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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Effects of India's Currency Reform? 'Chaos' Say Analysts 11-29

The Effects of India's Currency Reform? 'Chaos' Say Analysts

NEW DELHI — The sudden withdrawal of 86 percent of India's currency has left cash in short supply, retail sales stumbling and wholesale markets in turmoil.

That's just the immediate fallout from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise effort to stamp out corruption by making cash hoards in large denomination bills worthless. But what lies ahead could be even worse, some analysts say.

"Basically, you've created chaos," said Steve H. Hanke, an applied economist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a global authority on currency policy. "India is a cash economy. It's not like Europe or the U.S. where everyone is running around with a credit card. That's not the world of India."

"It doesn't look like this thing was thought through at all," he said.

Every day or so, soothing assurances about India's overnight currency reform spill from the offices of top government officials.

"Enough cash is available," Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das said Thursday during a nationally televised press conference, as millions of people waited in hours-long lines. A few days earlier, the finance minister urged patience with what he called "a period of inconvenience."
But the decision to ban India's highest denomination bills, 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes worth about $7.50 and $15, goes far beyond an inconvenience.

India's economy has become one of the world's largest in recent years, but millions of businesses, and hundreds of millions of people, lack bank accounts and use cash to pay for everything from groceries to hospital stays to land purchases.

The shadow economy — countless transactions hidden from the authorities — is believed to amount to about a quarter of the country's gross domestic product.

The government used a similar demonetization in the late 1970s. But it failed to curb corruption, and the underground economy has grown immensely larger since then.

Plenty of Indians do use cash transactions to hide their wealth and avoid taxes — less than 3 percent of the population pays income taxes — and the authorities occasionally arrest businesspeople or corrupt officials with currency hoards that can fill trucks. But plenty more people use cash because of habit, poverty or a lack of easy access to banks.

So instead of just aiming squarely at wealthy tax dodgers, the demonetization is also hammering the poor, the working-class and small business people whose lives have been turned upside down during the transition to new currency notes.

Across India, people are waiting in lines that often form hours before banks open and last well into the afternoon, though the government has limited most withdrawals and currency exchanges to a maximum of $30 a day.

"It is unclear whether this exercise will achieve any lasting results other than having created a national economic crisis, destroying confidence in the national currency and unleashing tremendous suffering for ordinary Indian citizens," Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at HIS Global Insight, said in an email.

"This will have a direct negative effect on retail sales and industrial output during the coming weeks," Biswas said.

In worst-case scenarios, the effects of demonetization could last for years, driving the country into recession and pushing Indians to keep their wealth in more stable currencies, such as the euro or U.S. dollar.

"When you don't trust a currency and you don't trust a government you start using foreign currencies," said Hanke. "That's what this is going to do, I think: People will not trust the rupee."
Raghuram Rajan, the former head of India's central bank and one of the country's most respected economists, warned in 2014 that demonetization programs can easily stumble.

"It's not that easy to flush out black money," he said after a speech, while he was still the country's top banker. He added, "my sense is that the clever find ways" to get around currency overhauls.
Rajan has instead suggested better monitoring of financial transactions, such as using government ID cards to track major purchases, and improved tax enforcement.

Hanke was surprised that India would even try a demonetization program, given that its failure in the 1970s is well-known in currency policy circles.

"They're usually done in some kind of crisis situation and panic," said Hanke, "and they ultimately have all kinds of negative unintended consequences."

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Kerala fast food vendor, shaves off half head, vows not to grow hair until Modi is dethroned 11-29

A small shop owner in Kerala shaved off half head and vowed not to grow his hair until Prime Minister Narendra Modi is voted out of power. This is in protest against the demonetisation drive announced by Modi. Here's his heart wrenching story.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's overnight demonetisation drive, scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 from the financial system of India on November 8, came as a shock to many. It would be wrong to say that the drive hit only those who were hoarding black money. Reports suggest that millions of lower income class people were severely hit by the move; while some struggled to feed their children, others -- daily wage workers -- struggled to get work to meet their daily expenses. There are also people, without bank accounts, who had to let go of liquid money they had saved over the years, working very hard.  

One such man is 70-year-old Yahiya, Yahikkakka for his customers, who runs a small hotel and tea shop in Kerala's Kollam.

Dr Ashraf Kadakkal, assistant professor at University of Kerala, made a Facebook post last night about the old man, narrating how the demonetisation drive hit him, and why he shaved off half his head in protest, and why he vowed not to grow his hair until PM Modi is voted out of power.

Titling his post "Mann Ki Baat from a small hotel owner to a former tea vendor," Ashraf shared the story of Yahikkakka. Here's a close translation of his Facebook post. 

"My name is Yahiya. Peers call me Yahi, others prefer calling Yahikkakka. I am nearly 70 years old, a native of Kadakkal Mukkunnam in Kerala's Kollam district. I live with my wife and two daughters.
When I realised I cannot marry off my daughter from what I make from climbing coconut trees and working in farms, I sold everything I had and went to the Gulf. Nothing but a life of suffering awaited me there, a poor, uneducated man. I came back with whatever little I made. With that money, and a bank loan from Kadakkal Co-operative bank, I got my daughter married.

I found a new way to sustain myself and family by starting this RMS fast food joint.

I handle the entire hotel myself, from cooking to serving to cleaning. So I chose to wear a nightie. My customers enjoy the tasty beef and chicken fry I serve from 5 PM till midnight, and stay entertained by what they consider a ridiculous attire for a man. Had I been running this store in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, I would have been hanged.

I was living, facing one day at a time, till Prime Minister Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

I had Rs 23,000 in cash, all in the demonetised notes. I tried my best to get it exchanged from nearby banks, stood in queues for two days. On the second day, blood sugar level dropped and I almost collapsed. Some Good Samaritans helped me to a government hospital.

Other than the loan account at the co-operative bank, I don't have a bank account. Since all transactions at co-operative banks were frozen, I realised I cannot get it deposited anywhere.
How many days should I stand in queues to get the money I saved, my money, the money I made working hard for hours straight over the years, deposited?

