Bezos’s 63-mile jaunt, which I call the Neo-Space Age’s white flight. You can go beyond the suburbs.
Bezos has been hammered over not paying his taxes, and how spending billions of dollars into space travel during a time of real humanitarian need on Earth is on its face one word–obscene.

To his credit, he did what all rich people of money do when they stretch the limits of tasteful behavior.

They use their money by giving it away. It’s how the Rockefellers, the Fords, the Sacklers, the Mellons, etc., etc., can live with themselves. Albeit, far away from everyone else. Hence, the Courage and Civility Award. 

Jones was gracious about the hun mill gift. 

“I haven’t always been courageous,” said Jones.  “But I know people who are. They get up every day on the frontlines of grassroots communities. They don’t have much. But they’re good people and they fight hard. And they don’t have enough support.”
All true. And then he delivered the penance for Bezos sins.

“Can you imagine,” said Jones. “Grassroots folks from Appalachia, from the Native American reservation, having enough money to be able to connect with the geniuses that disrupted the space industry, disrupted taxis, hotels, and bookstores. Let’s start disrupting poverty. Let’s start disrupting pollution. 

“Start disrupting the $90 billion prison industry together. You take people on the frontlines and their wisdom and their genius and creativity, and you give them a shot. They’re not gonna turn around neighborhoods, they’re gonna turnaround this nation. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Then Jones had this for Bezos. “I appreciate you lifting the ceiling off of people’s dreams,” Jones said, then turned back to us. “Don’t be mad about it when you see somebody reaching for the heavens, be glad to know there’s a lot more heaven to reach for. And we can do that together.”

Bezos’ $100 million doesn’t buy a lot in the space biz. But handing it to Jones? Let’s see the disruptive good it can do on Earth.

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Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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