DMI Blog

Maureen Lane

New York is two-faced on higher ed and welfare

Starting in 2009, local college enrollment will start to decrease, a function of fewer children being born in the last generation or so.

As Annie Karni writes in the New York Sun, "We're beyond the baby boom, we're beyond the baby bust, and now we have the baby bust echo effect," the director of Cornell University's program on applied demographics, Warren Brown, said. If colleges don't begin recruiting students from new markets, they can expect a 10% decline in the number of applications they receive by 2014.”

Decreased enrollment means decreased funding for the City University of New York which translates to higher tuition, fewer classes and resources. Decreased enrollment in turn hurts all students, faculty and the larger community.

High schoolers from upper and middle income families are far more likely to go to college than students from poor and low-income families. We have an untapped resource in this city…our city’s poor families. Children from NYC public high schools are not graduating and going to college in the numbers we need them to.

I have written on the lack of access to higher education for poor and people receiving welfare. Mayor Bloomberg seems to be trying to find ways to help poor people get the money they need to live and raise families; just not people who are too poor. There is a systemic disconnect between the city administration and people who are poor. I am not the only one who has noticed it.

Yesterday, I was speaking to Jill Poklemba, MPP, Senior Policy Analyst on Income Security and Workforce Development at Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies about just this disconnect. Jill noted, “With the growth of innovative career pathways programs and Mayor Bloomberg’s Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) initiatives, there is clearly a new willingness on the part of government to make investments in low-income populations. Programs such as the NYC Sectors Initiative, the NY Information Technology Career Ladders Consortium, and the Jobs to Build On initiative are just a few recent examples that demonstrate creative mechanisms being implemented to empower low-income adults to make career advancements and achieve economic security.”

Jill continued, “Right now, there is also a deepening hostility toward families in poverty. All levels of government have recently made efforts to restrict access to public benefits by stiffening eligibility rules, limiting education opportunities, or imposing harsher sanction policies for these individuals. The recent move by the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to deny emergency shelter to homeless families ruled ineligible is a perfect example of this suspicious and punitive approach.”

It is clear that policy-makers' perspectives about the poor circumscribe policies and their implementation. In NYC, we want to move away from “suspicious and punitive” approaches and realize that we have a comprehensive problem in poverty and we need comprehensive solutions.

Jill ended our conversation with “It is a cruel and irrational contradiction for government to support a positive, supportive approach through one set of policies, while intensifying a negative and degrading set of policies at the same time. As one successful participant in the IT Consortium program explained, the fact that the program believed in him enough to give him the opportunity helped him believe in himself and apply for the kinds of jobs that he always wanted to have. This program offered clients additional case management and support services when they missed training classes to assist them in overcoming any remaining barriers. However, based on the testimony and experiences of families that are forced to turn to the shelter system or public assistance due to financial crisis, instead of receiving the help and support they need, they often face further discrimination, judgment and stigmatization. “

We can broaden perspectives as we shape policy. If we thought of every high schooler as our own child or kin, would we want them to have anything less than the resources they need to learn? If we thought of every homeless person as our brother or sister, would we want them to be on the street if we could not take them in? If we just realized that poor, homeless and people receiving welfare are not any different then our children, brothers or sisters what would our policies look like?

One thing for sure, CUNY enrollment would only be going bust or not.

Maureen Lane: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:57 AM, Oct 18, 2007 in Economic Opportunity | Education | Welfare
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