Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Are Student Loan Interest Rates Doubling?

Student interest rates are likely to DOUBLE on Monday!
But what does this mean? Who does this affect? Why is this happening?
Allow me to explain in the simplest way possible …
Friday (today) is the LAST day that college students can get a federal student loan with a 3.4% interest rate. On July 1, interest rates will double to 6.8%.
What loans will be affected by the interest rate increase?
Only interest rates on subsidized Stafford Loans will double. These are loans for undergraduate students only and they don’t accumulate any interest while the student is in college.
Whose interest rates will go up?
College students applying for subsidized Stafford Loans after July 1. The rate hike will not affect those who already have existing Stafford loans, however, Congress’ joint economic committee has estimated that this increase will cost the average student about $2,600 and there are 7 million students who rely on these loans to pay for their education.
Why is this happening?
Last year the interest rates were set to increase on July 1; in order to prevent this from happening, Congress and the President passed a bill that extended the 3.4% interest rate for another year. This meant that congress had a full year (from June 2012 – June 2013) to come up with an agreement to prevent this increase from happening again.
Republicans came up with a bill to tie federal student loan interest rates to the cost of government borrowing which means the interest rates would fluctuate each year based on the economy.
Democrats wanted to extend the 3.4% interest rate again until congress could reform the law that deals with federal student loans.
Needless to say, neither party agreed on the others’ solution and this is why interest rates will increase on July 1.
Is there anything I can do?
Yes! You can press your members of congress to do something when they get back from vacation. Let them know how much education means to you and others, and that financial support is necessary and should be provided with decent interest rates. You can Send an email to Congress or you can call Congress
Is there hope?
Possibly. Congress can very well come back after their vacation, reach an agreement and retroact it, but that’s not a guarantee.

Twitter: @SoulRevision

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Rulings Explained

The Supreme Court made some historic changes to a couple of national cases this week and it’s important that you know what their rulings mean.

Voting Rights Act (VRA) Ruling
In a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court Justices struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, ruling it as unconstitutional.

What does this VRA ruling mean?

According to the Washington Post Section 4 of the VRA creates a formula that determines what states should be subject to Section 5, which requires states to submit any changes to election or voting laws, or alterations of state legislative or congressional district lines, to the Justice Department for approval. (That process is commonly known as pre-clearance.) That formula was — until today — based on a) states that had used some sort of ballot test (literacy being the main one) to determine whether people can vote and b) whether less than 50 percent of eligible voters were registered to vote by November 1964. In essence, states and counties with a history of racial discrimination were required to seek pre-clearance. 

With no Section 4 — the Court asked Congress to determine a new formula — there is no section 5, according to a Democratic election lawyer who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.  ”Unless Congress creates a new coverage formula, Section 5 is not in force,” said the source. In essence, the Court said that the Justice Department still has the right to approve of line-drawing under the VRA but by invalidating the formula for determining what states/counties are subject to the VRA they made that power moot.

In short, New voter ID laws can take effect (w/o approval of the federal government) that will likely suppress minority voters.

Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) Ruling
In a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court Justices struck down the Defense Of Marriage Act, ruling it as unconstitutional.

What does this DOMA ruling mean?
Federal marriage benefits are now extended to those in same-sex marriages.

Prop 8 Ruling
In a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court Justices rule Prop 8 has no standing

What does this Prop 8 ruling mean?
Same-sex marriage is now legal in the state California

Twitter: @SoulRevision

A 16yr old Black Girl, The Criminalization Of Students And The Push For STEM Studies

On Monday, April 22, 2013, Kiera Wilmot went to school and mixed "The Works" toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a water bottle she brought from home. The outcome was a small "explosion" causing the top of the bottle to pop off which resulted in no damage and no injury to anyone.

According to the police report, an officer was called to the school and Kiera was arrested and taken off campus to a Juvenile Assessment Center. The arresting officer contacted the Assistant State Attorney, Tammy Glotfelty, who instructed him to charge Kiera with  possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. Kiera has been expelled from school, will complete her diploma through an expulsion program and will ultimately be tried as an adult. But does the punishment fit the "crime"? And how does this incident fit into the criminalization of students and the push for STEM (science, technology engineering and math) studies?

We can't solely look at Keira's failed science experiment as an isolated incident. What happened to Kiera calls into question a larger problem, that of the Zero Tolerance policies and school-based arrests that have been implemented in schools throughout the U.S. and have ultimately criminalized students, particularly students of color.

A report released by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles Civil Rights Project, in April shows the increasing gap between suspension rates of black and white students. According to the reportOne million, or one in nine, middle school and high school students were suspended in 2009-2010, including 24 percent of black students and 7.1 percent of white students. The increase use of suspension in schools makes it increasingly difficult for students to receive a quality education and research has shown that being suspended even once in ninth grade is associated with a 32% risk for dropping out.

How can we expect students to go to school and learn when they are constantly at risk of being suspended for small infractions? 

Kiera's situation also brings to mind the push for women in STEM. We have said time and time again, there's an underrepresentation of African American female students in STEM fields some of which are due to exclusions, mis-opportunities and under-education within K-12. We are constantly encouraging and urging our young African American women to explore these fields, and one has, and now she's facing multiple felonies for it. 

We cannot promote academic excellence and condemn the process by which that excellence can be achievedAfter all, the purpose of going to school is to learn and making mistakes is a part of the learning process.

Twitter: @SoulRevision