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Analysis of Student Loan Data and Identification of Institutional Best Practices in North Carolina

Jessica Dorrance–PI. The Center for Community Capital (CCC) will work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) on the first stage of a project whose ultimate goal is to understand the causes of student loan delinquency and default among undergraduate students well as the role that North Carolina educational institutions and state-level policies might play in mitigating both. During this preliminary phase of the research, CCC will undertake work to help AECF understand what data are available for exploring this topic and what current innovative practices are being used by educational institutions to address student loan delinquency and default. AECF understands the student loan process as occurring in three stages: 1. Loan origination, which normally occurs at the time of or just prior to enrollment/matriculation; 2. Additional borrowing, which happens during the college experience; 3. Transition into repayment, which happens after the student has left college. CCC will look at data sources and innovative practices concerning each of these stages. The proposed research has three distinct goals: 1. To examine publicly available sources of student loan data and assess their usefulness in helping AECF explore student loan delinquency and default in North Carolina.; 2. To identify best practices and innovative solutions being implemented by North Carolina’s two- and four-year educational institutions and/or through state-level policies and programs in order to reduce the likelihood of student loan delinquency and default.; 3. To determine if individual borrower data on FAFSA, Federal loan holdings, loan performance, academic performance, other relevant academic variables (e.g. major), and demographic data are available from the UNC system for use in the next phase of the research.

State of North Carolina Economic Development Strategy

William T. Lester, Nichola Lowe and Jonathan Morgan – Co-PIs. The Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) and The School of Government’s NCImpact (SOG) will collaborate to research, write and create a new economic development strategic plan for the North Carolina Department of Commerce. DCRP professors William T. Lester and Nichola Lowe will work with DCRP student researchers and class members to review past plans and related literature, conduct quantitative analysis of industry growth, labor market dynamics, skills gaps and trends in innovation. The DCRP team will also provide a profile of inequality by income, race and geography throughout the state. The SOG team will conduct a series of regional stakeholder engagement sessions with members of the public and elected officials from different areas of the state (up to eight meetings). The purpose of these meetings will be to gather input regarding the overall normative vision of the State’s Economic Development Plan as well as to understand particular regional challenges not gleaned from the quantitative analysis. Finally, both the DCRP and SOG teams will collaborate on making strategic recommendations for both long-term and short-term policy changes and economic development supports.

Scaling Apprenticeships in Chicago: Evaluation and Implementation

Nichola Lowe-PI.This project involves the initial evaluation of Chicago’s Apprenticeship 2020 initiative. Apprenticeship 2020 represents a timely and innovative employer-led initiative building on experiences of two pioneering business-led apprenticeship programs. Through engagement and support to additional firms, this initiative has potential to develop hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities for untapped communities of workers and help firms develop the skilled workforce they need for the future. With its focus on racial inclusion and a variety of occupations, Apprenticeship 2020 also offers the potential to address long-standing apprenticeship limitations that result in significant inequities for women and people of color. Nichola Lowe, in collaboration with researchers at the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program, will begin this initial evaluation and continue with conducting a two-year developmental evaluation with the goal of using this research to build Apprenticeship 2020 capacity and inform funders who seek to resource efforts effectively.

Grounding Digital Platforms: Socio-Spatial Mediation of Technological Change

Torin Monahan-PI. Scholars and policymakers are rapidly coming to recognize the central importance of large-scale digital platforms in shaping all aspects of commercial interaction. The digital platforms of Amazon, Google, Facebook and those of the so-called “sharing economy,” such as Uber and Airbnb, capitalize upon the production, collection and analysis of big data to fundamentally restructure entire markets. This research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will explore empirically what happens when large-scale digital platforms collide with the built world. It will attend specifically to the mediating effects of existing organizational forms, material infrastructures and cultural practices in selected US cities. Using qualitative methods, the research will develop a “platform ethnography” that will include content analysis of industry, media and government documents; semi-structured interviews with key informants; and spatial mapping of platform densities and flows across urban regions. By generating findings about the local mediation of platform capitalism, this study will be able to produce recommendations for regional governments and firms looking to navigate these market shifts intelligently.

Digital Rocky Mount Mills

Robert Allen–PI. Digital Rocky Mount Mills is a public-facing digital history project, funded in part by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), which aims to recover lost and hidden stories of Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and to encourage local and family history initiatives. At the core of this project are the Rocky Mount Mills Records at the Southern Historical Collection and a batch of oral histories with former mill employees and slave descendants. These written and oral snapshots of the past are instrumental for the creation of an in-depth historical narrative of Rocky Mount Mills, for the development of K-12 resources for Nash and Edgecombe County educators, and for the construction of family trees of slaves owned by the Battle family, the long-time owners of the mill. The project examines the long history of the mill, from Native American presence on the land to the significance of the Great Falls, from the Civil Rights Movement to the downturn of the textile industry in the United States. Through collaborative efforts between UNC-Chapel Hill units and Rocky Mount-area organizations, the goal is to extend the reach of UNC’s resources in order to foster genealogical and archival skills, encourage historical inquiry and spark concern for historic preservation matters in light of the redevelopment of historic structures and the revitalization of communities. The hope is that Digital Rocky Mount Mills will illuminate how to best preserve and share the stories of a community of a historic site that is being transformed into an entirely different space.

