It wasn’t terribly long ago — barely two generations — that it was possible for an enterprising person to work their way through college with part-time and summer jobs and emerge without debt. And it also wasn’t long ago that a full-time job paying minimum wage or slightly above was enough to support a small family. But those days are long gone, writes former state Sen. Bill Jones in a guest column for The Advocate. That’s because of policy choices we’ve made, and that we have the power to change.
What is the difference between “back then” and now? We have been unwilling to tax ourselves at a level so as to keep tuition low enough so a kid can work his way through college. We have been unwilling to raise the minimum wage to keep up with the increases in the cost of living so as to enable that minimum wage earner to support his family. The possible reasons why we have allowed this to happen are: (1) we are more selfish than the preceding generations who invested in their children; or (2) we don’t value a college degree or the concept of working as highly as we did back then. Neither one of those answers makes me feel good. We know that a college degree is much more important now that it was 40 or 50 years ago. And since when did working full-time become something not worth rewarding? … How we decide these issues has nothing to do with whether we are liberal, moderate, conservative, Republican or Democrat; these issues reflect what kind of people we are and what we value.
Do elite colleges matter?
The college admissions scandal that made headlines this week has focused a national spotlight on the grotesque lengths that some families will go to ensure their offspring a place in one of America’s “elite” institutions. But does it really matter if a high-achieving student makes the cut for the Ivy League, or ends up at a less prestigious — but still good — college or university? That depends, writes Kevin Carey for The New York Times’ Upshot blog:
In 2014, the economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger published an analysis of the benefits of attending a highly selective college. They found that, after statistically controlling for students’ SAT scores, economic background and college ambitions, the long-term financial returns are “generally indistinguishable from zero.” Students who are poised to succeed tend to do so even if they don’t get into the Ivy League. But there was a crucial exception. There were strong benefits for the subset of black and Hispanic students, and for those whose parents had few educational credentials. It turns out that students who come from less privileged backgrounds benefit greatly from selective colleges. Elite higher education gives them social capital they didn’t already have.
Death penalty stalemate
A legislative hearing earlier this week on Louisiana’s death penalty was a forum for Attorney General Jeff Landry to reaffirm his enthusiasm for executions and for victims’ families to express their frustrations with the systems. But it also highlighted deeper problems: neither Gov. John Bel Edwards nor the Legislature seem to have a clear answer for how Louisiana should proceed. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune columnist Tim Morris vents:
Landry blames the governor for the empty execution gurney at Angola, without explaining why he can’t find a pro-death penalty lawmaker — surely, we have some — to propose the appropriate legislation. Edwards says his hands are tied by state law, the courts and the U.S. Constitution, although he’s obviously content to maintain the status quo. … I would personally be fine if the state repealed its death penalty, which is unequally applied and hugely expensive to boot. But the Guzzardo family and others deserve to know where things stand. They do not appear to be any closer to that clarity after the hearing. A federal judge has ordered that all executions in Louisiana be delayed until July, and no legislation has been filed for next month’s legislative session to address the issue.
The trouble with SNAP work requirements
Louisiana would be one of the states most affected by a proposed federal rule that would make it harder for states to receive waivers from a harsh time limit on SNAP food benefits for childless adults unable to document at least 80 hours of work every month. A new study by Mathematica Policy Research found that 1.2 million people will potentially be affected by the rule, and that the vast majority of them are living in “deep poverty” (for a single person, this means earning less than $6,030 per year). Karen Cunnyngham reports:
Under the proposed rule, an estimated three-quarters of these SNAP participants would be newly subject to a three-month limit on their benefits [over a three year period], according to USDA. Some of them would increase existing work to an average of 20 hours per week, find work, or meet the work requirements by participating in an employment and training program or workfare (unpaid work through a state-approved program). However, USDA estimates that two-thirds (755,000 people in 2020) would not meet the additional work requirements and would therefore lose eligibility after three months. For those living with others unaffected by the policy change, the SNAP household could continue to receive benefits, but the amount would be reduced; those living alone would lose all SNAP benefits.
Number of the Day
7 million – National shortage of affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renters (those below the federal poverty level or living at or below 30 percent of an area’s median income). (Source: National Low-Income Housing Coalition via Route Fifty.)