layofflist on December 4th, 2013

The following is a guest post from Kimberly Green that was originally published at http://www.onlinecolleges.net/career-resources/surviving-layoffs . The job market is a difficult path for many graduates in a sluggish economy and those with jobs still have the fear of layoffs hanging over their heads. Kimberly’s article offers some suggestions on how to best traverse a layoff. Hopefully after reading this article, you have a better understanding of what you need to do in the event of a layoff. Being prepared for a layoff can be as important as being prepared for a new job.

The Recent Grand’s Guide to Surviving Layoffs

The unemployment rate in the U.S., while much improved since its peak in 2009, is still quite high. Job losses are frequently due to layoffs that have nothing to do with job performance and everything to do with reducing an organization’s headcount. Companies are continuing to tighten their belts, laying off entire departments or offshoring labor to other countries.

A layoff can be hard to not take personally, particularly for a young professional in their first job. Ultimately, the formerly-employed who do find other jobs follow similar practices in their quest for new employment. Some even take the opportunity to change directions in their careers, or to dip their toes in the waters of an entirely new industry.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

The loss of a salary is often the first thing that leaps to mind when individuals are laid off. While it isn’t necessary to build a cardboard tent, there are several steps that you should take right away in order to maintain financial security until you find another job. If your job loss was unexpected, your first instinct may be to bolt out of the office; however, you really need to ask some questions first.

  • Most companies offer some sort of severance package. Know the details of your severance, how long it lasts, and what percentage of your salary you will receive.
  • Understand where you stand with health benefits. If your benefits aren’t continued, investigate your eligibility and costs for COBRA.
  • Ask about your pension or 401(k) account. Do you have access to it? How so?
  • Inquire whether you’ll be compensated for unused vacation or sick days.

Once you understand the details of your separation from the company, you can take some immediate next steps:

1. File for Unemployment Benefits

  • Who is Eligible? Any U.S. worker who has been laid off for reasons unrelated to performance is eligible for unemployment benefits. Generally, you will lose unemployment benefits if you return to school, though there are rare exceptions.
  • What are the Benefits? Until you find a new job or are enrolled in school your unemployment benefit can supplement your income. The amount you receive is generally based on how long you worked and how much you earned. Most states pay unemployment up to a maximum of 26 weeks. These federal funds are allocated by individual states; your state will confirm with your former employer that you were laid off and not fired.
  • How Can I Apply? Contact your state’s unemployment office. In most states you can apply fully online and start receiving benefits within four to six weeks.

2. Apply for COBRA

  • Who is Eligible? Anyone who was previously enrolled in a COBRA-qualified employer health plan can extend their coverage through this program. There are a few limitations, (the major one being that the employer group plan is still active). You can read about them on the DOL’s COBRA FAQ page. Continuation periods are usually limited to 18 months after your separation with the company.
  • What are the Benefits? COBRA entitles you to pay a discounted group rate for the same health coverage provided by your former employer. Coverage rates will be more expensive than they are for active employees. Annual costs average at $2,200 for individuals and close to $5,000 for families. This sounds expensive, but in the short-term it can save you money until you find a comparable individual plan or gain coverage through a new employer. Plans cover everything that your former plan may have:
    • Inpatient and outpatient hospital care
    • Physician care
    • Surgery and other major medical procedures
    • Prescription drugs
    • Dental and vision
  • How Can I Apply? Ask your employer’s human resources department to receive the COBRA election form. They will be required to provide this to you within 30 days of your request. After that, you have 60 days to file for continuation. If you’re concerned about receiving these forms or want them earlier, you can contact the Department of Labor’s COBRA offices.

3. Square Away Your 401k

  • Who is Eligible? Anyone enrolled in a 401k sponsored by a former employer.
  • What are the Options? You usually have four 401k options when you leave a company:
    • You can leave the fund in the former employer’s plan
    • Roll the fund into a new employer plan
    • Put it into an IRA
    • Cash it out
  • What are the Benefits? The best advice here is to avoid cashing out. Not only will you pay a 10% penalty at the time you withdraw your funds, but you’ll also end up paying an additional 10% on tax day. If you can get by without the money now, you’ll earn more by keeping the cash in an investment vehicle like a rollover IRA or a new employer-based retirement plan once it comes along.
  • How Can I Rollover? Contact the former plan administrator immediately and discuss your options and any deadlines involved with your rollover. Not all employers will offer you the option to maintain your 401k plan. If they send you a distribution check, you have 60 days to roll this cash into an IRA or else you will be subject to penalties as if you’d cashed out yourself. The key is to be proactive about talking to your old company and getting the cash that you’ve earned rolled into the best possible investment vehicle you have access to.

