Business & Education

Business & education news

Alabama Tuition Plan Paying Full Rates For Fall

Aug 22, 2012
Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer / Facebook

State Treasurer Young Boozer says Alabama's prepaid college tuition plan will pay full tuition for the fall semester while it waits for a court to rule on the legality of making reduced payments.

Alabama's plan currently has more than 36,000 participants, and more than 19,000 of them eligible to attend college this fall. Boozer said Wednesday there is no way to know when the court will rule.

The Last Word In Business

Aug 22, 2012



OK. And our last word in business today is Wi-Fi donkeys. Just follow along here.

A theme park in Israel called Kfar Kedem, or Village of Yore, depicts life in Israel in the first and second centuries. The Times of Israel describes it as a Galilean version of Colonial Williamsburg.


On the fishing-boat piers of New England, nearly everyone knows a fisherman who was lost at sea.

Boat captain Joe Neves remembers when a crew member got knocked overboard. "We heard him screaming 'Help me!' " Neves says, grimacing. "But you know, on the water at night, your head is like a little coconut." They didn't find him.

Mike Gallagher discovered a friend who was entangled in still-running hydraulics. "I knew right away he was dead," he says.



The business school at UCLA wants to go into business for itself. The Anderson School of Management is part of a public university. Of course, it's in California and the school's leaders find that being part of public education in California right now is a little maddening. Budget battles and state budget cuts have become normal.

Will Stone reports on what the school wants to do instead.

In a new study, The Pew Hispanic Center says that for the first time ever, Hispanics have become the largest minority group in the country's college campuses.

It's a report that marks many firsts for the ethnic group, which has been making great strides in education since 1972.

Among them: For the first time, there were more than 2 million latinos ages 18 to 24 enrolled. They reached a record 16.5 percent of all college enrollment. Hispanics make up a little more than a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in two-year colleges.

Bill Would Make Changes To School Start Date Law

Aug 20, 2012

Two state legislators say they will introduce a bill in the Legislature that allows local school boards to set start and stop dates for the school year in their systems.

The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Holtzclaw of Madison and GOP Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood is being pre-filed this week. It would change a law passed by lawmakers this year that requires the first day of school be no earlier than the Monday two weeks before Labor Day and the last day be no later than the Friday before Memorial Day.

American is currently seeking to cut costs in bankruptcy protection so the flight attendants' union pushed hard for this vote — warning that rejecting the contract could mean even deeper cuts or furloughs. The company's trying to cut about a billion dollars in labor costs. Mechanics and other union workers had previously accepted new contracts but pilots rejected American's latest offer earlier this month.

Refinance activity continues to boom, fueling the home-loan market. Low interest rates have created a class of "serial refinancers" — those lucky enough to borrow at lower rates — and given them new opportunities to spend their freed up cash.

Settlement attorney Robert Gratz never used to be on a first-name basis with his clients.

"In the past, our practice was such that you'd see people, and that was the end of it," he says.

Gratz now sees the same faces all the time, of clients refinancing again and again — these days in the mid-3 percent range.

UAB President Carol Garrison Stepping Down

Aug 16, 2012 / University of Alabama at Birmingham

The president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham has announced that she is stepping down after 10 years. Carol Z. Garrison announced Thursday she is leaving but will continue to serve in her position until an interim president is named. Garrison was named the sixth president of UAB in 2002. She came to UAB from the University of Louisville, where she was acting president. She was hired after the tumultuous departure of UAB's former president, W. Ann Reynolds. UAB has seen record enrollment for three consecutive years, reaching 17,575 in fall 2011.

There was no change in the consumer price index last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

It's the second month in a row that the index was flat — a sign that inflation remained in check for the first half or so of summer. Whether that trend will continue, however, is uncertain.

Austal USA To Add 1,000 Jobs At Mobile Shipyard

Aug 14, 2012
Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Flickr

Alabama's governor says the state will provide $5 million and job training to Austal USA to help the shipbuilder add up to 1,000 jobs in Mobile.

Gov. Robert Bentley was in Mobile on Tuesday to announce an agreement with the Australia-based shipbuilder.

The agreement calls for the state to provide $1 million a year for five years, which will help with the expansion of the Mobile complex.

Ryan Vasquez

Robert Robinson owns Sundries and Specialties. It’s a brand new business, and he wants a brand new website to go with it.

“Well the front page I wanted to show various items like what we may sell,” Robinson says.  “Our store being sundries and specialties we may sell sundries, which is various items and then we specialize in jewelry or certain antiques. So I want the picture to represent that situation and describe some stuff about or business.”

After months of sitting on their wallets, Americans went shopping in July. The uptick reported Tuesday is boosting economists' hopes for a reasonably strong back-to-school season. And retailers are looking for clues about how the holiday shopping season will turn out later in the year.

"This is a good report," Chris Christopher, an economist with IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, wrote in an assessment of the latest report. "It indicates that consumers came back after hunkering down" during the year's first half when sales were "dismal."

