In the News

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that in most cases, a college degree helps to boost employment and earning potential -- the underemployment rate of those with just a high school diploma is 12.9%, the analysis found. But for many Americans, a college degree is out of reach without taking on debt. That’s particularly true for African-Americans. More than half of young black households hold student debt, according to a recent analysis from Demos, a left-leaning think tank, and Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy.

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Attaining a higher education in the U.S. has long been seen as the great equalizer. "We see education as a way to level the playing field among low-income families, low-income communities and communities of color," Mark Huelsman, the report's lead author, told NBC News.
 
But the current education system is rife with racial and class disparities contributing to an expanding wealth gap between whites and people of color, according to the "Less Debt, More Equity" report.
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Eliminating student debt for low- to middle-income families could dramatically narrow the racial wealth gap between black and white households, according to a joint study by liberal think tank Demos and the Institute for Assets & Social Policy at Brandeis University.
 
Though 43 million Americans across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum have nearly $1.3 trillion in college loans, black households are far more likely to have student debt at all income levels.
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However generous paid leave benefits are, whether employees actually use those benefits will depend a lot on the culture they work in and the social pressures they face.
 
Amazon, for instance, is "notorious for its competitive work environment, and simply having access to leave may not be enough if workers feel they will be penalized in their careers for taking it," said Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at Demos.
 
This is doubly true for fathers, who are especially unlikely to take leave no matter where they wo
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In addition, federal student loans — which usually cap at $27,000 over four years — don’t always cover the full cost of a higher education, and many students are forced to secure private loans or work jobs to pay for their degree.

“Student debt is not the same to every borrower,” Mark Huelsman, a senior analyst at public policy nonprofit Demos, said in a statement. “It can look a lot different to a first-generation student from a very modest economic background than to someone going to graduate school getting a law degree.”

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All in, 401(k) fees can range from 50 basis points up to 3 percent, said David Walters, a CPA and certified financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group. Any plan charging more than 1 percent, Walters insisted, should be seen as suspect.

"Taken over an employee's lifetime, that can make a huge difference in what [workers] get to spend in retirement," Walters said.

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Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, compared the movement to the one seen with universal health care, which had been an issue for quite awhile  until “a moment of consensus” came in 2008.

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Fees can take a bite out of your retirement income, so it's important to be aware of what advisory or fund management fees you might be paying. Fees for a median-income two-earner family can eat up almost one-third of their investment returns over a lifetime, according to Demos, a think tank. Reining wrote on his blog that he invested in index funds, which typically have lower fee structures than actively managed funds, and individual stocks.

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“Student debt has become a kitchen-table issue at this point,” says Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos. “Because borrowing is now a prerequisite to college, it’s now embedded in traditional issues of economic fairness and things that students tend to be active about.”

 
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However generous Amazon's new benefits are, whether employees actually use those benefits will depend a lot on the culture they work in and the social pressures they face.

"Amazon is notorious for its competitive work environment, and simply having access to leave may not be enough if workers feel they will be penalized in their careers for taking it," said Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at Demos.

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