MCCC President Returns To White House For College Opportunity Working Session

Karen Stout 2013Washington D.C.Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) President Dr. Karen A. Stout returns to the White House Aug. 12 to continue the national dialog on college readiness that began on Jan. 16, 2014 during a summit convened by U.S. President Barack Obama. That summit saw approximately 140 leaders from higher education, philanthropic organizations, businesses and local and state governments launch a plan of action for increasing college opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students.

Summit participants are reconvening Aug. 12 to provide updates on their institutional commitments made in January and to discuss challenges and next steps. MCCC’s commitments include three specific initiatives aimed improving access for low-income and disadvantaged students. These include redesigning student entry and advising processes, developing a multi-platform model for student engagement, and expanding its minority student mentoring initiative.

First, to improve student entry and advising processes, MCCC launched a pilot Student Success Network in March.  The network includes college-wide mid-term reporting, which garnered a 96 percent faculty participation rate and positive student and faculty feedback. The network also employs Starfish Retention and Connect software, through which students are able to see and connect with members of their student success team—advisors, faculty and staff from other support programs, like veterans’ resources and disability services. Faculty can refer students to tutoring and can address concerns and reinforce positive academic behaviors throughout the semester. These tools will be brought to scale this fall.

In September, MCCC will also launch student educational planning, which requires advisors to meet with all first-time college students prior to spring registration to map out their educational plans for their entire degree programs. In addition, analytical tools, including student and advisor dashboards, will be available by end of 2014.

MCCC also made significant progress on its second commitment—developing a multi-platform model for student engagement—by creating a “Montco Money Matters” financial literacy prototype. The module introduces students to the concept of paying for college. The 30-minute, self-guided program introduces students to concepts of financial aid, loans and grants; highlights the long-term implications of loans and future debt; and makes them aware of other resources, like scholarships, to help pay for college.

A total of 425 students actively engaged in the pilot program during a seven-week period. Of those, 95 percent of students who provided feedback indicated they will recommend the online resources to others, and 80 percent said the course will influence future academic decisions. MCCC’s next step is to build out additional modules under the umbrella of financial literacy and to make the program accessible to school districts within Montgomery County and to the general population at large.

Finally, MCCC delivered on its third commitment to transition its Minority Male Mentoring Program (MMMP) into a Minority Student Mentoring Initiative (MSMI). Twenty-five African-American and Latina female students joined MSMI in spring 2014, comprising almost 27 percent of all participants. The program connects students with caring mentors for guidance and support while providing opportunities for civic engagement, academic advisement, personal development and leadership development. The participants’ cumulative GPA is currently 2.45, up from 2.15 three years ago.

All three programs are part of MCCC’s overarching Student Success Initiative, which works to expand access to higher education and increase student success through process improvements and support strategies that reduce the barriers for students to complete their education. In 2011, MCCC was designed as an Achieving the Dream Leader College, an elite group of 73 community colleges across the country that have demonstrated committed leadership, use of evidence to improve programs and services, broad engagement, and systematic institutional improvement. In February, MCCC earned the prestigious Leah Meyer Austin Award from Achieving the Dream for its continued improvement of student access and success.

During her 13-year tenure as MCCC President, Dr. Stout’s unwavering commitment to student access and success has impacted thousands of students, their families, and the community. In addition to laying the groundwork for MCCC’s selection as an Achieving the Dream Leader College, Dr. Stout helped to design and launch the College’s first comprehensive Honors Program and Minority Student Mentoring Program; expand support services for student veterans; re-introduce MCCC’s intercollegiate athletics program; collaborate with the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board to deliver GED instruction to more than 800 community residents; and re-energize the College’s facilities to enhance teaching and learning, among many other accomplishments.

The impact of Dr. Stout’s leadership extends nationally, evidenced by her selection to participate in the White House’s College Opportunity initiatives. A passionate advocate for community colleges, Dr. Stout serves as Chair of the President’s Advisory Board to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University Teacher’s College and is a Commissioner with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. She previously served as a member of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Board of Directors and as co-chair of the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) 21st-Century Initiative Steering Committee.

Dr. Stout holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and a bachelor’s degree in English from University of Delaware, as well as a master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Baltimore.