When I got home from the hospital, I lit my choolah and burnt the entire Rs 23,000 in it. I then went to a nearby barber shop, shaved off half my already bald head.

I vow to grow it back only when PM Modiji, the man who, in a jiffy, burnt all my hard work and savings into ashes, is voted out of power and this country is saved.

This is my pledge and my protest."

Dr Ashraf ended his Facebook post saying, "Dear Yahikkakka, sorry for treating you like a clown all these years. Your protest is so powerful and meaningful that the bandh the strongest party in our state is conducting tomorrow."

Talking to India Today, Dr Ashraf said, "Yahikkakka reads newspapers regularly. He has a strong stand on everything. He went to the Gulf selling whatever he had but life was hell there too. He returned to start this thattukada (small fast food joint) where a lot of people come not just to eat but also to listen to his jokes and satirical commentary on current affairs."

Ashraf also said, "Yahikkakka wears a nightie because he's comfortable in it. He asks why nightie is considered just a womenswear. He does not have an account in any other bank except a co-operative. He tried exchanging his money. When he failed he came home and burnt it and shaved his head."

Here is Dr. Ashraf's original post in malayam...

ഒരു (മുൻ) ചായ വില്പനക്കാരനോട്(?) ഒരു തട്ടുകടക്കാരന്റെ 'മൻ കി ബാത്'
എന്റെ പേര് യഹിയ സമപ്രായക്കാർ യഹി എന്നും മറ്റുള്ളവർയഹിക്കാക്ക എന്നും വിളിക്കും. വയസ്സ് 70 നടുത്തായി, കൊല്ലം ജില്ലയിലെ കടയ്ക്കൽ മുക്കുന്നം സ്വദേശി, ഭാര്യയും രണ്ടു പെണ്മക്കളുമുണ്ട്.തെങ്ങു കയറ്റവും പാടത്തെ പണിയും കൊണ്ട് മക്കളെ കെട്ടിച്ചയക്കാനാവാതെ വന്നപ്പോൾ ഉള്ളതെല്ലാം വിറ്റു പെറുക്കി ഗൾഫിൽ പോയി. പഠിപ്പില്ലാത്ത എനിക്ക് അവിടെ വിധിച്ചിരുന്നത് ആടുജീവിതമാണ്. ഗതിപിടിക്കാതെ വന്നപ്പോൾ നാട്ടിലേക്ക് തന്നെ മടങ്ങി.കയ്യിലുള്ള സമ്പാദ്യവും കടയ്ക്കൽ സഹകരണ ബാങ്കിന്റെ വായ്പയുമെല്ലാം കൊണ്ട് മക്കളെ കെട്ടിച്ചയച്ചു. പുതിയൊരു ജീവിതമാർഗം കണ്ടെത്തിയതാണ് ഈ RMS തട്ടുകട. ഇവിടത്തെ വെപ്പും വിളമ്പുമെല്ലാം ഞാനൊറ്റക്കാണ്‌ ചെയ്യുന്നത്; അതുകൊണ്ടു വേഷം നൈറ്റിയാക്കി. വൈകിട്ട് 5 മുതൽ അർദ്ധരാത്രി വരെ രുചിയൂറുന്ന ബീഫും ചിക്കൻ ഫ്രൈയും എന്റെ 'കോമാളിത്തവും' ആസ്വദിക്കാൻ കടയിൽ ആളുണ്ടാവും. ഗുജറാത്തിലോ മധ്യപ്രദേശിലോ ആയിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ ബീഫിന്റെ പേരിൽ എന്നെ പണ്ടേ കെട്ടിത്തൂക്കിയേനെ. അങ്ങനെ ജീവിതം ഒരുവിധം തള്ളിനീക്കുമ്പോഴാണ് മോദിജീ അങ്ങയുടെ നോട്ടു നിരോധനം വന്നത്. എന്റെ കൈവശം ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന 23000 രൂപ; എല്ലാം 500 / 1000 നോട്ടുകൾ മാറ്റിയെടുക്കാൻ രണ്ടു ദിവസം ക്യൂവിൽ നിന്നു,രണ്ടാം നാൾ രക്തത്തിൽ പഞ്ചസാരയുടെ അളവ് കുറഞ്ഞു കുഴഞ്ഞു വീഴാറായപ്പോൾ കണ്ടുനിന്നവർ സർക്കാർ ആശുപത്രിയിലാക്കി.സഹകരണ ബാങ്കിലെ പഴയ വായ്പ അക്കൗണ്ടല്ലാതെ ഒരു ബാങ്കിലും എനിക്ക് അക്കൗണ്ടില്ല. അവിടെ ഈ നോട്ടിടപാടു അങ്ങ് നിരോധിച്ചിരിക്കുകയല്ലേ അതുകൊണ്ടു എങ്ങും നിക്ഷേപിക്കാനുമാവില്ല.പാതിരാവരെ പുകയൂതി ഞാനുണ്ടാക്കിയ ഈ പണം മാറ്റിയെടുക്കാൻ എത്ര നാൾ ക്യൂ നിൽക്കണം. ആശുപത്രിയിൽ നിന്നും മടങ്ങിയെത്തിയ ഞാൻ അടുപ്പിൽ തീ കൂട്ടി ആ നോട്ടുകളെല്ലാം അതിലിട്ടു കത്തിച്ചു ചാരമാക്കി, അടുത്തുള്ള ബാർബർ ഷോപ്പിൽ പോയി എന്റെ കഷണ്ടിത്തലയിൽ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന മുടി പാതി വടിച്ചിറക്കി. എന്റെ മുഴുവൻ അധ്വാനവും സമ്പാദ്യവും ചാരമാക്കിയ മോദിജീ അങ്ങയെ ജനം എന്ന് താഴെയിറക്കുന്നുവോ ഈ നാടിനു എന്നൊരു മോചനമുണ്ടാവുന്നുവോ അന്ന് മാത്രമേ എന്റെയീ കഷണ്ടിത്തലയിലെ പാതി മുടി പഴയപോലെയാവുകയുള്ളു. ഇത് എന്റെ ശപഥവും പ്രതിഷേധവുമാണ്.
എന്ന് യഹി എന്ന തട്ടുകടക്കാരൻ
പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട യഹിക്കാക്കാ അങ്ങയെ ഈ നാൾ വരെ വെറുമൊരു കോമാളിയായി മാത്രം കണ്ടതിനു മാപ്പ്.
നമ്മുടെ നാട്ടിലെ ഏറ്റവും വലിയ പാർട്ടി നാളെ നടത്തുന്ന ഹർത്താലിനെക്കാൾ എത്രയോ അർത്ഥവത്താണ് അങ്ങയുടെ ഈ പ്രതിഷേധം