Is Drought Slowly Killing US Farms?

Aug 14, 2012

Farmers and ranchers continue to suffer from one of the country's worst droughts in 50 years. President Obama recently announced the government will buy up to $170 million of meat from farmers. But some say it's too little too late. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with Virginia farmer John Boyd and Harvest Public Media reporter Peggy Lowe.

July saw the largest retail sales increase in months, according to the Commerce Department. But not all the news is rosy. NPR Senior Business Editor Marilyn Geewax joins guest host Jacki Lyden to take a look at consumer spending and the "back to school" season.

Judge Rules Against Birmingham School Board

Aug 13, 2012 / Alabama Department of Education

A judge has ruled that the state Department of Education will remain in control of the Birmingham school system and Birmingham school Superintendent Craig Witherspoon will continue in his job.

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a settlement with Facebook in which the social media leader agrees to get users' approval before making any privacy changes and agrees to periodic third-party audits for the next 20 years on how it handles user privacy.

We told you about this settlement back in November, but today, Reuters reports, after a period of public comment, the settlement has become official.

The Last Word In Business

Aug 10, 2012

Denny's Corp. is opening a flagship restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. It will take up 6,400 square feet and include a full bar and wedding chapel. And of course, it will be open 24-7.



NPR's business news starts with a Justice decision.


As several news outlets had predicted last month would happen, Google is going to pay $22.5 million — the largest civil penalty the Federal Trade Commission has ever levied — to settle charges that it wasn't straight with users of Apple's Safari browser about how it would track their Web surfing.

For more, see our posts The Price Of College Tuition and What America Owes In Student Loans.

Tuition has gone through the roof in the past decade. But so has financial aid.

There were 361,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Employment and Training Administration says. That's down 6,000 from the week before (that previous week's total was revised up by 2,000).

Claims have stayed in a range between 350,000 and 400,000 all year. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has also varied little: it's low this year has been 8.1 percent and the high has been 8.3 percent.

Thousands Attend Birmingham Job Fair

Aug 8, 2012
Wikimedia Commons

A job fair featuring more than 100 employers drew an estimated 5,000 people seeking work in Birmingham. People began lining up three hours before the event began Wednesday at the city's convention center. The job fair was put together by the office of Rep. Terri Sewell, whose district includes part of metro Birmingham and much of the state's impoverished Black Belt region. Sewell says the unemployment rate in her district is 18.8 percent, or more than 10 percentage points above the national level.

A drop in natural gas prices is hurting balance sheets across the petroleum industry. The second-largest natural gas producer in the United States — Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy — has been hit especially hard.

After 23 consecutive years of touting its increasing natural gas production, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon told investors during a conference call Tuesday that the company projects its gas output will drop about 7 percent in 2013.

The following exchange has played out over and over in the last ten days:

Point: "NBC's coverage of the Olympics stinks, because everything is tape-delayed and cut to shreds, and also the announcers are awful and they only care about American athletes, and by the time I get to watch anything, I already know what happened."

Counterpoint: "People are watching in huge numbers."

Point: "But quality."

Counterpoint: "But business."




NPR's business news starts with an airline refund.

Refunds are starting to arrive in the bank accounts of Southwest Airlines' customers who were billed multiple times for promotional fares booked on Friday. Some customers paid for their discounted air travel as many as 20 times, according to the Associated Press. The company blamed the problem on a computer glitch.

Two days after Chick-fil-A set a one-day sales record thanks to a show of support for company President Dan Cathy and his outspoken stand against same-sex marriage, it's "National Same-Sex Kiss Day" for gay rights activists.

Ala. Seeking Waiver From No Child Left Behind

Aug 2, 2012
Andy Grant / Flickr

Alabama education officials say they will ask the U.S. Department of Education to give Alabama a waiver from the goal of the No Child Left Behind law to have all students performing at the proficient level in math and reading by 2014. Deputy State Superintendent Sherrill Parris says the state plans to submit the request by early September and expects to get an answer by December. She's optimistic Alabama will get a waiver because 33 states already did. She said Alabama's waiver request will be based on implementing Alabama's new student achievement goals, called Plan 2020.

Education Fund Revenue On Pace To Meet Expenses

Aug 2, 2012

A state official says the Alabama Education Trust Fund should collect enough state income taxes and other levies to meet its spending target for this fiscal year and avoid across-the-board cuts. Assistant state Finance Director Bill Newton made the comments Wednesday. Newton also predicted the state general fund, a major source of state money for Medicaid, prisons and other non-education areas of government, should collect enough revenues to meet its trimmed spending target for the year without further cuts.

Austin Docter has worked at a shellfish plant in Shelton, Wash., for 18 years and has a lot of words to describe what he calls the flavor profiles of oysters: Minerally. Metallic-y. Sweet. Buttery.

"Wherever oysters are grown, they take on the characteristics of the algae and water that they grow up in," Docter says. "It's a lot like French wine."