4. Assess Your Expenses

  • Budget: Calculate how long you can make ends meet without a salary. Cut out all unnecessary expenses; now is the time to make your own coffee, cook at home, and findcheap entertainment.
  • Student Loans: Find out if you qualify for a forbearance that will defer your payments for a while.
  • Other Debt: Contact your creditors if you’re having trouble meeting obligations; often companies are happy to work with you if you contact them and are forthcoming about your job situation. Resist the urge to live on credit; accumulating debt without a foreseeable way to pay it off is a dangerous move. In worst-case scenarios, it may be in your best interest to take a job in retail or food service; while you may not love the work, you are generating income and not debt.
  • Ask for Help: Lastly, if you are young and single (or perhaps if you are not), there is no great shame in living with family until you get back on your feet. Remember that while job loss is traumatizing, it’s temporary.

5. Obtain Additional Education

  • Certification Program: For some college grads, the sudden free time can make pursuing more education an attractive solution. If finances and your personal circumstances permit, you may take this opportunity to earn a post-baccalaureate certificate in your industry. Additional certifications will build on the experience you already have and make you a more competitive candidate for a new position.
  • Graduate School: Some master’s programs require students to have worked in the industry before returning to school; viewed positively, this could be a golden opportunity. Full-time graduate students may defer student loan obligations and may also be eligible for more financial aid. Attending an online school may also be an attractive option. While you earn additional credentials on your own schedule, the flexibility afforded by online study allows you to conduct a job search and schedule interviews during the day. Finally, many community colleges offer free or discounted classes to unemployed students.
  • Federal Job Training Programs: The federal government has resources in place for unemployed individuals to acquire additional training. Funds that assist dislocated workers are available through CareerOneStop, a service provided by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Eligible dislocated workers are mentored by Career Center Counselors who can direct you to free training in many fields. Certifications, apprenticeships and professional licensing may be earned, any of which can increase your employability.CareerOneStop also offers ajob matching tool that not only identifies new positions that match your previous skill set, but also provides wage data, links to job openings and links to training that would increase your likelihood of getting each job. Funding for these programs is limited and must be applied for within 15 weeks of your last day at work.The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program is designed to assist workers who lost their jobs due to changes in imports to the U.S., offshoring of labor, or business changes identified as trade-injured by the International Trade Commission. Workers in the TAA program have access to up to 130 weeks of career training, skills assessments and mentoring. Reimbursement for travel to interviews and relocation is also available. And, if you are over 50 and your new job pays you less than $50,000 annually, you may be eligible for temporary wage subsidies. Checkyour state’s allocation of TAA funding.

6. Stay Active in Your Industry

  • Use Your Former Employer as a Resource: While it may seem counterintuitive, staying in contact with your former employer can unearth opportunities to network that you may not have expected. Ask if outplacement services are offered, and follow up if so. Request reference letters from former supervisors, and ask for extended use of your company-issued laptop or Blackberry while you job-search. This may seem intimidating; however, the worst thing they can say is “no.”
  • Tap Into Your Network: Reach out to friends and colleagues and explain your situation in simple terms; there is no social stigma to being laid off and no need to be embarrassed. Using social media tools can help you reach people you otherwise would never have met, particularly the networking site LinkedIn. Consider joining a job search club, or create your own from former co-workers in the same situation. Meet weekly to exchange ideas and hold each other accountable for sending out resumes.
  • Be an Industry Insider: If cost is not prohibitive, attend industry events like conferences, trade shows or seminars. You will continue to build your contact list, keep your face in front of people who have the potential to hire you, and learn new skills at the same time. If you’re not already a member of a professional association in your field, now is the time to join one; many of them offer job boards as member benefits.
  • Continue to Read, Research, and Learn: As you search for new employment, keep up on industry news by subscribing to trade publications or attending association meetings. Look for newly published books in your field, and make yourself aware of technological advances in the industry. If a new software application is making the rounds, take a class and learn to use it while you job-hunt.

