Arnold Ventures' President and CEO Kelli Rhee says that for the new school year, the White House should prioritize higher education accountability.
Even while the weather remains stuck in the triple digits here in Houston, you can tell the seasons are changing – by which I mean the local Target has swapped its pool toys and water guns for backpacks and three-ring binders. Yes, the new school year is just around the corner.
For the two-and-a-half million students enrolling in college for the first time, a new school year represents one of the biggest investments they’ll ever make in themselves. Across the country, that first day of class is paid for with a much-needed grant, money well saved, or a student loan (or a combo of all three) – all on the promise of earning a credential that will open the door to better-paying jobs and a step up the economic ladder. But for too many students, that promise goes unfulfilled.
This week I published an op-ed in CNN.com calling on the Biden administration to take concrete steps to making a meaningful and tangible difference in students’ lives by holding colleges accountable for their value.
This means taking on predatory for-profit colleges and career training programs that lure students – and their tuition dollars – with sky-high promises that quickly come crashing down to earth. The Department of Education has already begun to take steps to hold accountable career-training programs that don’t deliver for students. Those rules must be finalized and enforced quickly. What’s more, the state regulators and accrediting agencies that are supposed to assure quality in higher education need regulatory scrutiny as well, to ensure they stop low-performing schools from slipping by the system.
Beyond executive actions, the White House also has the opportunity to work with Congress on proposed legislation that would improve data transparency in higher education so that students have the information they need to pick the programs – and student aid packages – right for them. And newly proposed legislation would also help prevent federal dollars from going to programs where most students are no better off for having attended.
At a time when many students and borrowers are burdened by $1.7 trillion in federal student debt from their higher education, we have to ask: What is the value they are receiving? The trees in Houston may not be changing to autumnal reds and oranges any time soon, but the time is ripe for the White House to keep its higher education agenda focused squarely on accountability.
Many U.S. jails and prisons are profoundly unsafe,both for incarcerated people and correctional staff. Such conditions not only impact people’s mental and physical health but are also contributing to a downward spiral of workforce shortages and even less safe and more restrictive conditions. However, representatives from across the correctional system are starting to come together around the common goal of improving safety and conditions within the country’s jails and prisons.
What's Happening: Do I Have the Right to Feel Safe?, a recent report from the organization Chicago Beyond outlines a vision of change that includes the perspectives of formerly incarcerated people and correctional officers. Similarly, a recent meeting of the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA) brought correctional staff and formerly incarcerated people together to discuss the implications and impact of the corrections workforce shortage.
Why It Matters: More than one third of incarcerated people report being physically victimized in the past six months and 60% experience serious or moderate symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). At the same time, correctional staff experience violence at a rate 36 times higher than other U.S. workers and 34% have PTSD symptoms.
What's Next: Various leaders are starting to put their visions of a safer correctional system into practice. For instance, some prisons are changing their use-of-force policies, emphasizing the use of de-escalation tactics and using respectful language with incarcerated people, raising correctional officers' pay, and/or implementing accountability programs (such as body cameras). For its part, Chicago Beyond recently launched the Holistic Safety Action Alliance (HSAA), a first-of-its-kind coalition with jails in Chicago and San Francisco that are working to reduce physical and emotional isolation for people working and confined within correctional walls.
Like in many U.S. cities, Philadelphia’s justice system is plagued by persistent racial inequity. While the city has taken several steps to make the justice system more equitable, it has been difficult to achieve impact without knowing the full scope and scale of the problem.
What's Happening: A new report from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) analyzed data from the past eight years and revealed significant racial disparities in the city’s justice system. Specifically, researchers found that Black people are more likely to be stopped, arrested, charged with felonies, convicted, and incarcerated than white people despite making up roughly the same percentage of the city’s population.
Why It Matters: Improving data collection is critical to reducing disparities, says Wes Weaver, director of analytics for DATA Lab. “We need to put numbers to the problem and we need to have better numbers.” This report sets a standard for data collection and transparency regarding racial disparities in the justice system that other jurisdictions can potentially follow.
What's Next: To address some of the racial inequities that the report illuminates, Philadelphia (and the state of Pennsylvania more broadly) are investigating a range of options and investments including restorative justice programs that center healing instead of punishment, which have already yielded some positive results.
The president and CEO of National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions teamed up with the administrator of the Public Sector Health Care Roundtable to coauthor an op-ed in The Hill urging Congress to hold large, dominant hospitals accountable for their excessive prices, dishonest billing, and anticompetitive tactics.
As part of Health Affairs’ Forefront series on provider prices in the commercial sector, authors from the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reform (CHIR), an AV grantee, published an essay on facility fees.
With support from AV, KFF released twofact sheets on Medicare enrollment among the dual-eligible population along with an issue brief that distills findings. Key statistics? Only 30% of dual-eligible individuals are enrolled in a model that coordinates Medicare and Medicaid, and only 3% are enrolled in fully integrated care.
