At the Roosevelt Network, we act locally, but think big. We want to pass local policy now, and we want those reforms to be scalable.
We believe who writes the rules matters. Shifting decision-making power to communities historically denied political influence and representation in American democracy builds true public power. As a result, government can act as a force for the public good in ways it has been unable or unwilling to.
Financialization of Higher Education
Finance is no longer channeling our collective investments to productive uses. Instead, it’s using society’s resources to enrich itself at the cost of students, taxpayers, and communities.
The story of finance in the economy is an old and simple one: The finance sector grows and protects the savings of individuals and institutions, and pools them together to lend and invest in productive causes. Yet, in the early 70s, in pursuit of ever-greater profits beyond the scope of everyday lending operations, banks began to push the scope of finance—building complex debt obligations, mortgage-backed securities, interest rate swaps, and many riskier financial tools. As a result, the finance sector ballooned and began to occupy an increasingly central role in our economy. Its newfound power over our economy led many corporations to focus on compensating shareholders and investors, rather than workers, vastly slowing down innovation, productivity, and job growth. In the process, wages fell drastically, jobs were lost, and our economy stopped working for everyone. Overall, the focus of economic activity shifted away from the production of goods and services to the financial sector. Finance became the new “American State Religion”(Davis 2009). Today, finance accounts for 25 percent of all corporate profits in the United States, but it only creates 4 percent of the jobs in the economy. And, contrary to its supposed role in the economy channeling investment to productive use, only about 15 percent of the money entering the financial sector ever leaves it.
Institutions of higher education have not been immune to the financial sector’s increased power. Wall Street has preyed on the financial crisis that universities across the country are experiencing, advancing their priorities in a manner that ensures greater financial profits at the expense of students, faculty, and campus workers. The questionable endowment investments of colleges and the proliferation of risky derivatives like interest rate swaps, as examples, stem from the same causes—the absence of effective structures of transparency and accountability to check the concentration of power on college campuses. Instead, financiers and their associates are exercising outsize influence on campus: They hold decision-making power in all aspects, including tuition costs, construction budgets, salaries, faculty hiring, endowment investments and much more. Our Financialization of Higher Education Report, for example, found that just one financial tool—interest rate swaps—had cost 19 schools a combined $2.7 billion. In the process, higher education now looks more like a pay-to-play system than one that was designed to ensure access and equity for all.
The impacts of financialization go well beyond just higher education. From city governments to water suppliers to our schools and beyond, the financial sector continues to skim profits from society’s resources and build greater wealth for itself.
Since 2008, the 10 Ideas journal has elevated the ideas of young people seeking not only to rewrite the rules for their communities, but to change who writes them.
10 Ideas is an annual Roosevelt Network program that generates student policy proposals. Each year, students research, write, and advocate for ideas originating from the program’s trainings and workshops. 10 Ideas policy proposals demonstrate our commitment to equity and inclusion and reinforce our mission to strengthen public goods and public power. Across our six issue areas—education, economy, human rights, democratic access, health care, and energy & environment—Roosevelters are moving the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.
In the fall of each year, undergraduate students from across the country submit their policy proposals with the hopes of being published in print or online. After a competitive evaluation process, the top 10 policy submissions are published each year in our 10 Ideas journal, and an unrestricted amount of outstanding ideas are published online.
Read past 10 Ideas
In 2017, the Roosevelt Network built the Re: Public Project, designed to fight for accessible, equitable, and transparent public goods by strengthening our public institutions and combating the trend of privatization. In line with this bold vision and our will to act, we launched the 2019 Policy Challenges, enabling Roosevelters across the country to work with local campaigns and organizations devoted to pushing for the common good.
We connect with Roosevelt partners that have built campaigns to either strengthen public institutions or challenge the privatization of local goods, and are actively seeking policy ideas and research analysis from students like you to strengthen existing coalitions. Participants will connect directly with Roosevelt partners on the ground and channel their research, organizing, and advocacy skills to their existing coalition efforts. They will have support from national staff to guide them through their work in biweekly check-ins and spring webinar programming.
Moreover, Roosevelters applying to Policy Challenges who are also interested in the Spring Incubator can work on their Challenge projects in both opportunities—and get a bonus point for their Spring Incubator application! Those applying for both can indicate which challenge they applied for in their Spring Incubator application form. Please note that the incubator structure requires 5–7 hours/week of group work and is a paid opportunity. Students can participate in Policy Challenges outside of this structure (with more flexible requirements) with the support from national staff described in the paragraph above.