Higher Education

Price of Service Cuts: Drowning in Debt: Budget Cuts Raise Cost of College

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is telling the stories of Pennsylvanians impacted by five years of state service cuts in a new series called the Price of Service Cuts.

In today's installment, we take a look at funding cuts to higher education and how that is helping to make college even more unaffordable for many Pennsylvanians.

Third and State This Week: State of the Union, Loopholes and Price of Service Cuts

This week, we blogged about the President's State of the Union address, new legislation to address corporate tax loopholes and a new series examining the price of cuts to state services in Pennsylvania.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the State of the Union, Mark Price offered a preview before the President's speech and a recap of his favorite parts the next day.
  • On state budget and tax policy, Chris Lilienthal wrote that legislation proposed by Representatives Dave Reed and Eugene DePasquale would take a first step towards closing corporate tax loopholes in Pennsylvania, but more needed to be done. Chris also highlighted the first and second installments of a new series from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center featuring stories of Pennsylvanians impacted by five years of state service cuts.
  • And in other Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price compared and contrasted executives and teachers, and highlighted a proposal to strengthen both the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: SOTU 2012: Community Colleges, Workforce Development, Taxes & Infrastructure

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a pretty good summary of the State of the Union.

Here is the full text of the President's speech, and Wonkblog has a version of the speech with only what they define as specific policy proposals.

What follows are our favorites from the speech.

Third and State This Week: Food Stamps Assets Test, Lagging Job Growth and State Cuts

This week, Mark Price dominated the blog, writing about income inequality, challenges facing school districts and a new policy intended to limit access to food stamps for low-income families with modest savings.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On poverty and public welfare, Mark Price blogged about a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial questioning the wisdom of the state's reinstatement of an "assets test" for Pennsylvanians receiving food stamps, As the editorial states: "Instead of encouraging the working poor to save, Pennsylvania welfare officials want to punish families for having a few dollars in a bank account."
  • On jobs and the economy, Mark wrote that Pennsylvania is headed in the wrong direction, with November 2010-November 2011 job growth less than November 2009-November 2010.
  • On the state budget, Mark highlighted news reports on the local impacts of state cuts, and he passed on news reports on income inequality and challenges facing schools and higher education.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: While Governor and Legislature Dally, School Buildings Crumble and Tuition Rises

The Reading School District has a backlog of building repairs approaching $750 million. Is anyone in the Governor’s office or perhaps the Legislature paying attention? To see firsthand, they don't even have to go to Reading; they can just turn on CNN this weekend!

Third and State This Week: Corporate Tax Avoidance, Insurance Rate Review and Prevailing Wage

This week, we blogged about a new report on state tax avoidance by some of the largest U.S. corporations, how to really save money on public construction projects, and legislation that undermines the state’s ability to review most health insurance rate hikes.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Tax Benefits For Corporations, Health Care and Prevailing Wage

Toll Bros., the Pennsylvania-based homebuilder that benefited mightily from the housing bubble, also managed to benefit handsomely from you the taxpayer. This morning, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that company profits are down from the previous period in part because the company claimed an eye-popping $59.9 million tax benefit in the 4th quarter of last year.

You can't open the opinion pages without coming across an article from the business lobby claiming businesses need more tax breaks. The fact is these companies got huge breaks that helped boost CEO pay but haven't translated into robust job growth.

Morning Must Reads: The Failure of School Choice and the Food Industry Eats Your Tax Dollars

An op-ed in The New York Times this morning points out that "school choice" has increased educational inequality.

If you want to see the direction that education reform is taking the country, pay a visit to my leafy, majority-black neighborhood in Washington. While we have lived in the same house since our 11-year-old son was born, he’s been assigned to three different elementary schools as one after the other has been shuttered. Now it’s time for middle school, and there’s been no neighborhood option available.

Meanwhile, across Rock Creek Park in a wealthy, majority-white community, there is a sparkling new neighborhood middle school, with rugby, fencing, an international baccalaureate curriculum and all the other amenities that make people pay top dollar to live there.

Such inequities are the perverse result of a 'reform' process intended to bring choice and accountability to the school system. Instead, it has destroyed community-based education for working-class families, even as it has funneled resources toward a few better-off, exclusive, institutions.

On Sunday, another op-ed detailed how food manufacturers and food service companies are allegedly fleecing taxpayers while delivering food with little or no nutritional content. 

The money is ill spent. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has warned that sending food to be processed often means lower nutritional value and noted that 'many schools continue to exceed the standards for fat, saturated fat and sodium.' A 2008 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that by the time many healthier commodities reach students, 'they have about the same nutritional value as junk foods.' ...

Roland Zullo, a researcher at the University of Michigan, found in 2008 that Michigan schools that hired private food-service management firms spent less on labor and food but more on fees and supplies, yielding 'no substantive economic savings.' Alarmingly, he even found that privatization was associated with lower test scores, hypothesizing that the high-fat and high-sugar foods served by the companies might be the cause. In a later study, in 2010, Dr. Zullo found that Chartwells was able to trim costs by cutting benefits for workers in Ann Arbor schools, but that the schools didn’t end up realizing any savings.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette continues its series on inequality this morning with a review of the impact of the recession on African-American households.

Third and State This Week: Weak Drilling Fee, More Bad Employment News and Ranking Social Well-being

This week, we blogged about the latest developments in enacting a Marcellus Shale drilling fee, more bad employment news for Pennsylvania and a new study ranking nations based on indicators of social well being (the U.S. doesn't do so good).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the Marcellus Shale, Sharon Ward provided an update on legislative developments in the Pennsylvania House, and Michael Wood shared a new fact check from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center comparing the effective rates of leading drilling tax and fee plans before the General Assembly.
  • On inequality, Stephen Herzenberg blogged about a new study that ranks the 31 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on eight indicators of social well-being. The U.S. ranks 27th.
  • On jobs and unemployment, Mark Price wrote about more bad employment news for Pennsylvania, including a revised outlook from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve signaling that the state's economy will be shrinking through the first quarter of 2012.
  • In the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price summed up local unemployment data, shared an amusing video from The Daily Show suggesting that it is time for the 1% to go on strike, wrote about rising college tuition and budget strains for local governments, highlighted a lack of political will for fixing the broken economy, and noted that some in the U.S. Senate would just prefer that people that have to drive over structurally deficient bridges would just drop dead.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Local Governments Under Pressure, Students Under Pressure, State Policy Makers Not So Much

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the body that establishes monetary policy at the Federal Reserve, announced on Wednesday that it is expecting the economy to grow more slowly than previously thought over the next several years. 

In response to the deteriorating economic situation, the committee decided to do nothing. 

At his press conference explaining the FOMC decision, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged Congress to do something about jobs.

'I think it would be helpful if we could get assistance from other parts of the government to help create more jobs,' Mr. Bernanke said.

Meanwhile, with unemployment high, federal assistance running out and the state cutting spending, local government finances are deeply in the red. Lackawanna County appears headed for layoffs and tax increases.

A bipartisan advisory panel recommended Wednesday that Lackawanna County increase real estate taxes to balance its 2012 budget, warning a steep hike will be required as county government contends with a financial crisis that will not be resolved quickly or painlessly.

The Philadelphia School District, also deeply in the red, has a plan to save up to $9 million by closing nine schools.

Turning to college kids, student loan debt rose by 5% in 2010. Public colleges, faced with significant cuts in state support, raised tuition nationally by 7.3% this year. 

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