WPRB news & culture
In our show this week, we do a little bit of globetrotting, including analysis of the unrest in Ukraine, exposition on the Sankofa African fashion show, exploration of economic and educational disparity in Nigeria, a look at a recent exhibit on Syria, as well as a glimpse into the lives of some cubers right here at home. Also…what’s this? Check out more web-exclusive content below. ‘
Cubers: Some of the people and sights I saw…
This week on News and Culture, we wrap up our preview of Great Expectations, bring you our flagship foreign policy segment ‘Talking Heads’, and wrap up with some Valentine’s Day Poetry for those thinking about love.
WPRB in the community:
WPRB producer Daniel Waldroop met with New Jersey Senator Cory Brooker this week.
This Saturday, February 22, head on down to the Secret Cinema in Philadelphia to watch the 1944 dark, noir thriller DARK WATERS in rare 35mm print.
Admission: $10.00, $8.00 students & seniors, $5.00 IHP members
3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
The plot is a treat: after her parents drown in a sinking ship, a woman moves in with her strange relatives on a Southern plantation… but remains haunted by her memories. It’s also just worth seeing to admire director André de Toth‘s film noir technique.
But the screening is most worthwhile because it’s a rare chance to see the movie as it was meant to be seen–in its original print format.
If you’re in the mood for free music (which you should be), head on down to the Rotunda in Philly on February 28th, 2014 at 8PM.
It’s all free. It’s all local. It’s all worth your time.
This week, we bring you in depth news analysis on the destabilizing situation in Iraq and the state of embassadorial appointments. We’ll also get a glimpse at the matter – the dark matter – that makes up most of the universe. We have our last installment of Princeton Talks for you today, as well as a peek into an eclectic show that’s about to come into production.
Make sure you scroll down for web-only content!
Talking Cheap: Senate President Sweeney Wants to Make College more Affordable
Jackie Cremos: On Friday, I took the train to Trenton to visit the New Jersey State House. I was invited for a discussion with Senate President Stephen Sweeney about making college more affordable. The previous week he had introduced Senate Bill 979 that would create a commission to investigate college affordability. The bill proposed several measures worthy of consideration, from an Accelerated Degree program to partnerships with county and community colleges to changes in financing for student loans. Many of these are very promising. President Sweeney had introduced this bill as Senate Bill 2965 in the last legislative session, but it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Christie, who stated that the Secretary of Higher Education is already addressing the issues involved.
Stephen Sweeney: We passed this bill, and the governor vetoed it. And the funny thing was he said that, that he vetoed it because we’re already doing it in higher education. We doing well? How well are we doing? We making it more affordable? New Jersey’s the second most expensive public education in the nation. That’s not where you wanna be. That’s not a list that you want on, it’s the second most expensive. You wanna be, you wanna be on a list where it’s reasonable and when you graduate from college and you get a mortgage payment, you get a house with it, not a tuition payment without the house.
Cremos: Funny then, that President Sweeney is really pushing what’s called a Pay it Forward scheme, which would replace tuition with deductions from the student’s future paychecks. Politico calls it a reverse Social Security policy, in which students benefit early in life, and then “pay it forward” for the next generation. The state of Oregon is trying out a similar program, and Yale University implemented a short-lived pay it forward policy in the 1970s.
Mark Bodrog (Rutgers University’s The Gleaner): You’re sponsoring a bill, Senate Bill 2965, which is the Pay it Back Pay it Forward …
Bodrog: I was wondering if you can really kinda tell me how that came about, if you could speak on it, and some of the issues with obviously unemployment and inflation … to where once students do have to pay it back if there’s no jobs out there, and inflation rises and the debt rises … would actually be more expensive.
