On June 18th Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education, Stan Jones, President of Complete College America, Carol Puryear, Director of the Murfreesboro Campus of the Tennessee Technology Center and James Kvaal, Special Assistant to President Obama, discussed how the Federal Government can reduce unemployment without increasing the deficit. Schwartz Fellow Paul Glastris, editor in Chief of The Washington Monthly, moderated the discussion.
Over 15 million Americans are now unemployed and 7 million of them have been without a job for over 6 months. The recovery, when it comes, will create new jobs. Problematically, as Mr. Merisotis made clear, the new jobs that will be created will require different skill levels from the largely low-skilled jobs that have been lost. The jobs that will be created will require degrees; qualifications which most Americans who have lost their jobs lack. This problem, Mr. Jones argued, could not be solved through traditional residential, 4-Year programs of higher education tailored towards middle class students who have just graduated from high dchool.
Both Mr. Merisotis and Mr. Jones advocated more flexible, accelerated programs suitable for older students with families. Ms. Puryear described what such a flexible system might look like by drawing on her experience as the director of the Murfreesboro campus of the Tennessee Technology Center where courses have been tailored towards meeting the needs of the unemployed, for example, shifting to a trimester system and introducing open registration. Mr. Glastris then pointed out that one major problem preventing the unemployed from gaining further education was the difficulty of both attending a full time course and satisfying the stringent job search requirements necessary for claiming unemployment insurance. Mr. Kvaal explained in response how president Obama had altered the Federal Pell Grant to increase its availability and described possible reforms to unemployment insurance before emphasizing the damaging long-term consequences of unemployment, from long-term reductions in income to increasing levels of domestic violence.