7. Create Opportunities to Gain Work Experience

  • Part-Time Work: Consider part-time work, possibly from the company that laid you off in the first place. The concept of Survivor Demotions often doesn’t occur to employers; if you’re about to lose your salaried position, ask if you can take a demotion to a lower-level job in the company or perform your old job on a part-time basis. It’s likely you’ll have more time on your hands to job-search if you’re working in a less-demanding capacity than before, and you’ll still be employed.
  • Work Share: In some states, companies that are downsizing are willing to implement work-sharing programs. Rather than eliminating jobs in the workforce, these companies reduce the hours and benefits of a group of workers. These workers are still eligible for partial unemployment insurance, and therefore don’t experience a loss in income until unemployment resources end.
  • Contract Positions: Temporary or contract positions also provide experience and help you meet new people in influential positions; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of contract positions increased by 73% after 2009. Employers benefit from these short-term offerings because they are not required to provide health insurance or paid holidays to these employees. If one of these opportunities becomes available, take it and continue your job search until you find a permanent position.
  • Volunteer: Using your unique skills in a volunteer position can increase your networking opportunities while you perform a good deed. Unpaid internships may also lead to new business contacts or a full-time position. Consulting is also a popular choice for those with enough industry knowledge; in fact, some workers find so much success in consulting that it becomes a full-time career.

Ultimately, it’s important to see a layoff as an opportunity rather than a catastrophe. But in order to free your mind to think about where you want to go next, take care of the few financial details within your control.Once some of the financial pressures are off your back, you can start looking for a new job. Gather professional references, update your resume, and do some serious thinking about what you did or didn’t like about your old job and what you really want from a new one. If you stay connected, keep your skills sharp and knowledge relevant, a new opportunity may present itself sooner than you think.

Thank you for that timeless information.

 

by Marian Wang ProPublica, Sep. 11, 2013, 12 a.m.

This story was co-published with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Shauniqua Epps was the sort of student that so many colleges say they want.

She was a high achiever, graduating from high school with a 3.8 GPA and ranking among the top students in her class. She served as secretary, then president, of the student government. She played varsity basketball and softball. Her high-school guidance counselor, in a letter of recommendation, wrote that Epps was “an unusual young lady” with “both drive and determination.”

Epps, 19, was also needy.

Her family lives in subsidized housing in South Philadelphia, and her father died when she was in third grade. Her mother is on Social Security disability, which provides the family $698 a month, records show. Neither of her parents finished high school.

Epps, who is African-American, made it her goal to be the first in her family to attend college.

“I did volunteering. I did internships. I did great in school. I was always good with people,” said Epps, who has a broad smile and a cheerful manner. “I thought everything was going to go my way.”

At first, it looked that way.

Epps was admitted to three colleges, all public institutions in Pennsylvania. She was awarded the maximum Pell grant, federal funds intended for needy students. She also qualified for the maximum state grant for needy Pennsylvania students.

None of the three schools Epps was admitted to gave her a single dollar of aid.

To attend her dream school, Lincoln University, Epps would have had to come up with about $4,000 per year, after maxing out on federal loans — close to half of what her mother receives from Social Security. It was money her family didn’t have, she said.

Public colleges and universities were generally founded and funded to give students in their states access to an affordable college education. They have long served as a vital pathway for students from modest means and those who are the first in their families to attend college.

But many public universities, faced with their own financial shortfalls, are increasingly leaving low-income students behind — including strivers like Epps.

It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest.

A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants — as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts — to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend has continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.

 Students in the lowest quartile of income  Students in the highest quartile of income Source: ProPublica analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education National Postsecondary Student Aid Study

Attention has long been focused on the lack of economic diversity at private colleges, especially at the most elite schools. What has been little discussed, by contrast, is how public universities, which enroll far more students, have gradually shifted their priorities — and a growing portion of their aid dollars — away from low-income students.

State schools are typically considered to offer the most affordable, accessible four-year education students can get. When those schools raise tuition and don’t offer more aid, low-income students are often forced to decide not just which college to attend but whether they can afford to attend college at all.

“The most needy students are getting squeezed out,” said Charles Reed, a former chancellor of the California State University system and of the State University System of Florida. “Need-based aid is extremely important to these students and their parents.”

There’s no data on the number of needy but qualified students who are “squeezed out” and don’t make it onto four-year college campuses. But what is clear is that while the number of needy students has been growing, state schools have not kept up.

Over roughly two decades, four-year state schools have been educating a shrinking portion of the nation’s lowest-income students, according to an analysis of Pell-grant data by Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the nonprofit Pell Institute. The task of educating low-income students has increasingly fallen to community colleges and for-profit schools.