Understanding and Addressing the Disparate Impacts of Employer Use of Credit Reports to Screen Job Applicants

Lucy Gorham–PI. While some states have regulated employer access to the credit histories of job applicants, the practice of using credit reports as a screening tool in a variety of contexts remains widespread, with the implications for employment opportunities being one of the most far-reaching. There is much to learn about the extent to which job applicants are feeling the impact, efforts of consumer advocates to limit employer access to consumer information through state legislation and employment law, and efforts to assist job applicants and consumers more broadly to repair their credit reports as a targeted strategy in the employment context. In response, the UNC Center for Community Capital is proposing to write a white paper on this largely unexplored area that documents current employer and workforce development system practices; explores legal and legislative challenges to the use of credit reports by employers and their impacts; innovations and best practices to help job applicants improve their employability through credit repair; employer, workforce system and community-based efforts to assist employees to improve their financial capability; and the policy and programmatic implications of our findings. The paper will draw on the following methodologies:

  • In-depth review of academic and non-academic articles, reports, and publications
  • Field scan of current city and state workforce development programs to identify innovative approaches that integrate financial capability strategies
  • Survey of state workforce development systems to document current practices and innovative approaches
  • Survey of employers to gauge current practices and how those are evolving in response to a changing legislative environment
  • Key informant interviews with up to 80 individuals in workforce development and job training programs, credit counseling agencies, re-entry programs, community college programs, legal/regulatory experts and consumer advocates. The interviews will include perspectives from states that have regulated the use of credit reporting, cities/states that have implemented innovative models for incorporating credit counseling and financial capability into job training programs, as well as the state workforce development systems from the four key Kellogg geographies of Michigan, New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The Impact of Student Loan Debt on Latino Family Finances

Lucy Gorham–PI. In partnership with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) will explore the impact of post-secondary education on the finances of Latino households. The project will include 25 in-depth in-person interviews to explore the respondents’ experiences and perceptions on a range of topics related to postsecondary financing and student loan debt. The interviews will take place in 4 specific geographic locations, one location in each of California, Illinois, New York and Texas. CCC will conduct the interviews, analyze the data and write up the findings to be incorporated into a final report produced by NCLR.

An Assessment of Financial Coaching Platforms and Research on the Impact of Student Loan Debt on Household Financial Health

Lucy Gorham–PI. This project includes two key components. The first is an assessment of financial coaching platforms, specifically on-line platforms, which a growing number of organizations now offer in response to the need for greater financial capability tools and resources for households working to improve their financial stability. For this component, we will undertake a comparison study of several on-line financial coaching platforms that will identify the major features and advantages of each for both the practitioner and the client. Questions we will address include ease of use, tools and content, data collection capabilities, costs to users, suitability for diverse subpopulations and potential for scale and sustainability. The second component is research on the impact of student loan debt on household financial health. The challenge of rising student loan debt has received a great deal of attention but too little is known about the impact on broader household financial health, both for students and their parents, and how this impact differs for a variety of sub-populations of students. We will write a report on this topic that will include new quantitative and qualitative research that will capture the experiences of a diverse array of students and their families. We will also interview key personnel at colleges, universities and other higher education training programs in order to capture the institutional perspective. In-depth interviews will be augmented with survey research to tap into a broader sample and/or to offer those interviewed an additional means with which to share their experiences. Understanding these impacts, how families are served by the current loan repayment system, and the strategies they utilize to cope can inform the policy and programmatic response to this important societal issue.

Planning for India’s Urban Century: Urban Innovations and The Search for SMART Alternatives to Business-as-usual Urbanization

Meenu Tewari–PI. India is facing immense urban development challenges, and therefore important and exciting opportunities. During the next two decades India’s urban population is expected to double to 600 million, when this shift is completed nearly 1 in 2 Indians will live in cities. To support this transition, and ensure that economically successful, climate safe and livable cities are fostered as India urbanizes, an extensive body of new research will be needed to influence plans and policy-making. This research proposes to take advantage of advances in geospatial data, and for the first time combine it with on the ground econometric analysis, as well as case studies, to analyze urban growth patterns, their drivers and assess their costs. The research will analyze, assess and maps out the patterns of India’s urbanization and critically analyze the economic, social and environmental costs of business-as-usual urbanization in India. This evidence will provide insights into the benefits of smarter urban development, including proposing innovative approaches towards encouraging more compact and connected urban growth that can support economic development, reduce poverty and cut down carbon emissions.

Economic Development Incentives Research

Bill Lester and Nichola Lowe–Co-PIs. State and local governments spend upwards of $50 billion per year on a wide variety of incentive payments to induce private businesses to locate new or relocate existing establishments within their jurisdictions. Such business attractions bring the promise of additional direct jobs and tax revenue as well as potential downstream impacts throughout a local economy. However, some scholars and analysts criticize incentives as pure corporate welfare that generates a zero-sum “economic war between the states.” Viewed this way, incentives sap public resources from more worthwhile economic development programs, namely entrepreneurial support and workforce development, and thus limit potential job or establishment growth. Although the use of incentives has been debated and researched for decades in the field of economic development, most studies focus on an individual state, specific policy or program or incentivized recruitment deal. This research will link three national databases—the Good Jobs First Incentive Database, the National Establishment Time-Series (NETS) and C2ER State Economic Development Expenditure Database—to investigate whether firms which receive incentive “deals” ultimately create the jobs they promise, and whether their economic performance is higher than a similar set of non-incentivized establishments that relocated without an incentive. By including the C2ER State Economic Development Expenditure Database, we will also explore whether state’s with a more balanced economic development ‘portfolio’ (i.e., with similar public investment in recruitment, entrepreneurship and workforce development) make more effective use of their incentive dollars.