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Wow! 8 IAF jets land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway! 11-21

Agra-Lucknow Expressway saw a big-bang inauguration today with the landing of 8 IAF (Indian Air Force) jets on India's longest greenfield expressway!

Four Mirage 2000s and four Sukhois of the IAF made a terrific and spectacular landing on a select stretch of the Agra-Lucknow expressway, marking a first for the inauguration of a highway in India.
According to the UPEIDA, the development authority behind the expressway, a 2-km stretch on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway has been built to facilitate landing and take-off of fighter jets in "war-like situations". The exercise is aimed at testing the quality of build of the expressway, and would also go a long way in aiding the Defence Ministry's plan to use highways and expressways as possible landing and take-off strips.

The Agra-Lucknow expressway is Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav's pet project and his major pitch to showcase his government's focus on development.

Apart from the stylish inauguration of the expressway, one of India's largest infrastructure projects is noteworthy for many reasons. According to the UP government the 302-km expressway will help cut down the time between Agra and Lucknow to just 3.5 hours, from the current 7 hours. Moreover, the expressway is expected the reduce the road travel time between Delhi and Lucknow to anywhere between 5 to 6 hours!

The Agra-Lucknow Expressway has a design speed of up to 120 kms per hour. It will have automatic traffic management systems aimed at reducing road accidents and helping even at the time of fog. The six-lane expressway is expandable to 8-lanes.

Reports suggest that the bridges and underpasses have been made 8-lane to avoid traffic congestion and bottlenecks once the expressway is expanded to 8-lane. The expressway has an 8-lane bridge across the river Ganga. This will connect Kanpur and Unnao.

The Agra-Lucknow Expressway will be connected to the famous Yamuna Expressway via an Agra Ring Road. This will help provide the requisite connectivity to the national capital of Delhi and NCR areas like Noida.

According to the UP government, the objective of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway is to ensure development of nearby areas, provide a fast-moving corridor that allows seamless travel, reduce the carbon footprint of vehicles that travel between the two cities, help farmers to expand reach of their products to larger cities, and attract investors in the state.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Humans Decoded 11-19

Humans Decoded

Lost and Found with “the Most Wondrous Map Ever Produced”

The year Melinda and I started our foundation, President Bill Clinton convened in the White House some of the world’s great scientists to announce a huge milestone for humanity. Two rival efforts, one led by the National Institutes of Health and the other by a private company, had completed the first draft of the human genome map. “Without a doubt,” Clinton said, “this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind.”

Fast forward 16 years. With little public fanfare, geneticists have reached another super important milestone. While the human genome map gave us the ability to read all three billion letters of our genetic code, we now have the power to edit the human genome as well. Thanks in part to a chance discovery by researchers working to improve yogurt, scientists can now enter human cells, selectively snip out sections of code, and then incorporate new sequences permanently in the genome.

Scientists have now launched early-stage clinical trials with these new genome-editing tools. These tools are generating a ton of optimism for diagnosing, treating, and curing human disease. Even before researchers successfully complete clinical trials in humans, genome editing will be put to good use in modifying plants and animals—all of which holds big promise for our foundation’s work to alleviate hunger and improve health in poor countries.

Although I am excited about these advances, we have to approach them with caution. It’s one thing to reprogram the code that runs our computers. Reprogramming the code that runs our species is a very different thing altogether.

As with any powerful new technology, genome editing will be attractive to people with both good intentions (reducing human suffering) and bad (causing it). Even just with respect to the former, the ethical questions are enormous.

That is why I am so glad I read The Gene: An Intimate History, by Columbia University cancer doctor and researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee and recently had a chance to chat with him in person. He is the perfect person to guide us through the past, present, and future of genome science.

I loved Mukherjee’s 2015 TED Talk and his brilliant book about cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. It must really tick off full-time writers that a doctor can win a Pulitzer in his spare time!

In The Gene, Mukherjee once again shows his gift for making hard science easily accessible. He wrote this book for general audiences, because he knows that it’s not good enough for scientists alone to debate the huge ethical questions that their discoveries provoke. As he emphasized repeatedly in our conversation, determining the proper rules and boundaries for these technologies requires broad public discussion, debate, and consensus.

Mukherjee makes The Gene accessible in a variety of ways. Like all good science writers, he offers creative metaphors to explain difficult concepts. He is also a beautiful storyteller. He uses that talent to weave in his own family’s history of mental illness, which I found incredibly touching.  And through stories, he introduces us to the key pioneers in genetics—from Gregor Mendel, who repeatedly failed the exam to teach high school science but later ushered in the modern science of genetics, to Francis Collins, the devout Christian motorcycle enthusiast who brilliantly led the public effort to sequence the human genome.

My favorite part of the book was the final section, “Post-Genome: The Genetics of Fate and Future.” It does a great job bringing into sharp focus the difficult ethical questions that will become increasingly intense.

Within 10 years, it will be possible for clinicians to use genome editing to help people with diseases caused by a single faulty gene, such as cystic fibrosis—an unquestionably ethical use of this new technology. But what about making the repair in egg or sperm cells to save people from developing these diseases later in life? This form of therapy could be highly effective, but it would mean that children born from these sperm or eggs would pass along their genetically modified genomes to their own children—altering the human germ line and crossing an ethical Rubicon.

