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We are one people and our prosperity and quality of life depend on all residents contributing fully to the economic, social and cultural life of our communities and our state.
One fast-growing American industry has become a conspicuous beneficiary of the recession: for-profit colleges and trade schools.
At institutions that train students for careers in areas like health care, computers and food service, enrollments are soaring as people anxious about weak job prospects borrow aggressively to pay tuition that can exceed $30,000 a year.
But the profits have come at substantial taxpayer expense while often delivering dubious benefits to students, according to academics and advocates for greater oversight of financial aid. Critics say many schools exaggerate the value of their degree programs, selling young people on dreams of middle-class wages while setting them up for default on untenable debts, low-wage work and a struggle to avoid poverty. And the schools are harvesting growing federal student aid dollars, including Pell grants awarded to low-income students.
“If these programs keep growing, you’re going to wind up with more and more students who are graduating and can’t find meaningful employment,” said Rafael I. Pardo, a professor at Seattle University School of Law and an expert on educational finance. “They can’t generate income needed to pay back their loans, and they’re going to end up in financial distress.”
For-profit trade schools have long drawn accusations that they overpromise and underdeliver, but the woeful economy has added to the industry’s opportunities along with the risks to students, according to education experts. They say these schools have exploited the recession as a lucrative recruiting device while tapping a larger pool of federal student aid.
“They tell people, ‘If you don’t have a college degree, you won’t be able to get a job,’ ” said Amanda Wallace, who worked in the financial aid and admissions offices at the Knoxville, Tenn., branch of ITT Technical Institute, a chain of schools that charge roughly $40,000 for two-year associate degrees in computers and electronics. “They tell them, ‘You’ll be making beaucoup dollars afterward, and you’ll get all your financial aid covered.’ ”
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WHEN most people think of hunger in America, the images that leap to mind are of ragged toddlers in Appalachia or rail-thin children in dingy apartments reaching for empty bottles of milk.
But a recent survey found that the most severe hunger-related problems in the nation are in the South Bronx, long one of the country’s capitals of obesity. Experts say these are not parallel problems persisting in side-by-side neighborhoods, but plagues often seen in the same households, even the same person: the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat.
Call it the Bronx Paradox.
“Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “Hunger is certainly almost an exclusive symptom of poverty. And extra obesity is one of the symptoms of poverty.
Such studies present a different way to look at hunger: not starving, but “food insecure,” as the researchers call it (the Department of Agriculture in 2006 stopped using the word “hunger” in its reports). This might mean simply being unable to afford the basics, unable to get to the grocery or unable to find fresh produce among the pizza shops, doughnut stores and fried-everything restaurants of East Fordham Road.
Precious, the character at the center of the Academy Award-winning movie by the same name, would probably count as food insecure even though she is severely obese (her home, Harlem, ranks 49th on the survey’s list, with 24.1 percent of residents saying they lacked money for food in the previous year). There she is stealing a family-size bucket of fried chicken from a fast-food restaurant. For breakfast.
That it is greasy chicken, and that she vomits it up in a subsequent scene, points to the problem that experts call a key bridge between hunger and obesity: the scarcity of healthful options in low-income neighborhoods and the unlikelihood that poor, food-insecure people like Precious would choose them.
Full-service, reasonably priced supermarkets are rare in impoverished neighborhoods, and the ones that are there tend to carry more processed foods than seasonal fruits and vegetables. A 2008 study by the city government showed that 9 of the Bronx’s 12 community districts had too few supermarkets, forcing huge swaths of the borough to rely largely on unhealthful, but cheap, food.
In Kalamazoo, we have struggled to maintain a grocery store on the North Side Neighborhood that is economically sustainable. It doesn't make the need any less apparent. Our communities need healthy food options and we need to work together to create ways to generate these opportunities.
One final though from the article:
Poor people “often work longer hours and work multiple jobs, so they tend to eat on the run,” said Dr. Rundle of Columbia. “They have less time to work out or exercise, so the deck is really stacked against them.”