18 to 29 Things You Didn’t Know About Young Workers

After 59 straight months of job growth, the U.S. economy is on the path to recovery. But thousands of young workers are being left behind due to a system that hasn’t allowed young people to gain a secure economic foothold. The AFL-CIO has been involved actively in the push to create an economy that works for everyone. From March 19–22, the AFL-CIO will host the Next Up Young Worker Summit in Chicago to educate hundreds of young people in the different ways they can make a change in their local communities. For more information on the summit, go to www.NextUpSummit.org.

Instead of our usual “Top 10,” we’re going to offer you a list of facts, numbered 18–29 in honor of the age range of young workers, that you should know in advance of the summit.

18. Young workers are one-third of the workforce and comprise one-quarter of the labor movement (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] Union Members Summary, 2014).

19. Young workers currently comprise the most diverse generation in America’s history (Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project, March 7, 2014).

20. In 2014, there were nearly 3.7 million young worker union members, which is just more than 7.6% of all young workers (BLS Union Members Summary, 2014).

21. More than half of young union members have at least an associate’s degree.

22. The millennial generation may be the first generation in U.S. history not to do better than their parents.

23. Young workers ages 20–24 have an unemployment rate that is 30% higher than the overall rate, 9.1% vs. 6.2% (BLS).

24. The long-term unemployment rate for young workers ages 16–24 is 3.9%, significantly higher than the national average rate of 2.8%.

25. College enrollment for young people fell between 2010 and 2014.

26. Student debt has continued to climb past the all-time high of $1.2 trillion hit in 2013.

27. Young workers have higher levels of student loan debt and lower levels of wealth and personal income than the two generations who came before them (Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project, March 7, 2014).

28. Many young people who do have jobs don’t have access to stable schedules, benefits or the pay of traditional full-time jobs.

29. Despite their hardships, millennials are the most optimistic about the economy.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Give Responsible Student Loan Borrowers a Chance

Student loan borrowers are trying to do the responsible thing by paying off their loans but are being punished with high interest rates.

When you take out a mortgage or car loan, you can refinance the loan to get a better interest rate. With student loans, however, you’re stuck with the interest rate set by Congress, even though that rate is high enough to produce massive profit beyond the costs of operating the student loan program. And that’s just not fair.

The student loan refinance bill, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would allow 25 million student loan borrowers to refinance the interest rates of their student loans, and those extra savings will go a long way in this economy where unemployment is still too high and wages aren’t rising fast enough.

The Senate this week is poised to take a vote on Warren’s student loan bill (S. 2432). Unfortunately, the last time the bill came up for a vote, Senate Republicans chose to stand with their wealthy campaign contributors over tens of millions of students and their families.

Thankfully, Senate Republicans will have one more chance to change their minds.

Call your senators today at 1-855-712-9375 and tell them to pass S. 2432 so student loan borrowers will no longer be punished with high interest rates. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union Plus Sponsors $20,000 Student Loan Contest

Union Plus Sponsors $20,000 Student Loan Contest

In its continuing mission to find new ways to serve union members and their families, Union Plus is sponsoring a contest to help three winners pay off a portion of their student loan debt. The Grand Prize winner will receive $10,000 toward their student loan obligations, while there also will be two $5,000 prizes for runners-up.  The contest also will give way other prizes, including courses, consultations and books provided by the Princeton Review.

Eligible entrants can sign up online and enter simply by signing up for program e-mails and mobile alerts. To be eligible to win, entrants must register by Aug. 15, 2014.

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Despite Debt And An Unstable Economy, A Degree May Be More Beneficial Than You Thought

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In what comes as bad news for non-college grads, better news for those with a degree, and an overall statement on the state of our economy, the New York Times reports that, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute, on an hourly basis, college grads make 98 percent more than those without a degree.

In the early 80’s grads only made 64 percent more.

The education gap is a growing divide that’s often overlooked, but according to David Antor, economist and author of Skills, Education, and the Rise of Earnings Inequality Among the “Other 99 Percent”:

“An exclusive focus on the concentration of top incomes ignores the component of rising inequality that is arguably even more consequential for the ‘other 99 percent’,” he says.

It’s an interesting concept, especially during a time where, considering the cost and job market, many question the merits of a college degree. The New York Times reports that:

“It’s important to emphasize these shortfalls because public discussion today — for which we in the news media deserve some responsibility — often focuses on the undeniable fact that a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee success.”

Despite the upfront costs, college is still a better option than not and the aforementioned evidence supports that.

“Tellingly, though, the wage premium for people who have attended college without earning a bachelor’s degree — a group that includes community-college graduates — has not been rising.”

Still, college grads aren’t immune from the pressures of a less-than-stellar recovering economy:

“College graduates, like almost everyone else, are suffering from the economy’s weak growth and from the disproportionate share of this growth flowing to the very richest households.”

The bottom line in all of this is, while a college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, unlike previous years where workers could find fruitful employment opportunities, nowadays having no degree almost always puts workers at a disadvantage.

Since a college degree is necessary, let’s get Congress to make it more affordable for everyone, sign the petition now.

Photo courtesy of Nazareth College via Flickr.

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Why Sen. Warren’s Refinance Bill Is a Big Deal

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill today to allow borrowers to refinance their outstanding student loan debt. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act is an excellent step toward easing the crushing $1.2 trillion student loan debt borne by graduates and reducing barriers to higher education for working families. Average college seniors in 2012 had a balance of $30,000 facing them as they graduated. Many borrowers find themselves making payments well after the end of the standard 10-year repayment period.