Altering the human germ line is not just a hypothetical possibility. Teams of researchers in China are racing to do so in human embryos. While these researchers are using non-viable embryos, a Swedish developmental biologist recently announced that he is editing healthy, viable human embryos. He says he will not let the edited embryos develop past 14 days, but there’s no telling what other scientists may be planning. “By the time this book is published … the first ‘post-genomic’ human might be on his or her way to being born,” Mukherjee reports.

As I read The Gene, I came up with long lists of ethical questions of my own. For example, what if a prenatal test told you with a high degree of certainty that your child will have an IQ of 80 unless you do this little edit? What if a private IVF clinic offered its patients a little enhancement to their fertilized embryos to boost children’s likely IQ from high to very high? This could exacerbate inequities that are already a big problem—especially if this technology is available only for wealthy people. What about a series of edits that could dramatically reduce the incidence of disorders on the autism spectrum? Wouldn’t that mean reducing human diversity in dangerous ways—perhaps even eliminating the possibility of a future Alan Turing, the brilliant computer pioneer who helped break Germany’s Enigma code during World War II?

Technology is amoral. It is neither good nor bad. It is up to all of us—not just scientists, government officials, and people fortunate enough to lead foundations—to think hard about these new technologies and how they should and should not be used. Reading The Gene will get you the point where you can actively engage in that debate.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Currency Press Capacity: Around 6 Months Needed To Replenish Rs. 500 Notes. 11-17

New Delhi:  Will new notes which replace the demonetised currency find itself in circulation soon? Unlikely, if the capacity of all the currency printing presses in the country is taken into account.

The latest calculation, based on capacities of the currency printing presses, shows that replenishment would take around six months.

This is particularly true for the new Rs. 500 notes, whose printing, presumably, started after November 10. Till those are replenished in adequate numbers, the "currency pain" would not go away since Rs. 2,000 notes are difficult to exchange for lower denominations.

However, enough of the new Rs. 2,000 notes may already have been printed, calculations show.

The central government had demonetised Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes on November 8, sending the whole nation into a tizzy. Long queues outside banks have been a daily occurrence since then because enough currency notes are not available with them.

New information gleaned from public sources show that the government may be too optimistic in claiming that "adequate amount" of money would soon be in circulation.

That's because of the limited capacity of the printing presses in the country for such a sudden, huge job.

There are four currency presses -- one each in Nashik (Maharashtra), Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), Salboni (West Bengal) and Mysuru (Karnataka).

The first two are owned by the central government through the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd. According to information available in the Finance Ministry's latest annual report, the yearly currency printing capacity of these two presses is around 40 per cent of the total in the country.

The other two presses -- in Nashik and Dewas -- are part of the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt. Ltd. (BRBNMPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). These two, comprising 60 per cent of the total capacity, can print 16 billion notes in two shifts per year, according to information available on BRBNMPL's website.

In essence, it means that total capacity in the country would be 26.66 billion notes in two shifts. If all three shifts run, as the government says is happening now, the four presses would be able to print 40 billion notes a year, irrespective of the denomination.

Now, according to the government, the total money in circulation -- before Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes were declared illegal -- was Rs. 17.54 lakh crore or Rs. 17,540 billion. Of this, 45 per cent was in Rs. 500 denomination -- equivalent to Rs. 7.89 lakh crore or Rs. 7,890 billion and 39 per cent in Rs. 1,000 notes amounting to Rs. 6.84 lakh crore or Rs. 6,840 billion.

In other words, there were 15.78 billion notes of Rs. 500 denomination in circulation and 6.84 billion notes of Rs. 1,000.

But if they are going to print Rs. 2,000 notes equivalent to value of the Rs. 1,000 notes declared illegal, that is, worth Rs. 6.84 lakh crore, they would have to print only half, or 3.42 billion notes.

If the printing started in early September, as has been claimed by some printing press officials, they would need only a little over two months to meet the full requirement, even at 50 per cent capacity. In other words, they should have printed all the replacement needs of Rs. 2,000 notes till now.

Further, how long will they need to print Rs. 500 notes, now that the machines would not be printing Rs. 2,000 notes? Assuming an 80 per cent run (remember Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 comprised 84 per cent of all currencies), the time taken for the new Rs. 500 notes, which began printing, presumably, on November 10, would be: 5.9 months.

The rest of the 20 per cent capacity could be used for the lower denomination notes from Rs. 5 to Rs. 100.

So, by April-end, one would presume, all the new notes would be in circulation. And, of course, the pain would be longer than the 50 days that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mentioned.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Why We Can’t Afford to Ignore Higher Education’s Financial Problems 11-12

Here are a few things we know that are wrong with post-high school education in the United States: It’s too expensive; access to quality schools is limited — especially if you’re a nontraditional student or have to pay for it on your own; and, our ideas about college reflect a bygone era. Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, may be able to help with some of these challenges. She’s a nationally renowned expert on higher education, and was the lead author of  the Brookings Institution’s 2009 white paper “Transforming America’s Community Colleges,” which significantly influenced President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative. She is also wrote Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. She joined the Knowledge@Wharton Show on Sirius XM channel 111 to talk about the broken U.S. college education system.

An edited version of the transcript of the conversation appears below

Knowledge@Wharton: You followed the college careers of 3,000 students over six years. What did you learn?

Sara Goldrick-Rab: A lot, particularly because we didn’t meet these people just one time. We followed them repeatedly over time, and we surveyed them and looked at their administrative records and we talked to them.

First, we learned how insanely broken the financial aid system is. A lot of folks talk about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA’s a small American bureaucratic tragedy all its own … and it needs reform. But there are so many issues even after the FAFSA, including that students don’t know that they have to refile that darn form year after year. They don’t know that they have to take a certain number of classes and get a certain number of grades and perform in a certain way for them to be able to keep the money year after year.