In an op-ed in The Hill, Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and David Safavian, general counsel and senior vice president of the American Conservative Union, write that conservatives should reject politically motivated attacks on criminal justice reform and back successful policies that reduce incarceration and increase opportunities for rehabilitation.
An article in The Hechinger Report details the many challenges formerly incarcerated people face when trying to reintegrate into society, including nearly 14,000 laws and regulations nationwide that can prevent them from getting a business or occupational license.
An op-ed and video in The New York Times profiles several elderly men who are incarcerated for life without parole at Angola prison in Louisiana, highlighting recent state and federal policy and guideline changes that will allow the reconsideration of sentences for certain incarcerated people. (free link)
ABC7 Chicago covers the recent decision by Governor J.B. Pritzker to sign the bipartisan Senate Bill 423, which overhauls the state’s parole system by allowing remote check-ins, reducing the use of drug tests, and mandating term reductions if a person completes certain educational milestones.
Inside Higher Ed quotes AV’s Higher Education Fellow Clare McCann on a new federal report that she says “would go a long way toward pushing accrediting agencies to take seriously the question of student outcomes.”
Colorado Public Radio reports on how“CollegeAmerica, a defunct for-profit college, lied to students,” leading the Education Department to forgive loans and offer refunds.
In the Wall Street Journal, Richard Rubin unpacks the politics around the cap on the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), a provision that divides lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and is holding up other tax legislation in the House. Andrew Wilford rebutted arguments in favor of expanding the SALT deduction for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. Recent analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that existing proposals to raise the SALT cap would provide little to no benefit to taxpayers outside of the richest 20%. (free link)
For Insider, Brad Setser and Tess Turner discuss the international tax provisions that allow pharmaceutical companies to report dramatically low levels of profit in the U.S., despite the relatively high prices U.S. residents pay for their products.
New analysis from AV grantee the Committee for a Responsible Budget found that if Congress doesn’t touch Social Security, as both presidential candidates and members alike have pledged, annual Social Security benefits will be automatically cut by $17,400 for a typical newly retired, dual income couple in 2033. In another report, CRFB found that the “crowd-out” effect of rising government debt is projected to reduce income growth by about $8,000 per person in 2053 under current law, or $14,100 with additional borrowing if tax cuts and spending hikes are extended as anticipated.
More than half of U.S. states are forecasting a slowdown in revenues in 2023 and 2024, according to analysis from Lucy Dadayan of AV grantee the Tax Policy Center.
In his newsletter Slow Boring, Matthew Yglesias asserted that the current (relatively) high interest rate environment means Congress needs to focus on deficit reduction.
In Forbes, Ben Ritz of AV grantee the Progressive Policy Institute evaluated Fitch’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, disagreeing with the merits of the decision but positing that the move should serve as a wake-up call.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 News Leaders Association Awards for distinguished journalism and leadership, with a special shout-out to organizations that received support from AV, including AL.com’s work on predatory policing; The Texas Tribune’s coverage of the Uvalde massacre; and Type Investigations’ reporting on social justice issues.
Bloomberg looks at Minnesota’s region-wide push to loosening zoning restrictions as a key to lowering housing costs — and beating inflation.
In a New York Times op-ed, Nicole Gelinas, a contributing editor for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, writes about the value of business owners and developers who see — and treat — their cities as homes.(free link)
What We're Watching
When a local newspaper shuts down, towns lose more than they might initially realize.Research shows when local journalism disappears, social cohesion frays. Governmental waste, fraud and corruption increases. Fewer voters turn out at the polls. Polarization spikes and political divides deepen and harden.
In a new series on PBS NewsHour exploring the divisions fracturing the United States, former anchor Judy Woodruff travels to the Texas panhandle to spotlight the painful demise of a beloved small-town newspaper in Canadian, Texas and the profound civic consequences that unfold when local news goes away. The Canadian Record’s desperate struggle to survive and the profound impact it had in holding the community together serve as the focal point of a new documentary, "For The Record." The film was supported in part by Arnold Ventures, which seeks to rebuild and strengthen capacity for high-quality journalism across the U.S.
As more towns – big and small – lose their local newspaper, a marshalling of more capital – and a reimagining of business models – will be needed to ensure the continued strength of a free press that is independent, nonpartisan and vital to the preservation of democracy.
The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research will be awarding more than $3 million in funding, provided by AV, to study extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs). Access the RFP here.
The Pretrial Justice team has released a request for proposals that will help inform and advance the field’s collective understanding of the policies and practices related to pretrial release decisions, pretrial release conditions, and pretrial services.
The Higher Education and Evidence-Based Policy teams have created a request for proposals for rigorous impact evaluations of programs and practices (“interventions”) to promote college success in the United States.
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