Friday Reading List: Debt Without Degrees, Discrimination, and Chance the Rapper(!)

Meredith Kolodner and Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report examine a growing phenomenon in higher education:

The numbers of students with school debt but no degree are large enough that the financial impact goes beyond individual struggles and weighs on the state’s economy. By 2025, more than 60 percent of Georgia jobs will require some kind of post-secondary education, and now only 45 percent of the state’s young adults meet that criterion ... In Georgia, the problem is particularly acute at the public research and regional universities, where students often sign on for higher levels of debt in the hopes that a bachelor’s degree will lead to a higher paying job. The number of dropouts with federal loans at these institutions has grown from 35,443 in 2007-09 to more than 56,600 in 2013-15. In that time the median student debt at most schools more than doubled. Most economists agree that too few residents with college degrees will slow Georgia’s economic growth, which could affect all residents. It’s a problem occurring in other states as well.

This is a "double whammy" problem, because we're dampening the economy in two interrelated ways: creating more debt for vulnerable borrowers, while lowering broader economic output through losing those individuals' potential contributions to the labor market.

In other news, Julia Donheiser of Chalkbeat looked at Indiana's school voucher program and found some truly disturbing trends:

In Indiana, over 34,299 students used vouchers to attend a private school last fall, making it the largest such program in the country. It’s also a program that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has applauded — which means Indiana offers a helpful glimpse at how a DeVos-led national expansion of vouchers might shape up. Our investigation found that roughly one in 10 of Indiana’s voucher schools publicly shares a policy suggesting or declaring that LGBT students are not welcome. Together, the 27 schools received over $16 million in public funds for participating last year. Many private, religious schools are also accredited by a group that provides advice about how to turn away LGBT students. Given that nearly 20 percent of schools do not publicize their admissions policies, the true number of schools with anti-LGBT policies is unclear.
Same, Dave Grohl ... same.

Same, Dave Grohl ... same.

I know what plenty of folks are going to say: "But public schools do terrible things, too."

Trust me, I know. In this case, however, the public sector has much greater legal standing to protect the rights of LGBT children. Religious institutions have consistently tested the boundaries of state and federal non-discrimination laws through "religious exemptions." The law is unsettled on this issue, and if you think this current administration and Supreme Court are going to be MORE likely to uphold the rights of vulnerable kids, I have a bridge I'd like to sell to you ...

On a personal level, I will ALWAYS stand with the LGBT community when their rights are being infringed upon. Moreover, I hope that folks in other communities realize that efforts at discrimination rarely stop at a single group of people. There are many reasons to oppose voucher programs, including their relatively dismal results. The ability for private religious institutions to discriminate, however, should be at the top of everyone's list of reasons to say, "Nope."

Elsewhere, Derrell Bradford is in The 74 with a compelling read about the real estate market:

... education, which ostensibly was not meant to be a market, has turned into one. More pointedly, it’s turned into two: The first one is the housing market, which is now in every way the proxy for the buying and selling of school that is supposed to be free but which is really priced into your mortgage. And if markets can be unfair to people, there are some people they are more unfair to than others: young families who have to buy into overheated housing markets, and those who still suffer the long-term effects of redlining, chief among them. The other is the black market that arises when people lie about their addresses to gain entrance into better-performing schools in towns where they may not live.

As regular readers know, I am partial to this line of thinking. Bradford introduces some compelling facts to the argument, so you should read the whole piece.

Finally, some uplifting news before the weekend. Tamara Young of Blavity reports that Chance the Rapper will be livening-up "back to school" ritual in Chicago this year:

Chance the Rapper is giving away 30,000 free backpacks to Bud Billiken parade goers on Saturday, Aug 12th. In a March post on Instagram, Chance said he was also "coordinating" the parade as its grand marshal ... The Bud Biliken Parade is the oldest and largest African American parade in the United States and is held to kick off the school year. The parade starts at Martin Luther King Drive and Oakwood Boulevard in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood and runs south on MLK Drive from about 39th Street to 55th Street.   Chance doesn't seem to be giving too many details of his plans, but he is encouraging everyone to come and is hinting to having a few big surprises!


Chance has been consistent in his support of educational opportunities and equity for children in Chicago. His connection to the issues in the city is real, and it's humbling to see someone of his stature remaining so connected to the children of his city. Have a great weekend!