And frankly, the other thing that they don’t know is that the money that’s delivered after the FAFSA is way short of what they will need to be in school. Even people whose families make virtually nothing are faced with having to borrow, and they’re still short. So they don’t make it.

Knowledge@Wharton: It’s staggering that it’s 2016, and we know young people need college educations as a way to build their careers, yet we have so many things impeding that. These issues have slipped through the cracks time and time and time again.

“We made a huge mistake. We told people to go to college…. But we failed to pay attention to the financing system.”

Goldrick-Rab: Look, we made a huge mistake. We told people to go to college. That was the right thing to do. We prioritized education. That was the right thing to do. But we failed to pay attention to the financing system. It’s as if we just thought that someday, everybody would go to college, and we magically wouldn’t have issues paying for it. Of course we have issues paying for it. And it’s from this lack of attention that we’ve gotten ourselves into this serious problem.

Knowledge@Wharton: I saw the interview you did with Trevor Noah, and you brought up something interesting: We’ve got kids that are going to community college right now who really don’t have a home right now. How does that happen?

Goldrick-Rab: It happens many different ways. One way is that you go to college and you think you’re going to get enough money not only to cover your tuition and fees, your books and supplies, but your housing costs. And the numbers literally don’t add up. So you say, “Well, I’m going to work even though I took the loans. I’m also going to work.” But you can’t get enough work.

Employers out there today are not exactly kind to undergraduates. They don’t pay well, and they don’t give them enough hours. The numbers just don’t add up.

Another way is that, frankly, people from very low-income families are going to college now at higher rates than before. It may have been that they experienced homelessness when they were a high school student, and they know the only way to prevent homelessness in the future is to go to college. It’s just that it keeps happening to them, and we don’t have any resources for them the way that we do when they’re in high school.

Knowledge@Wharton: What about on-campus housing, which some colleges and universities have. Could that be part of the solution in terms of setting something up to help people out when they’re in this type of situation?

Goldrick-Rab: Yes, we have to do much better. I think it will probably surprise your listeners though to know that only 13% of undergraduates today live on campus. So for the most part, the campus residency is not the story. Most people are commuting to school, and they live in their local areas. But if we stereotype them and say, “Well, they live with their families, so their families are paying their rent,” we’re flat out wrong. These days, families don’t have enough money to support other adults living in their houses, and they often charge them rent.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are some of your other concerns?

Goldrick-Rab: We’ve prioritized this idea that you should be able to choose any kind of college you want. What we haven’t done is very much to ensure that the colleges that you can choose — including using taxpayer-funded dollars — actually are good schools. We have a lot of schools out there that, frankly, are not giving people an education that’s worth anything in the labor market — or any other place. Yet they’re able to accept financial aid and student loans and all these sort of things, and pad their budgets with them, and pay their CEOs well. That needs to stop. That’s something where a consumer ought to be able to say, “If federal dollars are going to that place, I ought to be able to assume it’s a decent place.”

Knowledge@Wharton: You’re talking about for-profit schools?
Sponsored Content:

Goldrick-Rab: Yes, the for-profit schools. And then, there are some private institutions that are not-for-profit as well that are not doing so well. We could raise some questions even about places like where we’re sitting here today — places with very big endowments that, frankly, are still charging a lot. I met a young man the other day who graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia. He’s got no income. He’s on disability. He went back to school at 35 years old. He got his associate degree. He was in the honors program. He was in journalism.

He did all this great stuff. He got into Penn. Penn sent him a bill for his first year of college, this guy who makes nothing and is on disability; he was offered a package of $42,000 a year. [Tuition plus room and board and books at Penn runs around $67,000 a year, making even that level of a scholarship offer potentially unaffordable]. Something is wrong here when you have an endowment like this. This is a great school. I went to this school. But I think the alumni of places like this ought to be standing up and saying, “We can do better than this.”

“Most people are commuting to school… But if we stereotype them and say, ‘Well, they live with their families, so their families are paying their rent,’ we’re flat out wrong.”

Knowledge@Wharton: We also need to really look at the types of things we’re teaching in some cases. Some of the degrees that kids are going for don’t match up with the real world.

Goldrick-Rab: Yes, I think this is actually one of the ways in which the new economics of college are changing what college even means. We used to have the freedom to pick what we wanted to major in. Sometimes, people majored in English, and it taught them how to write, it taught them good things, and they went on to do really well in business. That freedom is gone now because of these college prices. Now, we’re going to have 18-year-olds having to ask themselves, “What do I want to be for the rest of my life, so that I get a degree that I can pay off these loans with?”

That’s going to lead to a lot fewer people who know how to write and do those things, and I think down the road, we’re going to be very upset about it. I think the richness of the variety of majors that students have engaged in, in this country, has been part of why this country has done so well.

Knowledge@Wharton: The issue of college affordability has been getting discussed in the presidential race, with some candidates suggesting we should find a way to be able to provide free college education at some level, whether it be through community colleges or more broadly. Where do you stand on this issue?

Goldrick-Rab: I’ve been working very hard on this. I don’t think it’s a pipe dream. I do think it’s a lot more complicated to do it well than people are letting on. The most important thing, though, is that we have a very serious conversation about what we’re going to do finally. Enough talking about it. It’s time for action. And it’s very disturbing that in the recent debates, no mention of college affordability came up. It seems like it might have disappeared from the radar.

If the next president doesn’t take this head on, then we’re going to have a really serious problem. We’re not going to be able to save our way out of this. No amount of college savings is going to be able to help these families today cover the bills for little kids like those I have.

Knowledge@Wharton: Only a minority of people in this country who work 30 or 40 years of their life even have enough savings for themselves, let alone enough to try to help put their kid through college.

Goldrick-Rab: And very few universities provide any benefits for their employees. There’s been a huge change in universities. Most universities are using adjuncts and contingent labor. They’re not providing them with these benefits. When the question comes about educational quality, that’s the question.

