Higher Education Undermined by Wall Street

Hit by cuts in state funding and pressure to provide upscale amenities to attract wealthy students, private and state colleges and universities have engaged in risky borrowing schemes that have put many institutions deeper in debt. In its report, the Financialization of Higher Education, RFF grantee, the Roosevelt Institute, analyzes the impact of bad financial deals passed on to students in the form of tuition increases and the consequent results of staggering student debt and/or barriers to higher education. The report reveals how $2.7 billion in business fees from just its sample group of 19 colleges could have paid for the tuition of 108,000 students at these same schools. Instead, these assets were transferred to banks.

Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contract Employees

Sept. 29, 2016--Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced finalization of the rule to require federal government contractors to provide paid sick leave to their employees. This rule, which has been months in the making and is possible because of the tireless efforts of many RFF grantees across the country, will eventually impact over 1.1 MILLION workers!  Paid sick leave, as quoted by RFF Associate Director Lisa Guide in the New York Times, “does strike at the core of whether a job is workable within the context of family life.” 

North Carolina Voting Rights Victory

In late July, a federal appeals court struck down most of North Carolina’s voting law that was challenged by RFF grantee Democracy North Carolina and a coalition of other organizations, for imposing illegal barriers that prevented African Americans and other citizens from exercising their right to vote.  On August 31st, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that ruling to stand. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that “because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,” noting that the legislature received data prior to adoption of the law showing that African Americans would be most adversely affected.  

Just Transition Fund Leads Clean Energy Efforts in Coal Communities

Created by the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Appalachia Funders Network in April 2015, the Just Transition Fund is designed to allow national foundations to quickly deploy resources and strategically invest in local efforts. While the original goal was to help coal-impacted communities access federal POWER grants, the broader mandate is to support frontline coalfield and power plant communities as they transition to a sustainable, clean energy economy. In July 2016, the Fund completed its second round of grantmaking, providing $460,000 in catalytic funding.


Coal-Generated Power Continues to Decline:

Just ten years ago, coal-fired power plants produced 50% of US electricity. Now that figure is down to 29% as of July 2016. According to IEEFA, the market--not regulation--is responsible for the decline. Cheap natural gas and low-priced renewables combined with advanced technologies are replacing an aging coal fleet. 

Vermont Passes Statewide Earned Sick Leave Bill:

In March, Vermont's Governor signed the legislation which will guarantee the right to earned sick leave to more than 60,000 residents.  It joins Connecticut, California, Massachussetts, and Oregon, as well as 24 cities that have passed paid sick days laws.

NY Coal Plant Closures:

Governor Cuomo announced that all of New York State’s coal plants will shut down by 2020 and that government assistance will be provided to workers who lose their jobs as a result of plant retirements and to the Upstate communities that depend on revenue from these plants to fund their schools and other important local services. RFF grantees, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), have been at the heart of this major development. Read RFF Associate Director Larry Shapiro's op-ed in the Albany Times Union.