Epps’ top choice, officially known as The Lincoln University, is about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, and was one of the nation’s first historically black colleges. Founded in 1854 to serve African-Americans excluded from other colleges, the school became a public institution in the early 1970s, when the state legislature deemed its mission to be “completely compatible with the needs of the Commonwealth.”

All of the school’s own aid typically goes toward athletic or merit-based scholarships, regardless of students’ needs. In the 2009-10 budget, for instance, most of the roughly $3 million in institutional aid went to four specific “merit-based” scholarships — and the rest to athletics, international students, and study abroad, according to data supplied by Lincoln. The only need-based aid available to students is through separate donor-supported scholarships, some of which are earmarked for needy students, said university spokesman Eric Webb.

Aid given based on merit or other factors could still go to needy students, but that doesn’t appear to be happening much at Lincoln.

Data made available by the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success show that 84 percent of the school’s grant dollars in the 2009-10 school year did not go to meeting students’ needs. (The data does not include athletic scholarships and certain other forms of aid.)

At Epps’ second choice, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, two-thirds of aid dollars in 2010-11 went to students who had no documented need for it, according to the latest data available. (East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, the third school that accepted Epps, did not provide a breakdown of institutional grant aid.)

Why have public universities across the nation shifted their aid?

“For some schools, they’re trying to climb to the top of the rankings. For other schools, it’s more about revenue generation,” said Don Hossler, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University at Bloomington.

To achieve these goals, schools use their aid to draw wealthier students — especially those from out of state, who will pay more in tuition — or higher-achieving students, whose scores will give the colleges a boost in the rankings.

Private colleges have been using such tactics aggressively for some time. But in recent years, many public colleges have sought to catch up, doing what the industry calls “financial-aid leveraging.”

The math can work like this: Instead of offering, say, $12,000 to an especially needy student, a school might choose to leverage its aid by giving $3,000 discounts to four students with less need, each of whom scored high on the SAT, who together will bring in more tuition dollars than the needier student.

Those discounts are often offered to prospective students as “merit aid.”

Despite its name, “merit aid isn’t always going to the very best students,” Hossler said. “It’s an intentional strategy to help offset the loss of state support.”

Hossler knows this world firsthand. For years, he carried out such strategies as vice chancellor for enrollment services at Indiana University.

“One of my charges was to go after what I would call pretty good out-of-state students,” he said. “Not valedictorians, not the top of the class. Students who you didn’t have to give thousands and thousands of dollars to in order to get them to enroll.”

Indiana University is not alone in thinking about financial aid this way. Consultants who work with schools on financial-aid strategies said they’ve seen an uptick in interest from public universities in recent years, with many focused on generating more revenue.

“When public [universities] come to us individually now, they won’t admit it, but they’re all looking for the same thing — smart students who can pay,” said an industry consultant who asked not to be named.

Another industry consultant, Mary Piccioli of Scannell & Kurz, said many of her firm’s public-school clients are looking to use financial aid “to positively impact the bottom line.”

College officials often argue that attracting students with more resources means they’ll have more aid to redistribute to those in need.

“There’s certainly some truth to that,” said Donald Heller, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education, who has researched institutional-aid patterns extensively. “But I don’t think that’s really the motivating behavior for many institutions. The more dominant motivating behavior is interest in high-achieving students, which will help them with institutional prestige.”

Epps, apparently, didn’t generate that sort of interest.

She was in her high school’s computer lab, checking her email, when she saw the message from Lincoln University laying out her financial aid package: a mix of state and federal money but nothing from Lincoln.

“Once I saw it, I knew it wasn’t the amount that I needed,” Epps said. “Right away I knew it.”

Epps had been getting guidance from Philadelphia Futures, an organization that helps low-income high-school students get into and complete college. When she went through the cost calculations with a coordinator there, it became clear: The money simply didn’t add up.

At first, Epps said, she blamed herself for not qualifying for aid. She felt like a failure.

“I was kind of upset because I felt as though I worked so hard,” she said. “I kept thinking how I’m not a good test taker.”

Epps had scored a combined SAT score of 820 on math and critical reading. In fact, that’s solidly in the middle of Lincoln’s score distributions for many years, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

But what Epps didn’t know is that the school had committed to “continuously improving its SAT and GPA averages for incoming cohorts” — as language found in a strategic planning document put it. She also didn’t know that the school had been spending the majority of its financial aid on students who would help bring up those averages — regardless of whether they needed the money.