SEPTA Regional Rail Strike Begins; Corbett To Seek Federal Help

SEPTA logo with text

SEPTA logo with text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEPTA railroad engineers and electrical workers went on strike early Saturday, halting commuter rail service in the Philadelphia region, after last-ditch efforts by federal mediators failed to break an impasse in the long-running labor dispute.

The strike shut down 13 Regional Rail lines that provide 60,000 passengers with 126,000 rides on a typical weekday. That promised to snarl already clogged highways with additional cars and to hamper commuters and their employers throughout the region.

Service on SEPTA’s buses, subways, trolleys and the Norristown High-Speed Line – which carry about 85 percent of SEPTA’s riders – were not affected.

Gov. Corbett was prepared to ask President Obama to quickly appoint a presidential emergency board to mediate the rail labor dispute. Under federal railroad law, the creation of such a board would compel the workers to return to the job for 240 days.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20140614_Last-ditch_talks_pending_as_Regional_Rail_strike_looms.html#v26c8poq4F1xhoJB.99

Wilkes-Barre, Other Pennsylvania River Towns Hit Hard By Flood Insurance Rates

HARRISBURG, PA — Jeff King had put his house in Wilkes-Barre up for sale for $90,000 last year, put off by the city’s struggles with crime and the desire for a better school district for his four children, when he got a surprise: The prospective buyer discovered that her annual flood insurance premium would be $7,015, higher than 12 months of mortgage payments.

Even though President Barack Obama signed a law Friday to ease the sharpest premium increases for policyholders receiving subsidies from the National Flood Insurance Program, King is resigned to never selling the house, which is about a mile-and-a-half from the Susquehanna River. The writing, he said, is on the wall.

“Any educated buyer is going to stay clear from a home in the flood area,” King said.

Across Pennsylvania, with an estimated 86,000 miles of creeks, streams and rivers, the premium increases could deliver a gut punch to the state’s legion of old river cities and towns still struggling to recover from the loss of their industrial core.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-other-river-towns-hit-hard-by-rates-1.1655882

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New Castle County Minimum Wage Workers To See Boost

English: Delaware Counties map

English: Delaware Counties map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Castle County employees who earn minimum wage will soon receive a pay increase to $10.10 an hour under a new plan approved by County Executive Tom Gordon.

Gordon is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday that increases the hourly wage from the current $7.25. Gordon’s move follows President Barack Obama’s executive order last month that increased the minimum wage to $10.10 for thousands of employees who work under federal contracts. Obama is urging Congress to increase the national hourly minimum wage for all Americans to the same level.

Gordon’s executive order will cost the county about $100,000 a year, Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi said Monday. At any given time, between 20 and 50 employees in the county’s 1,950-person workforce earn the minimum wage. Many of them are part-time or seasonal workers.

“It’s hard to do anything while earning the minimum wage, let alone raise and feed a family,” Gordon said. “It’s just the least we can do.”

Read more: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/03/ncco-minimum-wage-workers-to-see-boost/5997653/

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Obama Declares Lancaster County An Emergency Area: What It Means

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With thousands still without power, President Barack Obama on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Lancaster and six other Pennsylvania counties.

The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bring resources to the clean-up efforts.

While local officials were still unclear about the extent of federal aid on Thursday afternoon, a FEMA spokesman said the first tangible result will likely come to the county in the form of gas-powered generators.

Peter Herrick, of Philadelphia-based FEMA Region III, said federal emergency management officials were talking to their counterparts at the state level to determine what equipment is needed.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/obama-declares-lancaster-county-an-emergency-area-what-it-means/article_851cb56a-8f60-11e3-8d16-0017a43b2370.html

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Obama Makes West Philly A ‘Promise’

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting West Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TODAY, a day after the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” President Obama will announce that a section of West Philadelphia has been selected as one of the first five federal “Promise Zones,” a new program aimed at turning around some of the country’s poorest neighborhoods.

Mayor Nutter will join Obama in the White House to announce the program, which gives the selected areas preferential treatment when applying for federal grants to boost early education, reduce crime and spur economic growth.

The Philadelphia “Promise Zone,” which encompasses Mantua and surrounding areas, has about 35,000 residents, 51 percent of whom live in poverty and 13.6 percent of whom are unemployed.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/city/20140109_Obama_makes_West_Philly_a__Promise_.html#0ji38k5HFpegZEbF.99

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Snowden, In First TV Talk, Says Spying Worse Than Orwellian

LONDONNational Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden invoked George Orwell and warned of the dangers of unchecked government surveillance Wednesday in a televised Christmas message to the British people that reflected his growing willingness to take a public role in the debate he ignited.

