Commentary

Nationwide, the total impact of these cutbacks is breathtaking. Between 2008 and 2013, states cut a total of $16 billion, adjusted for inflation, from their higher education budgets, even as enrollments rose more than 11 percent.

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Wage insurance like this is actually just one of a range of policies that could all be fairly described by the phrase “wage insurance”—efforts to protect families from shocks to their income, or from barebones wages more generally. Americans already benefit from some of these policies—they aren’t something that only exist among the usual suspects, Scandinavia or Canada.

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The fourth quarter of the Obama presidency has been relatively active when it comes to higher education. Last year alone, the Administration announced a proposal to make two years of community college tuition-free, finalized and released a treasure trove of data on earnings and loan repayment data by college as a substitute for its once-vaunted plans for a College Ratings system, came out with a Student Aid Bill of Rights, and issued regulations intended to streamline the confusing set of student loan repayment options.

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When diversity activists began campaigning a few years ago for tech companies to disclose their employee demographics, the truth was revealed. What resulted was a lot of handwringing over the state of diversity in tech and some commitment from companies, including Twitter to do better. Sadly, few companies have moved the needle. But for Twitter, that failure could be its undoing. Worse, for would-be tech workers, if a company with Twitter’s user profile can’t get diversity right, there’s little hope for the sector overall.

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Last month, President Obama inaugurated yet another way to encourage Americans to save for retirement. In the new myRA accounts, workers can save up to $15,000 in a low-fee investment plan that, like a government savings bond, guarantees the principal. The accounts are a small step toward helping households save, but they are not an effective solution to the coming retirement crisis.
 
Starting in 2020, the numbers of very low-income elderly will rise sharply as the retired population soars to almost 56 million.
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The Democrats need young black voters. But the political party of our parents doesn’t seem to know how to reach us — the black millennials they can’t afford to lose — this time around.

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Advocates of automatic voter registration won two legislative battles in Oregon and California this year, and lost another in New Jersey when GOP Governor Chris Christie vetoed automatic registration legislation last month.

The elections board said registration activity is back to levels from previous odd-numbered years. Part of the issue, the board said, was local social service agencies had been printing registration forms that were not coded as coming from these agencies. Issues related to DMV's online address updates also are being addressed, Strach said.

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But for many, even landing a job was not enough to make ends meet: of those 5 million job openings, nearly half paid less than $15 per hour, leaving only 2.7 million that paid $15 or more per hour. And for workers able to secure only part-time employment, wages were even more inadequate: in 2014, more than one in five part-time workers wanted full-time employment but were unable to find it.

The core finding: there are not enough living wage jobs to go around. And women and people of color are especially impacted by low wages and part-time work.

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Mark Huelsman, a policy analyst for the liberal think tank Demos, which is pushing for debt-free college, said the state efforts are important because much of the rise of undergraduate student debt is a result of state budget cuts. And, he said, "We know big policy change in every arena requires good, smart and bold state policy, either to provide an example for the federal government or in partnership with the federal government."

 
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