“To attract top students to your institution, you have to be able to offer them a competitive scholarship package,” said Lincoln University President Robert Jennings. “That’s usually a full-tuition scholarship, that’s a private room sometimes or laptop computer, or a whole bunch of other perks. That’s what schools do. All schools do it.”

Rather than giving small discounts to many students, as many colleges do, Lincoln focuses on giving free rides to top scorers – as a Lincoln admissions flyer lays out.

The strategy seems to have worked. Lincoln University has raised its scores in recent years. In 2002, half of Lincoln’s incoming freshmen scored between a 360 and 460 on the math section of the SAT. In 2012, half of students scored between 410 and 490.

The boost in scores has been no accident, according to Jennings. He said it was a mandate from the Board of Trustees.

“They wanted to increase the SAT averages of students coming to Lincoln,” Jennings said.

And what about students who may have once been a natural fit but aren’t hitting the higher scores? The school still wants to serve some of them — “because of our historical mission,” explained Jennings. But Lincoln has also increasingly been “trying to steer that lower tier of students — students who need much more help — into community colleges,” he said.

Jennings doesn’t see this as a departure from the school’s mission to provide public access. “Absolutely not,” he said. “That’s why you have community colleges. They, too, are public institutions, and we have built collaborative relationships with them.” He added that the school recently launched a campaign to raise more money for scholarships, some of which will go to providing more need-based aid.

Like Lincoln, both Millersville University and East Stroudsburg University — the two other colleges that accepted Epps — have created strategic planning documents that include language reflecting a desire to move up academically.

In a 2010-15 strategic planning document, East Stroudsburg University outlined the goals of becoming “more selective in each new year” as well as fostering “strategic alignment of financial aid” to better attract top students.

“High-achieving and access are not mutually exclusive,” said spokeswoman Brenda Friday. “As such, we look for and recruit students who present both. We also recruit these groups separately. There are funding possibilities available for both groups of students.”

East Stroudsburg and other regional public colleges are in a tough spot. Many don’t have very much aid to give, and most serve a higher percentage of needy students than more prestigious public flagship universities, which have more money from endowments, research and fundraising. It’s a common phenomenon in higher education – students with less money relegated to institutions with less money.

In Pennsylvania, as in most states, public higher education has faced steep cuts, especially since the most recent recession. Over the last five years, the state has cut funds for higher education by 18 percent. At public institutions, that’s worked out to about $2,000 less in state and local support per student — a 32 percentage-point drop, according to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

“All the arrows point in a direction that shows what we are out doing now is raising revenue. The old business model has sort of broken down,” said Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute and formerly the head of state higher-education boards and commissions in Montana, Washington and California.

“There have probably been no winners from all of this,” Callan said. “But the biggest losers were those who were disadvantaged on the front end.”

In high school, Epps went by the nickname “Neeks” with most of her friends. They were a mixed group. Some, like her, fostered hopes of attending college. Others just wanted to finish school and get a job.

Though she loved high school, Epps said that looking back she realizes that despite her own efforts, she didn’t get the best education.

About a third of the students at her high school didn’t graduate. After she left, the school was among roughly two dozen shuttered by the chronically underfunded School District of Philadelphia.

“On a couple of levels, systems are failing these students,” said Ann-Therese Ortiz, who worked with Epps as director of pre-college programs at Philadelphia Futures. Low-income high-school students could put in the same effort as their better-resourced counterparts, but “even with the same effort, it simply doesn’t yield the same fruit. And then there’s limited access to the same opportunities, because they’re not receiving the same educational foundation that really opens those doors.”

Those disadvantages can also show up in test scores. A substantial body of research shows that SAT scores are strongly correlated with family income.

“How do you separate merit from privilege?” asked Jerome Lucido, a professor and executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice. “Merit needs to be tied to mission, not just who got a higher test score. We already know that has a direct correlation with family income.”

But the SAT and other tests are still crucial to how publications such as U.S. News & World Report and Barron’s formulate college rankings, which are widely regarded as measures of prestige.

Not surprisingly, colleges are constantly working to move up the lists. A prospective student flipping through Barron’s 1995 college-rankings guide would have found about 90 public institutions in the top three tiers of competitiveness and more than 170 in the less competitive or non-competitive tiers. In the 2013 guide, that top tier has grown by more than 40 colleges — about 46 percent — and the bottom tier has shrunk by 60.

“The whole system is constantly moving up, going upstream to get better and better students, and get students who can pay,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “It all looks great for the press release. But you’re systematically leaving people behind.”

