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Improving Educational Opportunities for the Formerly Incarcerated

JRF | Sep 20 2011 |

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) sent out a policy alert today about research examining the effects increased access to higher education has for adults with criminal records.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)paper titled "Focus on Education for the Formerly Incarcerated" looks at barriers to education and re-entry programs that have been successful.

Check out the full report here.

Brief breakdown:
- 30% of the adults in US have a criminal record.
- Educational attainment of inmates and the formerly incarcerated is far below the general population.
- 2/3 of inmates return to prison with three years of their release.
- Extending educational opportunities may help divert from future criminal behavior.

JRF is proud to support women from diverse backgrounds, including those who have criminal records. We recognize the abilities of all women to transform their communities and it's exciting to read about programs working to increase access to education for this population.

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How to celebrate Women’s Equality Day

JRF | Aug 26 2011 |

Today (August 26) is Women’s Equality Day. In 1971, Congresswoman Bella Azburg convinced her peers to recognize the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. We can't forget how hard our namesake, Jeannette Rankin, fought for women's suffrage. Read more about that here.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is using this opportunity to host a Summer Snowball Launch as part of a larger effort to fight for women’s health and economic rights. Their snowballs are blogs, tweets and letters that will be launched today.

Gloria Feldt wrote about three ways not to celebrate, which you can read here.

The National Women’s History Project says Women’s Equality Day “not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, or other activities.”

So, it seems that Women’s Equality Day is more about continuing to fight for equality than celebrating.

In her article, Gloria Feldt said:

“We’ve come a long way, maybe.

Yes, women now hold the majority of college degrees, but better education hasn’t brought equal pay. Nor has the fact that women are now starting 38% of entrepreneurial businesses moved the percentage of venture capital they garner above the 5% mark.

Yes, more women hold seats in Congress, but “more” equals only 17 percent. Despite hard lobbying by women’s groups, Senator Patty Murray is the sole female among 12 supercommittee members appointed to solve America’s budget impasse, showing how hard it is to crack the real power barriers.”

What will you do this Women’s Equality Day to not only commemorate what's been achieved, but also “celebrate” in a way that would continue the legacy of all the women who fought and all of those who continue to fight?

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Funding based on completion

JRF | Aug 16 2011 |

Quite a few states (e.g., Illinois) are working to implement policies that state colleges are funded based on completion, not enrollment. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it brings up questions about how schools will achieve high completion rates.

A big problem in primary schools is that teachers are evaluated based on test scores. This encourages cheating (Last month, 178 teachers and principals at 44 Atlanta public schools were found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating on the state's standardized test.), undue pressure on the students and teachers, and incentives not to actually help students learn, but to help students learn the tricks of standardized testing.

Issues like those in elementary schools could translate to colleges with less rigorous courses to ensure that more students pass or grading practices that make it easier to earn good grades. This will ultimately mean that the value of college decreases as less is taught and graduates simply have a piece paper to say they were there.

The good news is organizations like Lumina Foundation are working with states to help them develop programs that support low-income, first generation, and non-traditional students; evaluate the budget constantly, not just in budget crunches; increasing efficiency and effectiveness of programs and administration.

It will be vital that schools see this as an opportunity to greatly improve their campuses by offering mentoring groups, hiring advisors that are passionate about helping students, and making their operations cost-efficient, which doesn’t mean slashing positions and teacher resources.

How do you feel about funding based on completion? What would you like to see schools implement?

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Pell grants are safe…for now

JRF | Aug 03 2011 |

Well, the good news is that the debt deal will keep the Pell Grant at $5,550 for all students, instead of making it necessary to rework eligibility requirements and disqualify students due to lack of funding. Of course, in a couple of years, with drastic cuts being called for, every program is still vulnerable.

The deal will take some chunks out of higher education though, including subsidy grants for graduate student loans and repayment incentives for federal student loans.

As an organization that supports low-income women as they go to college, the need for funding is very apparent. Without the Pell Grants and other need-based scholarships, a huge demographic would be unable to attend school.

Becky Timmons, assistant vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education said, “It will pit everything that we care about against everything else that we care about.”

As federal deals continue to chip away at the money allocated for education, organizations like JRF will become even more vital. How are you supporting access to education?

For more information about how the deal will impact higher education click here.

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Peace College makes some radical changes

JRF | Jul 25 2011 |

Next year, Peace College will begin admitting men as full time students. For more than a century, Peace has been a women only school, but in 2009 men were allowed to take night and online classes.

After Debra Townsley accepted the role of president, there has been further restructuring of programs and staff changes/cuts, and another drastic shift is imminent - allowing men to be full time students.

Current students held a peaceful protest on campus, and Meredith College President Jo Allen said her school would continue its tradition of women only education.

What are your thoughts? Is this a smart move to keep the college relevant, accessible, and financially stable or are they just compromising the school’s core purpose of helping women become strong leaders in today’s society?

For an article about the shift click here.

For Peace College's website click here.

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