Bilingual instructor Marybel Torres

Rural Youth Face More Economic Hardship, Have Fewer Enrichment Opportunities

After-school activities fill a gap in remote communities, but administrators struggle to fund youth-development programs.

One trend is clear: Students in rural areas, who have less access to enrichment activities to begin with, also are less likely to participate in a quality after-school program than their urban or suburban peers.

“Definitely there’s an imbalance,” said Erik Peterson, vice president of policy at the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “There’s a need for more funding for rural programs.”

Hidden In Plain Sight

It’s flu season, and cases of asthma, diabetes and whooping cough are on the rise. At some point this winter, most children will need to see a doctor. Yet nearly 7.5 million children – one in 10 nationwide – have no health insurance, which means they’re more likely to skip that checkup or do without essential medicine.  Child advocates say the number of uninsured children is a national embarrassment, especially since two-thirds of them are eligible for subsidized medical and dental coverage through either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) but have not enrolled.    
Enough new children enrolled last year – more than 2.6 million – to keep the percentage of uninsured children at 10 percent, despite the worst recession in decades, rising poverty levels and a sharp decline in employer-based coverage, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.  
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has called the expansion of these programs “a tremendous accomplishment,” but also vowed, “It’s only the beginning.”  
February was the one-year anniversary of legislation reauthorizing CHIP, which provides subsidized health insurance coverage for children from families with incomes of up to three times the federal poverty level.

For-Profit Skepticism

For-profit career colleges have mushroomed into a multibillion-dollar industry by building their brand identity around customer service. Through expensive marketing campaigns, they tout the flexible scheduling, small class sizes and generous financial aid packages that make them attractive – and sometimes, the only option – for nontraditional students. 
But convenience often comes with a high price tag, and thousands of graduates say they’ve been victimized by these schools. “We hear all the time from students who feel they’ve been ripped off,” says Edie Irons, communications director for the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success. “They say they didn’t learn what they thought they would learn, and they weren’t able to get the jobs they were promised.”
Often unemployed, with staggering debt loads, these students have federal loan default rates nearly double those who go to public two- or four-year schools. Although they account for less than 10 percent of enrollment, students at for-profit schools represent 43 percent of loan defaults over a three-year period, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

Will Calif. Extend Foster Care Services?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is days away from signing or vetoing legislation that would extend foster care services in California to age 21 – which could help those seeking to spread such policies in other states. The expansion would provide targeted services such as transitional housing, student financial aid, counseling and academic tutoring to foster youth after age 18. That would be a significant development, because about one-fifth of the nation’s 423,000 foster children live in California, and each year nearly 5,000 of them age out of care when they turn 18. In addition, California would become one of the first states seeking to extend such services with federal funding under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. “If he signs it, it will say … these kids are important enough, and the cost of not doing this is big enough, that we should go ahead,” said Linda Spears, vice president for policy and public affairs at the Child Welfare League of America.