December 6th, 2012
05:09 PM ET

Bleak outlook for young workers

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - "America's young people stand last in line for jobs."

That's the warning from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charity that aims to assist underprivileged children in the U.S.  The organization recently released a report that says youth employment is at its lowest level since the second World War.

The foundation says that only about half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 had jobs in 2011.  And when you look at the numbers for the teenagers in that group, 25% percent of them were employed last year - a significant drop from the year 2000, when 46% of teenagers had jobs.

The lingering effects of the Great Recession are largely to blame here.  Entry-level jobs at restaurants and clothing retailers have increasingly gone to more experienced, more qualified workers, according to the study.  This has left young people without a paycheck and without the workplace experience that could help them later in their careers.

It also places a burden on taxpayers, as the federal and local governments spend more to support young, unemployed workers.

The foundation lists a number of recommendations for addressing the issue.  You can view the full report here.

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Filed under: After High School • Carl Azuz • CNN Student News • Economy • education
December 6th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

The looming crisis of student loan debt

by William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) - A college degree was once synonymous with academic excellence and workforce readiness. Today, it seems synonymous with debt and underemployment.

Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that student loan debt increased to $956 billion, more than auto loan debt or credit card debt. More worrisome, the student loan 90-day delinquency rate increased to 11% this past quarter and for the first time exceeds the "serious delinquency" rate for credit card debt.

Student loan debt is reaching bubble-bursting levels. By comparison, in October 2007, the start of the subprime mortgage crisis, 16% of subprime mortgages were 90 days delinquent, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. By January 2008 it accelerated to 21%. If the economy heads off the fast-approaching fiscal cliff and tax rates spike for lower- and middle-class Americans, it may accelerate student loan defaults to crisis levels. The big banks got their taxpayer bailout; taxpayers may soon be on the hook for another.

Read the full story from CNN Opinion.

Filed under: Voices
Penn State sorority sisters denigrate Mexicans in party photo
Penn State's Chi Omega chapter apologized for this photo that was posted on Tumblr.
December 6th, 2012
04:10 PM ET

Penn State sorority sisters denigrate Mexicans in party photo

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Penn State has had its share of controversy for a while, but this week it is getting some more unwanted attention.

The university's Chi Omega sorority chapter is under investigation after a photo with Mexican stereotypes surfaced on a social media site.

It shows a group of sorority members dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing fake mustaches. One woman holds a sign that says: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign says: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."

The photograph was taken at a Mexican-themed party around Halloween, according to the independent college blog, Onward State. It was posted last week on Tumblr.

The university's Panhellenic Council said it had received concerns about the photo and that the council does not condone derogatory behavior from members.

"The Penn State Panhellenic Council recognizes the offensive nature of the photo and is therefore taking the matter very seriously," the executive board said in a statement.

Read the full story from In America
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Filed under: College • Extracurricular • In America
December 6th, 2012
04:30 AM ET

My View: When it comes to a longer school day, something’s got to give

Courtesy Becky HaleBy Sam Chaltain, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sam Chaltain is a Washington-based writer and education advocate. He can be found on Twitter at @samchaltain.

(CNN) - Now that five states are planning to add 300 hours of class time in an effort to close the achievement gap and re-imagine the school day, I can only come to one conclusion: Something’s got to give.

On one hand, the Time for Innovation Matters in Education Collaborative is a welcome chance for us to shake off the anachronistic trappings of the agrarian school calendar. After all, just because we went to school from August to June doesn’t mean our kids should, and just because we got out of school at 3 p.m. doesn’t mean that dismissal time is a good idea. In fact, for poor kids in poor communities, the period between 3 and 6 p.m. is the most dangerous time of the day. So I take great hope in the project’s intent to “empower each student with the knowledge, skills, and experiences essential for college and career success.”

And I admire any plan to expand the sorts of learning experiences students have during the day - and where (and how) the day unfolds. As the Ford Foundation’s Jeannie Oakes puts it, “More time must mean better time.”

On the other hand, the 40 schools participating in this project in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee, don’t exist in a vacuum, and here in America we still rank schools as successful or unsuccessful based on a single metric - standardized reading and math scores.  Knowing that, will these schools be able to follow through on their plans to explore academic content more deeply, provide teacher collaboration time more regularly and revitalize the arts more fully? Or will the extra hours be used to turn a small subset of “failing” schools into high-achieving ones?

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Filed under: Policy • Sam Chaltain • Voices