This week’s readers were split into two camps: Those who came to read Sara Goldrick-Rab’s analysis of “Pay It Forward,” and those who were catching up on pieces they missed over the July 4 holiday. Here’s how your favorites stacked up.
Oregon legislators got a lot of attention this week for their new “Pay It Forward” program, which would eliminate tuition at the state’s public universities in exchange for 3 percent of each student’s annual earnings for their first 24 years after graduation. But Sara Goldrick-Rab, a member of The Century Foundation’s community college task force, has serious reservations about the program. She notes that it won’t actually eliminate student debt, and likely will increase class-based segregation at Oregon’s colleges and universities. And even if these problems could be eliminated, the entire project is probably not feasible anyway.
News that embattled Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell appointed three new members—all from the business world—to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors sparked renewed interest in Century publications intern Greg Lewis’ post on the composition of university boards. Lewis, who covered the ouster and reinstatement of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan last year, points out that the people whose backgrounds are primarily in business dominate state university boards across the country.
Those who missed this piece right before the holiday made up for their omission this week. Racial demographics in the Old South (aka, the 11 states of the Confederacy) are changing rapidly; soon much of the South will be “majority minority,” or less than 50 percent white. Because Republicans continue to have difficulty winning votes among nonwhites, some have argued that the days of the Old South as Republican stronghold are numbered. Century blogger Doug Williams, a Southerner whose roots are in political organizing, says that such conclusions might be hasty. Decades of neglect have left Democratic organizational infrastructure in tatters. “Demographics,” Williams writes, “may be on the Democrats’ side, but most of the state-level party organizations in the South are a long way away from having the capacity to take advantage of those changes.”
Each week, we select the best piece of public policy writing from the previous week. We had an especially strong crop of contenders last week, as the top honors went to Rick Perlstein’s cover story for The Nation, “Chicago Rising!” Perlstein discusses “the rebirth of the city’s militant protest culture,” and chronicles its stunning successes in the past year. Perlstein concludes that “the next battle in the global war againts austerity, privatization and corruption just might spark off” in Chicago.