Unlike most forms of debt, student loans cannot be refinanced; the borrower is locked into an interest rate from the day he or she signs the promissory note—usually as a teenager—until the debt is paid in full. And unlike most forms of debt, borrowers are unable to take advantage of lower interest rates to reduce their monthly payments and total amount of interest paid.

The question we should be asking is why the government works so hard to carefully regulate growth with variable interest rates while allowing this massive pool of government-backed loans to remain at a fixed rate, trapping millions of workers in debt and unable to buy homes and cars?

Here’s one answer: The government is profiting from the federal student loan program. It’s raking in billions of dollars every year. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2025, $127 billion in profit will be made off the backs of working families paying interest on student loans. In fact, some Republican members in the House have proposed student loan revenues be used to pay down the deficit. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that those same politicians lobbied successfully to tie student loans to market rates (which will make students loans more difficult to pay off as the economy improves). And these are the same politicians who fight to preserve massive corporate tax subsidies that make it more profitable for companies to send jobs overseas. Simply put, they are using the debt peonage of students to pay for billion-dollar corporate giveaways.

Corporations don’t need help from America’s taxpayers to boost their record profits. Fittingly, the Warren refinance bill addresses a major part of the tax giveaway to the wealthy and powerful by implementing the “Buffett Rule” to pay for the reduced profits. Under the Buffett Rule, many of the tax loopholes that let millionaire and billionaire CEOs reduce their taxes to almost nothing would be closed, requiring them to pay tax rates at least as high as their secretaries.

For student loan borrowers, though, it’s a different story. Unemployment, especially for young workers, remains unacceptably high at 10.6% for 20- to 24-year-olds. Wages are stagnant—and for young workers, wages are falling in relation to the rest of the population. Our struggling economy is producing mostly low-paying service-sector jobs that offer no room for growth. In fact, 42% of those earning the minimum wage have some college education, and 8% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Congress’ decision to favor corporations over students is appalling. The Warren refinancing bill helps to undo some of the damage this decision has done to students and working families. Allowing borrowers to refinance their student loans puts them one step closer toward achieving the American Dream: They’ll be able to put a down payment on a home, fund their retirement and fund their own children’s education.

Along with increased funding on instruction and student services in order to lower the actual cost for public two- and four-year colleges and technical schools, the Warren refinance bill is a terrific step toward a comprehensive policy to make post-secondary education and training available to those who want it.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Student Debt Continues to Grow

This graphic from Mother Jones shows very starkly how student debt quadrupled in the years between 2000 and 2011. (There are more good graphs available at the link.)

Just check out these stats: Unemployment among college grads is twice what it was in 2007.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for 16-24-year-olds is twice the national average; grads under 25 are twice as likely to lack a job than their older peers. The New York Times reports that just half of students who graduated in 2010 had a job in the spring of 2011, and even those who did get jobs were often way overqualified
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Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan gave a speech this week on the topic of student debt. From the NY Times:

At a time when the Occupy movement has helped push college costs into the national spotlight, the Education Department characterized the speech, delivered in Las Vegas, as the start of a “national conversation about the rising cost of college.” The department took the opportunity to call attention to steps the Obama administration has taken to reduce the net price that students and families pay for higher education and make it easier to pay back student loans.

The Occupy movement really has changed our national dialogue in just a few short months. Remember when all we heard about was the deficit?

In his speech to financial-aid administrators, Mr. Duncan also discussed the department’s work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create a financial aid shopping sheet, or model disclosure form, to help students understand and compare the type and amount of aid in different aid packages, and the department’s new watch lists, required by Congress, showing which colleges have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices.

This makes a lot of sense, and it would be very helpful to families from the 99%.

He cited, for example, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which is offering a 50 percent discount on tuition and fees for freshmen who enroll in the school of education; the University of Oregon’s PathwayOregon, guaranteeing a tuition-free education to qualified Oregonians from low-income families; and, in West Virginia, the University of Charleston’s plan to cut tuition 22 percent for next year’s incoming freshmen and transfer students.

It’s good to see even a few colleges taking this kind of action. Now that the spotlight is on student debt and unemployment, let’s hope that other schools take similar action so that a college education is affordable for everyone who wants one.

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Student Debt Continues to Grow

A new report from the Project on Student Debt shows that student debt in 2010 increased 5% on average over the year before. Those same students are walking into a world where the unemployment rate for new college graduates is 9.1%. From the New York Times:

“Student debt goes up and it doesn’t ever go down,” said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of Finaid.org and Fastweb.com, two Web sites that offer advice on paying for college. “We’re clearly heading in the direction of decreased college affordability. Among lower-income students, the canaries in the cage that squawk first, we’re already seeing a decline in enrollment in four-year colleges and an increase in lower-cost two-year institutions,” he said.

When lower income kids can’t afford to go to school, income inequality will continue to grow and solidify in our society.

More grim information available from Demos:

Only workers with at least a BA degree saw earnings increase over the last generation
Median earnings for young African-Americans are 75% of the earnings of whites; 68% for Latinos

Young women earn less than men at every level of education.

Twenty-nine percent of 18-24 year olds and 16% of 25-34 year-olds are underemployed.

The percentage of young adults with jobs is at its lowest point in a generation.

This all explains why the issue of student debt is being taken up by the Occupy movement. The website Occupy Student Debt gives students and former students a platform to share with all of us what impact that debt load has on their lives.

President Obama has announced plans to ease that student loan burden. From the New York Times:

At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said the president would use his executive authority to expand the existing income-based repayment program with a “Pay as You Earn” option that would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years and have the rest of their federal student loan debt forgiven. That plan would start next year.

Using executive authority means bypassing Congressional gridlock, thereby enacting a positive change. This new plan is good news for students and their families.

Photo from thisisbossi on Flickr.

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