If you’re going to send your kid to school and you’re going to pay for it, you want to have faculty there who are committed and able to spend time with your children, which means a move back to full-time faculty who have something to count on, so that you can have good teachers just like you have in K-12. In a good free-college model, we wouldn’t provide the money to make college free without stipulating that the college receiving that money would provide that kind of educational experience.
“There’s real food insecurity on our campuses, even while some schools are building sushi bars.”

Knowledge@Wharton: What surprised you in the data?

Goldrick-Rab: One of my graduate students came back and she was really upset. And I said, “What’s going on?” And she said, “Well, I asked the question we always ask,” which is a really straightforward, open-ended question: “How’s it going in college?” And the student looked at her and she said, “It’s not going well.” And she said, “What’s your biggest challenge?” She said, “Eating. I don’t have enough food to eat. When other students are eating in the classroom, it distracts me because I’m so hungry. I wish that I had enough to eat so I could focus on learning.” This was staggering to me.

I went, “Wait, that’s not a textbook issue. That’s not an iPod issue.” So we went out there. I mean, I have to admit being a little skeptical. Maybe she was one person. But I’ve now done about four studies of this question with my team, and this thing is happening. There’s real food insecurity on our campuses, even while some schools are building sushi bars.

Knowledge@Wharton: How do you correct that?

Goldrick-Rab: We certainly do have enough food in this country. It’s just how we distribute it and how we price it. Look, we’re sitting in the city of Philadelphia, where every single kid in the city, whether or not their income deserves it, gets a free or reduced price lunch at school. We make sure they have milk, we make sure that they get fed. We don’t do that when they get to college.

If they transition from one of our city’s high schools to the Community College of Philadelphia, they get cut off. And we’re surprised that they’re not learning?

Knowledge@Wharton: Why is there this failure to connect one with the other? Do we just assume that once you’ve graduated high school, you can handle yourself? You can run your own life?

Goldrick-Rab: Perhaps. But I also think it’s because the average person still imagines the average college student as being somebody walking up and down an ivy-covered Locust Walk, essentially. I think they tend to think of them as residential, four-year students with parents who are paying for things. That is not today’s undergraduate. They’re not even kids frankly. Their average age is between 25 and 30 years old when they start college. They’re mainly at community colleges and state universities. These real life things continue to happen to them. And I don’t think we need to say that’s giving away anything to help them. It’s making a good investment so they get an education, and they don’t need our support after they do.

Knowledge@Wharton: Obviously, we know that there are more and more people who are going out into the workforce first, or starting college, then going to get a job, and then going back later. It’s become more the norm.

Goldrick-Rab: It has, and I think it’s actually a great thing. This country gives second chances in a way that other countries don’t. And we have made more progress in that way. We don’t say to somebody, “Yeah, you’re 30 years old and it hasn’t happened for you, so your life is over.” We open our doors. That’s a great thing. But we have to actually resource it. This stuff doesn’t come free.

Knowledge@Wharton: Is it a concern for you that not only is this not really a topic that’s brought up by the presidential candidates, but that we have enough dysfunction in Washington, D.C., that this issue will likely … not really be pushed forward?

Goldrick-Rab: I’m less pessimistic than I used to be about this, because we have made a ton of progress in the last couple of years. We saw a remarkable thing happen in January 2015 when President Barack Obama got up there and put the words “free” and “college” together in a sentence. That’s never happened before.

Who thought that was going to happen? Not me — and I actually brought a plan to do that. We’re also talking about living expenses in a way that we never have. We’re talking about the fact that the rules for getting food stamps don’t align with the rules for being in college. We’re having a much more advanced conversation today than we were even two years ago.

It took 80 years to get free public high school. I think our pace of progress is actually pretty good. What’s important is that we not only focus on things we can get done tomorrow — that’s very short-term thinking. Some of us at least need to be engaged in the long-term battle.

I don’t know that you will get a free public university bachelor’s degree, or anything like that. But I think in the next 20 to 25 years at the most, we will see free public community college restored.

Knowledge@Wharton: There are countries that believe that free college education, as a component of their systems, is something that benefits their economy.

Goldrick-Rab: Most of those countries do things pretty differently than we do. One of those things is, they don’t let everybody go to college. They gate-keep a lot at the secondary level. Germany does this in spades. The tricky part here is that we want to send lots of people to college from all walks of life. We don’t want to have discrimination in who gets to go to college. And we want it to be really affordable. This is something we can do, but we have to give up something. I’m not actually saying money. I’m saying maybe, for example, just as in K-12 education, maybe we just pay for the public sector. That’s a discussion we’ve never had. Maybe we need to have it. Maybe we need to focus our resources on what we can afford to do, and stop prioritizing doing all the things while leaving everybody short.

Knowledge@Wharton: The problem is, though — and tell me if I’m wrong in this — that we’ve got so many public institutions across this country, that that’s a lot of money to be talking about.

Goldrick-Rab: If we take all the money we’re spending on the private institutions — you know, this is sacrilege, it gets people really angry, but I think we need to take a hard look and say, “Look, can we afford to keep doing this where we will finance any institution a student has ever wanted to go to? We’ll give them a voucher and they can take that voucher to that school,” even though the taxpayers are financing things that are not necessarily paying off. When this system began, we didn’t have all of those public institutions. We really needed those private institutions. It’s a completely different situation today.

“I’m less pessimistic than I used to be because we have made a ton of progress in the last couple of years.”

Knowledge@Wharton: The majority of institutions are providing quality education, and people are getting a good background heading into the real world.

Goldrick-Rab: Absolutely, and that’s especially true when those institutions get the resources they need to succeed. People can say, “I can’t get my classes at my local community college.” All right. But when you pass a bond referendum, and you stop underfunding the college, and you actually finance the college, people do get the classes they need. This is a pretty straightforward thing. If we’ve put the money that was supposed to be spent in the public sector into the public sector, we would have better completion rates.