Sweeney: … And the reason [behind] Pay it Forward Pay it Back was to study it, to take a look at it, ‘cos we don’t have all the answers. But what we were trying to figure out is, is it a better way? In Oregon they’re studying it also. Again what we’re saying is we need to bring ideas to the table. And I never said … when I sponsored the bill, I said, this isn’t the end all to be all. If you could pay a percentage of your income after college, that we would bond, we would put a bond up, to pay the universities and colleges while you go to school, not have to worry about that piece of it. Because, even though the economy’s bad, the economy will get better. And once you’re employed you’re gonna have the opportunity to pay it back. But for us, it’s more important not to put the finances of an education in front of you getting the education. Because that’s what’s going on right now. There’s too many people that, it’s … I’m amazed how many people have to drop out. And it’s not ‘cos they can’t cut it. It’s ‘cos they can’t afford it. So that’s kind of the thought process. It’s, like, I don’t have all the ideas. And some states are doing things, and they’re thinking, and they’re for- more forward thinking than we are. And I’m not just talking about the United States. Look around the world. What are they doing to ensure educational opportunities that’s raising the bar and improves the quality of life of people? So that’s what it really comes down to. I don’t have all the answers on it. I wanted to study it, and the governor didn’t want to do that.
Cremos: President Sweeney wrote an opinion editorial supporting the Pay it Forward program for the Times of Trenton back in September, and cited crippling student debt and skyrocketing tuition as the motivation for his bill. Yet there are a few problems with paying tuition forward. First of all, as my colleague from The Rutgers Gleaner stated in his question, what happens when students can’t find a job after graduation? President Sweeney can talk about the economy picking up, but it’s hard to tell that to the unemployed college grads. The Economic Policy Institute finds that unemployment among young college graduates only dropped one percentage point from 10.4% in 2010 to 9.4% in 2012.
Cremos: First of all, thank you so much for inviting us here today, sir, it’s an honor. I was wondering if we could go back to the Pay it Forward program a little bit.
Cremos: So my question is, given that only about 40% of New Jersey public college students graduate in four years, and that number goes up to 66% in six years, are you at all concerned that implementing a program like Pay it Forward would put a large initial burden on taxpayers in the sort run?
Sweeney: You gotta look at things in the long term. You can’t look at things in a vacuum. Yes, yes, it’s a burden. But it’s a bigger burden if you don’t invest. The cost on the back end is gonna be greater. And what’s happened is, we keep kicking this can down the road, and it keeps getting worse each year. And either we address it up front, or we ignore it, and wind up making sure that, that – we’re ensuring, not making sure – but we ensure that the American Dream is not the American Dream anymore for the people that live here. So yeah. You’re concerned about the burden? But I’m concerned more about what the end costs are.
Cremos: Finally, a pay-it-forward scheme incentivizes colleges to pass the costs off onto students and their families. Much like with healthcare, there’s a difference between simply restructuring tuition and shifting costs around so that someone else has to pay them, and actually reducing the cost of college. That’s why the idea of partnering with county and community colleges has potential.
Sweeney: Just this little thing, think about this. We matched up with our county college. We changed our county college’s name from Gloucester County College to Rowan College. And, the agreement we had with Rowan is, the first two years, you’re a Rowan student at County College trades. If you stay the last two years, at Gloucester – Rowan College – Rowan University, you’ll graduate with a Rowan degree and a fifteen percent discount each year. Now, fifteen percent’s a lot of money.
Now, what Rutgers just did, is they just partnered with Camden county college, except they didn’t provide a discount. You know, I mean, come on.
Cremos: The Senate bill also proposes creating accelerated paths to higher education for motivated students. Even though it was the end of the meeting, and we’d already gone quite over time, President Sweeney was still eager to talk about the merits of such a plan with us.
Sweeney: Well, I’ll put it to you this way, in the county I live in, we created an Academy program where you would graduate from high school in five years with an Associate’s Degree. Which I honestly believe you could do in four years. ‘Cos your senior year’s a complete waste. It is. And everyone knows it, and – and so we created this academy program. And everyone told me, when we did this, they said you’re being too aggressive. I said, no. I’m putting students that can learn at the pace – I’m giving young people a vehicle to learn at the pace that they’re capable of learning at. And, the reward is an Associate’s Degree which cuts two years off of your educational path and two years of tuition off your educational path.
