In the News

A coalition of progressive groups on Thursday formally began a new campaign aimed at curbing rising student debt and reducing the price of college.

The group of think tanks, student organizations, consumer advocates, and unions is targeting the country’s “increasingly dysfunctional system of higher education,” said Anne Johnson, executive director of Generation Progress, the youth division of the Center for American Progress, which is an organizer of the campaign. [...]

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While increased federal spending for higher education faces an uphill battle in Congress, pressure is mounting from Democrats in Washington, D.C., to raise state appropriations for higher education.

"No one who works full-time should have to raise their children in poverty," Senator Barbara Boxer said. She was talking about raising the minimum wage during aspeech to the Commonwealth Club of California. In addition to citing the moral reason the federal minimum wage deserves a second look, she also made an economic argument. "When working people have a little more in their paychecks, they spend a little more in their communities. So that's what we're trying to do," she added.

This week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York offered continuing evidence of the student debt crisis. Outstanding student debt again topped $1 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2013, making it the second-largest pool of debt in the nation behind mortgages. This has tripled in just a decade, as higher-education prices increased faster than medical costs, up 500 percent since 1985.

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Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would increase the price of a $16 product at Walmart, such as the typical DVD, by just a cent if all of the extra costs were passed on to consumers, according to an analysis by an economist for Bloomberg News. [...]

The odds that Republican House Speaker John Boehner will allow a vote on raising the minimum wage remain as low as ever, but some large retailers are already raising the wage on their own initiative. On Wednesday, clothing chain Gap Inc. announced it would be raising its base wage from $9 to $10 per hour next year, directly benefiting as much as 72% of its hourly workforce.

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The good folks at Demos, led by the redoubtable Liz Kennedy, have produced yet another study, this one outlining strategies to roll back the laws passed out in the country aimed at restricting the franchise of groups of people that conservatives and Republicans would rather not have voting, thank you very much.

Walmart currently does not support raising the federal minimum wage. However, considering the company's lackluster performance over the past few months, perhaps it's time to take a stand.

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In the last four parts of this series, I have discussed the problems of our current student loan system, the potential for an income-based repayment system, and the difficulties of a graduate tax. This leaves us with another proposal: universal free undergraduate public higher education. [...]

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Walmart is denying a Bloomberg report that said the nation's largest private employer is considering supporting an increase in the minimum wage.

"We are not at all considering this," Walmart spokesman David Tovar told The Huffington Post Wednesday afternoon, just after Bloomberg published the story. [...]