Knowledge@Wharton: How much potential does online learning have to benefit this going forward?
Goldrick-Rab: I think of online learning as primarily benefiting the people who are pretty advanced already in their education. I would like to see it as an option for people to complete the last year of their bachelor’s degree, for example. Maybe more graduate education should be moved online. But people are quite vulnerable during that first couple of years of higher education, especially if they’ve been out of school for a while. They really do need that face-to-face instruction, or at the very least, a hybrid model that still emphasizes making a connection with your teacher. Teachers matter, and they matter a ton to students. So I would hate to see us fool ourselves into thinking that online is going to replace face-to-face instruction.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Moving forward together: Our thoughts on the US election 11-10

A Microsoft perspective from  Brad Smith Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer

Like so many people across the country, we woke up in Redmond, Washington this morning thinking about yesterday’s election. And like so many Americans, regardless of who we supported through our vote, we strongly share the view that this is a time for the nation to come together. Every president-elect deserves our congratulations, best wishes and support for the country as a whole. The peaceful transition of power has been an enduring and vital part of our democracy for over two centuries, and it remains so today. As a company, Microsoft joins many others in congratulating President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

As a company, we also look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on issues of common concern. As we think about the future, we know we don’t have all the answers, but four issues rise near the top as we think about the country and information technology.
First and foremost, the vote yesterday registered a strong concern about the plight of those who feel left out and left behind.

In important respects, this concern is understandable. In recent months we’ve been struck by a study from Georgetown University. It shows that a quarter-century of U.S. economic growth under Democrats and Republicans alike has added 35 million net new jobs. But the number of jobs held by Americans with only a high school diploma or less has fallen by 7.3 million. The disparity is striking. The country has experienced a doubling of jobs for Americans with a four-year college degree, while the number of jobs for those with a high school diploma or less has fallen by 13 percent.[1]

We know we have a lot to learn, but we believe this makes one conclusion abundantly clear:  in a time of rapid change, we need to innovate to promote inclusive economic growth that helps everyone move forward.  This requires a shared responsibility among those in government, across the private sector, and by individuals themselves.

As we’ve had the opportunity to learn more, we’ve concluded that new technology tools can play an important role.  This was part of the conviction that led Microsoft to decide earlier this year to acquire LinkedIn, a deal that has already been cleared to close by regulators in the United States.  LinkedIn is a good example of what one increasingly sees among both tech companies and tech-based non-profit groups.  New technology services and tools help individuals develop new skills and connect with new jobs.

As we look to the future, these can better help more people develop so-called middle skills – the types of technical skills that can ensure that those with less than a college degree can not only learn valuable new skills, but obtain the certifications and credentials that will be valuable in the workplace.  And we believe that new data tools such as LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can serve even more cities and states to help those in government match their worker training and economic development resources with the strongest opportunities in the market.  These are but a few of the roles where new technology can help.

We also believe that these issues represent the next frontier for innovation in public policy.  We’re enthusiastic about new potential initiatives at the federal and state levels that can promote broader education and training, bring labor laws into the 21st century, and ensure portable benefits and a stronger safety net for the tens of millions of Americans that are working part-time, acting as an independent worker, or participating in the expanding tech-based gig economy with companies such as Uber and Lyft.  In short, while the problem is clear, potential solutions are manifold and more than anything, we need to come together to pursue them.

Second, as a company that does business around the world, we believe there’s a clear opportunity to invest in infrastructure.  As the American Society of Civil Engineers concluded in 2013, our water pipes too often are too old, our highways too often are congested, and our bridges too often are deficient.  We don’t claim to be experts in the field, but we know a traffic jam when we see one, in part because most days around Seattle we sit in one.  It was encouraging to see both presidential nominees endorse new infrastructure investments, and we believe that new data analytics and cloud technologies can contribute to these improvements.  We especially appreciate the role that broadband and computing infrastructure can play in creating broader economic opportunities, perhaps especially in areas of higher rural unemployment.

Third, as we think societally about these new opportunities to address those who have been left behind, it’s critically important that we appreciate the continuing national strengths that serve the country so well.  We’ve benefited from the opportunity to see so much of this firsthand.  We invest over $12 billion a year in research and development, as much as any other company on the planet, and over 85 percent of this work is done in the United States.  Over a third of our engineers have come from other countries – 157 countries, in fact.  We have employees from every race, ethnic background and religion.  If there’s a language spoken on the planet, there’s a good chance that it’s spoken by an employee at Microsoft.  And we’re committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but the type of inclusive culture that will enable people to do their best work and pursue rewarding careers.

We know that this is the only way we’ll fully succeed as a company.  And we believe it’s the only way we’ll fully succeed as a country.

So while we all need to do more to support those who haven’t moved forward in recent years, we share the conviction that this is a time to bring the entire nation together.  And that means everyone, with an appreciation for the spirit of generosity and mutual respect that has often represented the best of the American spirit.

Finally, it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time.  As this election demonstrated, technology now plays a ubiquitous role in our daily lives.  But people will not use technology they do not trust.

We’re committed to developing technology that is secure and trusted, both for Americans and for people around the world.  We literally have thousands of employees who make this their focus and priority.  And we know that we’ll benefit from stronger government policies as well.  That’s why we’ve not only advocated for clearer and more modern U.S. laws, but have filed lawsuits four times in the past three years against the current administration, standing up for what we believe are the vital rights of people both here and abroad.  As we’ve won the cases we’ve brought, we’ve been reminded of one of this country’s greatest strengths, its strong Constitution, independent judiciary, and the overarching rule of law.

Between now and Jan. 20, we’ll all participate in what is perhaps the most defining aspect of our democracy, the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another. Today is a day that finds some Americans celebrating and others commiserating about the electoral result.  But it’s also a day that reminds us of what makes the country special.  It’s a day that provides an opportunity to look beyond disagreements and divides, identify bold solutions to common problems, and find new ways to work together. It’s a good time for all of us to listen and to learn from each other.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why Are Immigrants More Entrepreneurial? 11-02

Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library

What do Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), and Sergey Brin (Google) have in common? Apart from their success as entrepreneurs, they all share one distinct characteristic: extensive cross-cultural experience. Huffington grew up in Athens and studied in London before starting her career as a politician and media entrepreneur. Mateschitz spent considerable time overseas as a marketing salesman prior to founding Red Bull. Musk migrated from South Africa to the U.S. as young adult. Brin left the Soviet Union with his family after facing growing anti-Semitism and moved to the U.S., where he later cofounded Google.