And you always want somebody with vision. ‘Cos the people that say, this is how we’ve always done it, that’s what the frustration with the administration. Well this, we’re doing it now. Well, we’re not doing it well. So let’s do it a different way so we can make it better. Not just to do it different to do it different, but to do it different to make it better.
Cremos: For WPRB Princeton, I’m Jackie Cremos.
In Depth on Iraq with Danny Waldroop:
Recently, American eyes on the Middle East have focused on Syria, where the continued civil war has taken a huge toll on civilian life, and placed the Obama administration in an awkward stance – caught between a violent dictator on one side and increasingly radical rebel groups on the other. Less frequently talked about of late is Iraq, that quagmire which we only recently extricated ourselves from. Nowadays, it’s only President Obama who makes frequent mention of Iraq, usually preceded by the phrase “I ended the war in.”
But while the US military presence in Iraq may have come to an end, the violence there has not. 2013 was the deadliest year there since 2008 – thousands of civilians were killed in the crossfire. Once more, jihadi elements within the Sunni-minority have begun a campaign to take back control of the country they lost after the American invasion. Just recently, Al Qaeda affiliated groups have taken control of much of the Western Iraqi province of Anbar, including Fallujah and Ramadi and the US is faced with the possibility of yet another Middle Eastern entanglement.
It was in October of 2011 that President Obama ordered the last American troops out of Iraq. After years of nation building, the plan was to have Iraq finally stand on its own. We had trained its police force, provided funds for infrastructure, and backed its President Nouri Al Maliki. Since 2009, violence had dissipated and there was a sense of optimism in the air of Baghdad.
But after the US withdrew, the situation destabilized. The Sunni minority has been alienated, marginalized, sometimes even tortured by the Shiite majority and government. And yet again, Jihadi elements sprung up in its wake. It’s the same cycle of violence that has repeated itself several times in the last decade. This time, however, there are a couple of complicating factors. First, the non-radical Sunnis have been caught between the Jihadis and the Shiite too many times before. In the past, the government has called upon them to oppose the radicals in their midst. This time, however, there’s less incentive to do so. After all, the defeat of the Jihadis won’t end the Sunnis mistreatment by the Shiites. Second, the Syrian civil war is a deeply enmeshed problem. Sectarian violence from Syria has been spilling out beyond its borders – to Lebanon, to Jordan, and to Iraq. ISIS, an Al Qaeda affiliate, is a growing force all over the Middle East, and is responsible for attacks in both Syria and Iraq.
Now, as these groups gain strength in Iraq, the possibility of civil war creeps back up. In the last month, ISIS has taken control of much of the Anbar Province, which includes the cities of Ramada and Fallujah. These victories, while having taken place in already heavily Sunni areas, are of concern. They’re especially significant given the cost in American lives that it first took to secure these cities.
Now the US is faced with a decision as how to proceed in both Syria and Iraq. President Obama has firmly insisted that there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq. That, after all, is too politically toxic. Instead, the US has stepped up support to Al Maliki and the Iraqi government. Hellfire missiles, drones, and possibly Apache helicopters are on their way. We’ve also helped to mediate meetings between the government and Sunni tribal leaders, who we hope will help to turn the tide against the insurgents in Anbar.
However the US approaches these developments in Iraq, the situation in the Middle East is getting even more complex – and dangerous.
For WPRB, I’m Danny Waldroop
In the mix today, the State of the Union, the NJ Democrats, and Nuclear Weapons.
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Habibi– the new album by Habibi, a NYC based four woman band.
DO YOU LOVE THE PRESIDENTS
YOU SHOULD LOVE THE PRESIDENTS
THERE IS A WHOLE EXHIBIT ABOUT THE PRESIDENTS
BUT THE PRESIDENTS AS RUGS
It’s at the Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge, from February 8th – 27th.
Artists Nola Heidbreder and Linda Pietz created a series of 44 rugs with the faces of the Presidents on them.
Go look at it.