Roundup: More on Rural Poor and Ivy League

Tyson pays $4 million penalty for air pollution • South Dakota subsidizes lawyers to work in small communities • North Florida broadband program struggles with local support.

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Huffington Post Live segment on the failure of elite colleges to recruit high-performing, low-income rural students. A Stanford scholar describes one way to do it.

Huffington Post Live, the video version of the online news and opinion site, follows up on the failure of elite colleges to attract high-performing, low-income rural students. The site presents a video segment featuring Stanford Professor Caroline Hoxby, the author of “The Missing ‘One-Offs’: The Hidden Supply of High Achieving, Low Income Students,” the study that identified the problem.

The most interesting segment of the video, in our opinion, is Hoxby’s description of her research (found in the video about about 3:30). She found that Ivy League schools did a good job of identifying high-performing, low-income students when these students were in “clusters” at schools that routinely turn out low-income students who are capable of meeting admission standards at schools like Harvard and Yale. But most of the high-performing, poor students in the nation aren’t in these easy-to-find clusters where the Ivies are looking. Most of these unique students are “one-offs,” young people who may be the only student at their schools with the academic achievement to qualify for admission to an Ivy League college. And the Ivy League schools do a bad job of finding these lone students. 

Does this sound familiar? To us, it sounds just like all the “economies of scale” and “market aggregation” discussions we hear about how rural places work differently than larger cities. 

But Hoxby says it is possible to identify and recruit these “one-off” students. She found “one-off” students and sent them informational packets showing what their specific educational options were – what colleges were nearby, how they ranked and what they cost. Hoxby also included information about national, elite schools. Many of these students learned for the first time that they met admission qualifications for top-notch colleges and that they could likely attend such a school for less than the cost of attending a local college. 

Will McGuinness, the HuffPost education editor, also had an interesting observation. He said small communities need to get involved in helping their very best students gain entry to Ivy League colleges. Students from smaller places may need help distinguishing themselves from the other talented students who are applying to Ivy League schools, he said. “I think that individual communities need to recognize their individual strengths to send their own students to these colleges, with hopes that they are going to come back and have a significant impact,” he said.

Tyson Pays Millions in Clean-Air Penalties. Tyson Foods Inc. will pay a $4 million penalty for releasing poisonous gases at facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. The payment will settle charges stemming from eight releases of anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer. Exposure to anhydrous ammonia vapors can cause eye and lung damage or death. Read more.

Tyson, based in Springdale, Ark., was charged with violating the Clean Air Act. But the settlement will do away with those charges, and Tyson disputes many of the Environmental Protection Agency’s findings.  

Besides paying the civil penalty, Tyson will test equipment at 23 facilities in the four states where the leaks occurred and will purchase $300,000 in emergency equipment for first responders in nine Midwest communities.  

Tyson Foods is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork. The company has revenues of more than $5.2 billion and employs approximately 117,000 people at 400 facilities nationwide.

Recruiting Small-Town Lawyers. You may be familiar with programs that offer incentives for medical or education professionals to work in underserved, rural areas. South Dakota is offering subsidies to attorneys who agree to practice in underserved areas for at least five years, the National Law Journal reports.

“South Dakota has enough attorneys—they’re just not in the right locations,” said state Sen. Mike Vehle, who sponsored the bill. “We do this for doctors, dentists and nurses, so why not lawyers?”

The National Journal reports that “participating attorneys will receive the equivalent of 90 percent of the in-state tuition and fees at the University of South Dakota School of Law—about $12,000—for each of the five years that they practice full-time in a rural county. That’s on top of any earnings from their practice during the subsidy period, said Greg Sattizahn, director of policy and legal services for the South Dakota Unified Judicial System. The program will cost nearly $1 million, with the state picking up half the tab.”

Only counties with fewer than 10,000 residents will qualify for the program.

Broadband Program Struggles. Backers of an agency that is building out high-speed internet access to rural northern Florida are blaming anti-government sentiment for some of the agency’s difficulties in expanding broadband access in the region.

The North Florida Broadband Authority, which received $30 million in funding from the 2009 federal broadband stimulus program, has lost the participation of county commissions in eight of the 15 counties the authority was created to serve. This week Gilchrist County Commission voted unanimously to withdraw membership from the authority over concerns about a lack of transparency.

“Authority staff and supporters of the program are blaming a misinformation campaign by a former board member, former contractors and a Lake City blogger alleging fraud and waste, among other issues, along with a current rash of anti-federal sentiment toward the stimulus program,” the Gainesville Sun reports.

But a local conservative tea party activist said he met with county commissioners to support the broadband project, saying that backing the program was better than wasting $30 million in public money.

The North Florida Broadband Authority members said the region risks missing out on economic opportunities if it doesn’t improve access to broadband. 

The 2009 federal stimulus act included $7.2 billion in funding to support rural broadband expansion through the USDA Rural Utilities Service and the Commerce Department’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. 

 

 

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