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What's Got MDC Buzzing?

What's Got MDC Buzzing?

Education, employment, increasing impact, and microbrews—it’s all here in a very unified links post.

Here’s a great example of how community colleges can respond to local workforce need and support entrepreneurial activity at the same time. Rockingham Community College (RCC) in Wentworth, N.C., was featured in this story in last week’s Community College Times. In partnership with a local MillerCoors brewery, RCC has developed a brewing, distillation, and fermentation technology program. They developed the curriculum with local brewmasters and industry experts. RCC had good response to the initial continuing education offering—and from craft brewers. Even better, the program doesn’t just prepare students for jobs in the brewing industry; the processes they learn can be applied to the manufacturing of cheeses, oils, and salves. Bottoms up for innovative responses to local economies!

The University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center has released findings from a three-state study of changes in Pell Grant eligibility rules and community colleges. The report highlights the following as the most significant new mandated restrictions:

  • a lifetime maximum number of attempted hours or semesters that may be supported by Pell grants
  • the reduction of the maximum Estimated Family Contribution income level that students must meet in order to receive maximum Pell grant; the figure dropped from $32,000 to $23,000
  • the elimination of the “Ability to Benefit” clause that previously allowed colleges to assess if applicants who had yet to earn a high school diploma could benefit from postsecondary education; this affects two-year colleges use of Pell funds to support first-certificate programs like welding and other short-term training

Examining patterns in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, researchers determined that the more stringent requirements likely contributed to enrollment declines last year at two-thirds of the community colleges in these three states. Nearly nine of every 10 students in public institutions in these states are enrolled at community colleges, making the institutions a critical access point for workforce training and postsecondary study. All three states enroll large numbers of students from rural and low-income areas, but don’t have extensive state-based financial aid programs, and that means that Pell funds are vital to supporting postsecondary attainment. The report authors argue that the Pell program is “one of our nation’s most important human capital development programs.”  

New York Times reporter Floyd Norris dug into some recent jobs data and found that it’s been a rougher road to recovery for women, particularly the middle-aged. Of the 5.3 million jobs the economy has added since December 2009, only 30 percent went to women. Norris notes that some of this is expected, since the recession hit men harder, but it also represents a reversal (perhaps temporary) of a longstanding trend of women holding an increasing share of jobs. The sharpest declines in employment for women were in the 20-24 and 45-45 age groups. Norris notes that younger group could likely be explained by young women trying to jumpstart a career in a rough market, but the situation for the older group is harder to explain. This issue—being older and out of work—is taken up elsewhere in the Times, where some experts in the “Room for Debate” section propose programmatic responses and others argue that there’s not actually a problem.

In an uncertain job market, savings become even more important. MDC’s Tiki Windley was interviewed last week on WUNC, describing a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau pilot called “Ready, Set, Save” that encourages individuals to start as savings plan with their tax refund. You can hear Tiki’s take on when to start saving and why it’s important here.  

Sorting out the right response to education and employment issues is always difficult—especially when you’re trying to figure out the best way to get to positive outcomes with effectiveness and efficiency. The Social Impact Exchange launched a new monthly newsletter that will compile the latest resources on scaling the impact of social ventures. You can check out the first edition here, and see findings from a recent survey of more than 400 nonprofits about vision and plans for growth—and why it’s so hard to achieve.

There’s certainly been plenty of commentary on President Obama’s State of the Union address. The Guardian joined the fun with an analysis of the readability of presidential addresses over time. While they suggest a decline in language comprehension, we think it’s more a reflection of a broadened audience. In the 1800s, this address was just meant for elites. Now, it’s intended to be a public will building tool. Average education levels have risen, but the understanding-level targeted by presidents has adjusted to meet that (rising) average.