Inmates in state prisons have significantly lower levels of educational attainment than the general population. About 40 percent of state prison inmates lack a high school diploma or GED5 compared to 13.7 percent of all adults ages 18 to 64. Only11 percent of state inmates have taken any college-level or postsecondary vocational classes. According to results from the National Adult Literacy Survey, prisoners also have a substantially lower level of literacy than the U.S. population as a whole. Prior to incarceration, prison inmates are more likely than the general population to be unemployed and to be living in poverty.
Educational programming has been a part of the U.S. prison system throughout its history. Support for prison education programs reached its peak during the 1970s when policymakers viewed education as an important part of prisoners’ rehabilitation. However, support among policymakers and the public waned in the 1980s and funding for education in prisons underwent significant cuts.
It is no secret that the United States lacks a robust inter-city rail system, even in regions of the country where the population densities exist to support such services. Instead, the U.S. provides inter-city rail through Amtrak, a hodgepodge system made up of a higher-speed rail line in the Northeast (Acela), a mix of state-supported regional services like North Carolina’s Piedmont, and a smattering of long-distance routes like the Sunset Limited running between New Orleans and Los Angeles).
Like all forms of public transportation in the United States, Amtrak’s routes require public subsidies to operate, thought the exact size those subsidies has proven controversial and difficult to compute. In response, Subsidy Scope,a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, has attempted to comprehensively measure those costs (though not any of the benefits, such as environmental impacts).
According to the study, when the costs of depreciation are included, 41 of Amtrak’s 44 routes lost money in 2008. The greatest losses, and therefore the greatest subsidies, were incurred by long-distance routes like the California Zephyr, which runs between Chicago and San Francisco and lost $193 per passenger in 2008. At the other extreme, the higher-speed Acela line running between Boston and Washington made $41 per passenger.
Writing in the November issue of The American Prospect, Thomas Bailey and Jim Jacobs of the Community College Research Center ask if community colleges can rise to their potential in the midst of a recession. Among those challenges is a need to pay more attention to non-credit occupational programs. Say Bailey and Jacobs:
Community colleges also need to clarify their role in the changing occupational landscape. What is the future role of a two-year occupational degree or a shorter-term certificate? At least colleges must improve the connections between credit and non-credit programs to widen opportunities for students in the booming non-credit work-force arena. And community colleges need to strengthen their relationships to four-year colleges to make transfer more effective. Some states are allowing community colleges to confer a limited number of bachelor’s degrees, and many colleges have invited four-year colleges to give courses on their campuses ….
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