Their stories are prominent examples of a widespread pattern. In the U.S., immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens. Immigrants represent 27.5% of the countries’ entrepreneurs but only around 13% of the population. Similarly, about one-fourth of all technology and engineering companies started in the U.S. between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant cofounder. And this pattern extends beyond the U.S. — data from the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that the vast majority of the 69 countries surveyed reported higher entrepreneurial activity among immigrants than among natives, especially in growth-oriented ventures.

Research has suggested that selection and discrimination effects may be driving this phenomenon. It appears plausible that entrepreneurial individuals are more likely to migrate and that immigration policies in many countries favor highly motivated and capable individuals. Additionally, discrimination against immigrants in labor markets may exert pressure on them to seek self-employment.

In a recent study, we investigated a different explanation: Cross-cultural experiences may increase individuals’ capabilities to identify promising business ideas. By living in different cultures, they encounter new products, services, customer preferences, and communication strategies, and this exposure may allow the transfer of knowledge about customer problems or solutions from one country to another. By applying this kind of arbitrage, a temporary or permanent migrant can decide to replicate a profitable product or business model available in one country but not in another. Successful companies such as Starbucks (inspired by coffeehouses in Italy) and the German online retailer Zalando (inspired by Zappos) exemplify the potential of this strategy.

Cross-cultural experiences may also stimulate creativity. Interacting with two or more cultural contexts can help immigrants combine diverse ideas, solutions, and customer problems in order to create something entirely new. This principle is illustrated by the origin story of Red Bull. When Dietrich Mateschitz traveled to Thailand in the 1980s, he observed the popularity of a cheap energizing drink called Krating Daeng among truck drivers and construction workers. Finding that it helped ease his jet lag, he decided to license the product and sell it in Austria under the name Red Bull Energy Drink. Rather than simply importing the product, Mateschitz realized the opportunity to combine the newly obtained knowledge about a product (a drink popular among truck drivers) and the knowledge about his home market (conservative beverages market, growing clubbing scene) into an entirely new business idea. By adapting size, taste, and brand, he created the first energy drink for the alternative clubbing scene — something previously unseen in the Thai and Austrian markets.

We conducted two experiments to find evidence that these effects can make immigrants more entrepreneurial. First, we analyzed the effects of short-term cross-cultural experiences in a longitudinal field experiment. We tested the entrepreneurial capabilities (i.e., the ability to identify profitable business opportunities) of 128 students before and after a semester of living and studying abroad by asking them to come up with business ideas in the context of media and food retailing. We did the same for a control group of 115 students that continued their studies at their home university.

The business opportunities they came up with were rated by four venture capitalists and industry experts blind to the source. Results showed a clear pattern (see Figure 1): The group that gained cross-cultural experience received significantly higher VC and expert ratings (+17%) on their business ideas after their semester abroad, while the ratings of the control group’s business ideas actually declined slightly (-3%) at the end of the semester.

We also conducted a laboratory experiment in which we tested these same effects with a sample that had long-term cross-cultural experiences — 96 migrant entrepreneurs in Austria. We randomly assigned them to two groups. Applying a technique called priming, we asked the experimental group to recall particular experiences while living abroad, thereby activating the memories and associations connected to their cross-cultural experience. The control group was asked to recall neutral experiences that were not related to cross-cultural memories. Both groups were invited to come up with business ideas that were then rated by experts. The business ideas of the group with activated cross-cultural experience were rated significantly higher (27%) by experts than the ideas of the control group.

In order to better understand this phenomenon, we interviewed all 96 participants after the experiment, asking them to describe how they generated ideas. These interviews were coded independently by two raters. Results showed that many participants had indeed applied knowledge arbitrage (e.g., “Innovative shop concepts such as [name of Asian supermarket chain] are missing in Vienna”) and creative recombination (e.g., “In France, I have seen supermarkets that were so big that all employees were wearing rollerblades….In my concept I also tried to use space as design concept to impress”) to identify profitable business opportunities.

The finding that cross-cultural experiences increase opportunity recognition capabilities has clear implications for businesses, entrepreneurs, and policy makers. It highlights the value of cross-cultural work experience or a migration experience for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies. Entrepreneurs and managers can actively seek to build such experiences by living abroad and systematically comparing what they observe in other markets. In multinational businesses, human resource management tools such as expatriate assignments or international job rotations can help build opportunity recognition skills. To make these tools even more effective, managers can complement them with entrepreneurship training prior to an international assignment. Furthermore, priming instruments like the ones in our experiments could be used while living abroad and afterward to spur business ideation.

For companies, ignoring the positive effect of cross-cultural experience on opportunity recognition may be harmful. If expatriates with good ideas receive no chance to exploit them within a company, they might choose to do so outside of it. Previous research has identified that many expatriates choose to leave their organizations soon after finishing an overseas assignment, when they suffer from a lack of promotion opportunities, career counseling, and status. Our results suggest that some of them might do this in order to exploit opportunities to become entrepreneurs.

Implications of our research also extend to the field of immigration policy. The United Nations estimates that there are over 240 million temporary and permanent migrants and refugees worldwide. Our results help explain the above-average entrepreneurial activity of this group and highlight the positive effects that immigration can have on an economy. We show that migration does not need to be a zero-sum game or a “war for talent,” with migrating entrepreneurs increasing entrepreneurial activity in one country at the expense of another. Instead, migration can help nurture entrepreneurial abilities by fostering the learning and application of cross-cultural knowledge that helps someone identify profitable opportunities.

Since immigration is increasingly seen by some people as a threat, the insight that more immigration may result in an overall gain in entrepreneurial activity may be a useful reminder of the opportunities associated with migration. It suggests that public money may be better spent on building incubators for migrant entrepreneurs than on building border walls. 

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