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Report reveals rise in number of low-income working families

JRF | Dec 19 2011 |

The Working Poor Families Project (WPFP) has been analyzing working families for the past decade.

Key Findings for 2010:
The number of low-income working families has increased for the past three years and is now at 10.2 million.
Nearly 1 in 3 working families in the US is struggling to meet basic needs.
Families with at least one minority parent were twice as likely to be low-income.

One of the problems the report points out is that poor and low-income families often lack college degrees that would help them find a job with decent wages.

"In 2010, the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma was 14.9%, compared with 5.4% unemployment among those with a bachelor's degree. The median weekly earnings for college graduates ($1,038) were more than double those of high school dropouts ($444)."

Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund works to support women as they earn degrees to secure better futures. Our supporters provide opportunities for better lives.

To read the full report click here.

Policies often overlook low-income working families who cannot reach economic security. What policies would you like to see put in place?

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Program at Davenport Univ. helps students and low-income families

JRF | Nov 21 2011 |

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program gives Davenport accounting students the opportunity to give back to the community while gaining real world experience that employers are looking for,” said Deb Kiss, Davenport's Accounting & Finance chair.

Students offer free tax preparation services to families earning less than $50,000. During the 2010 school year, students volunteered 5,900 hours working with 2,900 clients.

This program recently got some help from the IRS in the form of a $53,000 grant.

Colleges should offer more programs that help students prepare for life after college while making an impact on the community.

Read the article here.

What do you think? What other types of programs would you like to see implemented?

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Education and Occupy Wall Street

JRF | Oct 27 2011 |

First, some background from Wikipedia. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is an ongoing series of demonstrations in New York City based in Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district. They are mainly protesting social and economic inequality, corporate greed, corporate power and influence over government (particularly from the financial services sector), and of lobbyists. The participants' slogan We are the 99% refers to income inequality in the United States between the top 1%, who control about 40% of the wealth, and the rest of the population.

How Does Occupy Wall Street Speak To A Broken Education System?

Thanks to the absence of leadership from the political class; the failure to nurture an empowering dialogue between high school and college teachers that might have a broad impact on education policy; the domination of university Boards of Trustees by the 1%; and Wall Street’s destructive attempts to transform education into a tradable commodity, educators are increasingly drawn to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Claire Potter, author of the article quoted above, argues that if education were actually a national priority it wouldn't be crumbling right now.

Cuts in financial aid and education funding in general, student loan debt at an all time high and poor preparation in elementary and secondary education (because teachers aren't part of the discussions about the curriculum and testing is revered by those who give out funding) contribute to the worrisome state of education today.

In the article here, Claire suggests a lot of things that we can do to combat the status quo - mainly being honest with ourselves about the situation.

In conclusion, Claire calls for people to Occupy Education:

"Our only hope is to create a cross-class, cross-generational, cross-institutional social movement that speaks to the national stakes for higher education, the role of state and community in shaping that, and the future of a democracy that school will — or will not — have a role in shaping.

What do you think? How is education related to OWS? What can we do to change things?

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Fight the proposal to limit college access!

JRF | Oct 07 2011 |

Recently, the House Appropriations Committee released a proposal for next year’s budget that greatly reduces Pell Grant eligibility for students who need it most. Among the changes to the Pell Grant is a limit on the number of years a student can receive Pell funding—from 18 semesters to 12 semesters.

This change will disproportionately affect non-traditional, working students who often need more than 6 years to complete their degrees. Adult students are juggling work, school and home responsibilities, and many of them rely on the Pell Grant to pay tuition and fees, buy books, and make ends meet while they’re in school.

In Georgia, cuts to the HOPE Scholarship program are also hurting non-traditional students. A new policy limits HOPE Scholarship funding to 7 years following a student’s high school graduation date. Since non-traditional students, by definition, have been out of school for 7 or more years, the new policy makes them ineligible for HOPE funding. Read more about changes to HOPE eligibility here.

JRF scholar LaTrena experienced the consequences of these cuts first hand: she was awarded her HOPE Scholarship, but when the changes went into effect, the scholarship was revoked, and she was suddenly responsible for paying her tuition and fees out of pocket. She had to take out a student loan and join the 2/3 of college students who are in debt to pay for school.

Students are taking longer to complete their degrees, particularly adult students with family and work responsibilities. Rather than limiting the window of opportunity for students to receive critical support like the HOPE Scholarship and the Pell Grant, we should be looking at the reasons why students are enrolling later and taking longer to complete their programs and developing resources to help these students succeed. Students who are juggling many responsibilities need support; by making them ineligible to receive the HOPE Scholarship and limiting their Pell Grant eligibility, these new policies are creating yet another financial barrier for non-traditional students.

Take action:

- Urge your representative to vote against cutting Pell Grants and limiting eligibility to 12 semesters.
- Support scholarships for low-income, adult women students through JRF.
- Share this story on twitter and facebook.
- If you're near Athens, GA, come out to WAGG on Saturday, October 8th and hear from JRF scholar LaTrena and participate in discussions about the problem and how you can make a difference.

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The benefits of higher education for women

JRF | Oct 03 2011 |

The UVU Review posted an article today about why women in Utah aren't continuing their higher education. Turns out, the most common reason is not understanding the benefits. They do realize that education in general is financially beneficial, but not much beyond that.

You can read more about the research here.

There are a multitude of benefits of higher education for women: educated women tend to live longer on average, exercise more, abuse alcohol less, smoke less, eat healthier, have better mental health, be less overweight, and have higher overall happiness. Wow!

As an organization that supports women pursuing dreams of higher education, it is important to us to spread the word about the many benefits of education and continue to work to improve access to it.

In one month, our scholarship application will be available, and we look forward to helping more women change their lives through higher education.

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