Speaking directly into the camera from Moscow, where he took refuge after leaking vast troves of information on NSA spying, Snowden said government surveillance methods far surpassed those described in Orwell’s novel 1984.

“The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today,” he said. “We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20131226_Snowden__in_first_TV_talk__says_spying_worse_than_Orwellian.html#3gVbhdh5Q74aqKM3.99

Forget Obamacare: One In Four Americans Say They’ll Pay The Fine

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The law of the land now goes as follows: either have healthcare insurance or pay a fine. Yet more than one in four Americans say they would rather pony up the penalty. A new Gallup poll reveals that 28% of those surveyed have no intention of signing up for health insurance, as required by the Affordable Care Act and will pay the fine instead.

The penalty in 2014 for remaining uninsured is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1% of taxable income (up to $285 for a family), whichever is greater.

Fully 17% of U.S. adults currently do not have health insurance, according to Gallup. With the self-proclaimed holdouts who say they will refuse coverage, at least 5% of all U.S. adults will remain uninsured.

According to the nearly 4,000 interviews conducted with uninsured Americans since September, more than one quarter (26%) under the age of 30 say they are more likely to pay the fine, compared with 30% of those aged 30 and older.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/philly/story/forget-obamacare-one-four-americans-say-theyll-pay-the-fine/1

Pennsylvania Insurance Chief Doubts Obama’s Health Care Plan

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The state Insurance commissioner cast doubt Friday on a plan by President Obama to stop insurers from dumping more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians whose medical coverage did not meet the minimum requirements of the new health care law.

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine questioned whether Obama had the legal authority to allow insurers to reinstate or extend those policies. He also said the state has limited power to force insurers to comply with a scheme that he said “heightens confusion” surrounding the law’s implementation.

“I think there are very fair questions being raised about the legal authority for the president to say we’re going to ignore what’s in the” Affordable Care Act, Consedine told the Tribune-Review.

The president acted to quell a firestorm over the chaotic rollout of the law known as Obamacare in proposing the administrative fix for consumers whose policies were being canceled. Many accused him of reneging on a pledge that no one would lose medical coverage if they liked it.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/5078520-74/insurers-health-state#ixzz2kpOO1rvh
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Veterans Day: Events And Ceremonies Around Nation

Across the nation, Americans are commemorating Veterans Day with parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, monument dedications and other events.

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NEW YORK: WOMEN IN SERVICE

The U.S. military’s first female four-star general will be a grand marshal at New York City’s Veterans Day Parade.

Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody retired last year after a 37-year Army career.

Organizers of the parade up Fifth Avenue have renamed it America’s Parade. The commemoration will include a wreath-laying ceremony at the Eternal Light Monument in Madison Square Park.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20131111/veterans-day-events-and-ceremonies-around-nation

Democrats, Republicans Losing Battle For New Voters

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Political pundits warned about it.

Party leaders downplayed it.

But the voters have spoken.

For the first time in memory, the number of new Berks County voters who selected nonpartisan, or other, eclipsed those registering under one of the two major parties.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=517374

Crisis Averted, Obama Says Americans ‘Completely Fed Up’ With Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama scolded congressional Republicans on Thursday, hours after a fiscal crisis was narrowly averted and called on his opponents to help repair the economic damage caused by a 16-day U.S. government shutdown and a close brush with a debt default.

Obama stressed that he is willing to work with lawmakers wherever they can agree, but the tone he struck amounted to a rebuke of Republicans, whom Americans largely blame for pushing the United States to the brink of an economic calamity.

“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama in a White House speech attended by many of the aides who worked day and night through the various stages of the latest fiscal stalemate.

“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama in a White House speech attended by many of the aides who worked day and night through the various stages of the latest fiscal stalemate.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-rt-us-usa-fiscal-obama-20130915,0,5894864.story#ixzz2i0gCYjlb
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Obama Open To Name Change For Washington Redskins

Former alternate logo for the Washington Redskins

Former alternate logo for the Washington Redskins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama says that if he owned the Washington Redskins, he would “think about changing” the team name, wading into the controversy over a football nickname that many people deem offensive to Native Americans.

Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names like the Redskins offend “a sizable group of people.” He said that while fans get attached to the nicknames, nostalgia may not be a good enough reason to keep them in place.

“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he said in the interview, which was conducted Friday.

An avid sports fan, Obama said he doesn’t think Washington football fans are purposely trying to offend American Indians. “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so,” he said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/20131005_ap_4e545769cf7a41c68fafb55ada61635a.html#3fxVXG08vkDzcLA3.99

Worldview: How Obama Got Syria So Wrong

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thC...

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless President Obama can show Congress that his planned Syria strike is linked to a larger – and coherent – strategy, legislators should just say no.

So far, his explanations, and those of his cabinet members at congressional hearings, have only added to the confusion. “What is it you’re seeking?”  Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) asked Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in trying to elicit the broader goals of military action.  The general replied candidly,  “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”

That moment of testimony encapsulated the dilemma for the Congress and the country. If the military doesn’t grasp where the commander in chief is leading, and the president can’t (or won’t) clarify, we’re all in trouble.  You can’t get there if you don’t know where “there” is.

This is not the way to wage a war – oops, I mean a limited military strike.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20130908_Worldview__How_Obama_got_Syria_so_wrong.html#W26XeA2w3ER9tH7q.99

Pentagon Ordered To Expand Syria Target List

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that President Bashar Assad’s government has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.

Mr. Obama, officials said, is determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons.  That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action Saturday to seek congressional approval.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/world/pentagon-ordered-to-expand-syria-target-list-702239/#ixzz2e93qQvkl

US May Go It Alone On Syria

WASHINGTONPresident Barack Obama on Thursday prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days as Britain opted out in a stunning vote by Parliament.  Facing skepticism at home, too, the administration shared intelligence with lawmakers aimed at convincing them the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people and must be punished.

Despite roadblocks in forming an international coalition, Obama appeared undeterred and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.

“The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Even before the vote in London, the U.S. was preparing to act without formal authorization from the United Nations, where Russia has blocked efforts to seek a resolution authorizing the use of force, or from Capitol Hill.  But the U.S. had expected Britain, a major ally, to join in the effort.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/793287/US-may-go-it-alone-on-Syria

Obama & Biden In Scranton: Five Takeaways From The Presidential Visit

President Barack Obama and Vice President Jose...

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCRANTON, PA — It was a climactic and emotional end to President Barack Obama’s two-day bus tour of college campuses in New York and Pennsylvania.  Mostly, because it was he first featuring Vice President Joe Biden, whose participation in the tour was curtailed when his son Beau fell ill early in the week.

With Biden’s hometown as the backdrop, Obama’s visit to Scranton’s Lackawanna College had all the makings of rich political theater, even as the president largely recited the same college affordability speech from his three earlier stops.

Here’s five takeaways from Obama’s Scranton visit:

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/08/obama_biden_in_scranton_five_t.html#incart_m-rpt-2

New NSA Revelations Stir Congressional Concern

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) — New revelations from leaker Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency has overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008 are stirring renewed calls on Capitol Hill for serious changes to NSA spy programs, undermining White House hopes that President Barack Obama had quieted the controversy with his assurances of oversight.

An internal audit provided by Snowden to TheWashington Post shows the agency has repeatedly broken privacy rules or exceeded its legal authority every year since Congress granted it broad new powers in 2008.

In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — reports used as the basis for informing Congress.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/762288/New-NSA-revelations-stir-congressional-concern

Many Weapons In ‘War On Coal’ Deployed Long Before Obama Took Office

The coal industry can be excused for thinking there’s a massive, organized, palm-rubbing effort to make its life difficult — the war on coal, in short.

It’s a “war” that’s been decades in the making, with few regulations actually originating with the Obama administration.  Yet the current swarm of actions also underscores the extent to which the White House can influence which rules get written, enforced or buried by delays and litigation.

“It’s not a war on coal for warring on coal’s sake,” said David Spence, associate professor of law, politics and regulation at the University of Texas.

Rather, it’s kind of a perfect storm of actions that have been simmering for a long time.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/many-weapons-in-war-on-coal-deployed-long-before-obama-took-office-698992/#ixzz2blfnoFXX

Signs Of Declining Economic Security Widespread

President Barack Obama announces the Economic ...

President Barack Obama announces the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures.  Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987.  In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/710055/Signs-of-declining-economic-security-widespread