Carnevale, who has authored many studies analyzing this shift, likens the state of higher education to “hospitals for healthy people,” competing for the easiest to treat, most lucrative patients, rather than taking on the cases of those who stand to benefit the most. “The question is, are you trying to reach down or not?”

Schools might argue they are — in a way.

Many state schools have in recent years struck what are called “articulation agreements” — partnerships with community colleges that make it easier for community-college students to transfer to a four-year school. In the last two years, Lincoln University has established such agreements with 11 community colleges.

But even with improved transfer pathways, there’s still an inherent risk for students like Epps who “undermatch,” or don’t attend the most selective school they can get into. Low-income, minority and first-generation students frequently undermatch, research shows, and in doing so, they often end up at institutions with less support and far lower graduation rates.

Without any aid from Lincoln or the other colleges that accepted her, Epps weighed her options and chose a different route. She recently completed her first year at the Community College of Philadelphia — a school where about half of full-time freshmen don’t return for a second year.

“In a way, four-year colleges are asking two-year colleges to do the dirty work of selecting who’s worthy of a four-year college,” the Pell Institute’s Tom Mortenson said. In doing so, four-year colleges are not “taking on the responsibility from the beginning when they’re freshmen and making a real commitment to these students.”

But colleges — even those with an explicit public mission — have mounting incentives to avoid students like Epps. Carnevale points to the dawning of what’s known as the “accountability movement” — an effort by states to reform higher education by tying funding for public colleges to student outcomes and graduation rates. Last month, President Barack Obama announced that the federal government would also be moving in a similar direction — and hopes to eventually tie federal aid to certain performance measures.

Unless policymakers build in some incentives to take on more students at the margins, the accountability movement could drive schools further away from low-income and minority populations, which have lower graduation rates overall, Carnevale said. “The whole logic of this industry — and the reform of it as well — excludes low-income and minority students.”

While colleges strive to enroll wealthier and better-performing students, the demographics of the nation’s high-school graduates are moving in a different direction: As a group, tomorrow’s high-school graduates will be more racially diverse and more low-income than today’s.

“There is a significant misalignment. And I think the misalignment’s going to continue to grow,” said David Tandberg, an assistant professor of higher education at Florida State University who previously worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“The public really, really benefits from a first-generation student going to college. All sorts of wonderful outcomes come from that,” Tandberg said.

A more educated workforce has widespread benefits: It leads to more earning power for those who graduate, a stronger tax base for the state, and greater potential for economic growth in the future.

Public universities have the task of “balancing institutional striving with the public’s needs,” Tandberg said, which “are often two very different things.”

Epps still remembers going out and buying a new button-down shirt, slacks and dress shoes the night before her high-school graduation. She remembers the nervousness she felt the next morning, and the tinge of sadness.

“I was going to miss my friends. We had been together for four years, and we were all going in different directions,” she said. “I didn’t know how life was going to turn out.”

At graduation, in her white cap and gown, she was the mistress of ceremonies, introducing each of the speakers and making sure the ceremony flowed. She read out the theme of the year’s graduation, a rephrasing of a Thoreau quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

She’s certainly trying. Community college started up again last week. Epps has already signed up for a full schedule of six classes.

A year from now, she hopes to transfer, finally, to a four-year state school and eventually to get a bachelor’s degree. She’s thinking she might want to study accounting.

Jonathan Lin contributed research to this article.

Reposted with permission.

Layofflist comment:

Higher education is following the new political and economic mantra of feed the wealthy and starves the poor. That is a disturbing trend that increases economic injustice and creates economic hurdles for those that have suffered the most over the past 30 years; since the Reagan Revolution. The GOP blames the poor for our economic plight and Democrats cozy up to the bankers that created these economic chasms. Both parties are bought and paid for, so recourse through elected representation is usually futile or nonexistent.

It stunning that so many Americans silently stand by as they are systematically robbed by an out-of-control economic system more concerned about the next big campaign or college endowment contribution, then they are about the well-being of the people they are supposedly serving…..

The July employment report showed some continued improvement, but it was not all good news.

As Businessweek http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-02/july-jobs-report-is-a-swing-and-a-big-miss noted, ”The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.4 percent, from 7.6 percent—but the decline is mostly due to fewer people in the workforce.”

Below is an infographic of the July jobs numbers:

U.S. Employment Situation Snapshot - July 2013

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.