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Finaincial Aid Shopping Natural Disaster Survival Put America Back To Work Education Choice Employment Growth Volunteers Grow Skills Progressive Path To Reform Stocks, Bonds And Mutual Funds

Community Banks: Putting Local Deposits To Work

(NAPSI)—A snapshot of the financial life of the U.S. shows that community banks support small businesses in a big way.

For starters, community banks are prolific small-business lenders—providing a substantial number of small-business loans across the country, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.

In fact, community banks with under $10 billion in assets provide nearly 60 percent of small-business loans between $100,000 and $1 million. By driving local economies and creating local jobs, community banks are an integral part of the U.S. financial system.

Financial First Responders

Community banks are able to serve as financial first responders to small businesses because they operate locally, which puts local deposits back to work in the community through loans to local residents and small businesses.

"Small-business lending has always been the bread and butter of community banking," said Bill Loving, chairman of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and president and CEO of Pendleton Community Bank in Franklin, W. Va. "Community banks are small businesses themselves, and they also operate in the same communities as their customers. As small businesses themselves, community banks understand the needs of small businesses and the unique challenges they face better than anyone else in the marketplace."

A Friend To Farmers As Well

Community banks have consistently been the largest provider of agricultural credit within the commercial banking sector and are often the catalysts for new and expanded business opportunities within their communities to ensure long-term economic viability and vitality.

In fact, community banks with assets under $10 billion provide more than 75 percent of all commercial bank agricultural loans, and banks with assets less than $1 billion provide nearly 60 percent of all commercial bank agricultural financing.

To find a community bank, visit ICBA's Community Bank Locator at Simply type in your ZIP code and the app will show you all the community banks in your area.

You can even download a free community bank locator app for your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry.

Community Banking

To follow the community bank conversation, follow @ICBA and the hashtag #golocal on Twitter.

To learn more about community banks, visit

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Understanding Financial Aid Award Letters: Compare Costs

(NAPSI)—When comparing college costs, one of a student's first steps should be filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Then, students begin receiving back financial aid award letters from the colleges they've applied to. These letters outline the estimated cost to attend the school, expected family contribution and financial aid award package, which includes grants, scholarships, work-study, need-based and non-need-based loans.

Your financial aid letter may look different this year. Colleges have the option of using the U.S. Department of Education's new Financial Aid Shopping Sheet for the 2013-2014 award year. Many of the elements contained in this new form are the same as a school's own financial aid award letter, though the standardized format should make it easier to review elements such as grant and scholarship amounts, net costs, graduation rates, loan default rates, median borrowing and estimated monthly loan payments after graduation.

After you receive either form, here are some next steps:

Determine additional expenses: Consider all funding options including grants, scholarships, institutional awards, Federal Work Study, Federal Perkins Loans and/or Federal Direct Stafford Loans. Be realistic about your budgeting needs. Borrow only what you need.

Explore additional financing options:

Tuition payment plan—Instead of paying your tuition bill in one lump sum each semester, if offered by your school, you can enroll in this plan to make smaller, manageable installment payments. This plan can be used on its own or combined with financial aid, including student loans.

Federal Direct PLUS loan for parents—This loan is available for parents of dependent undergraduate students. This loan can cover up to 100 percent of remaining eligible education-related expenses. A credit check is required, but the parent's debt and current income are not considered.

Federal Direct PLUS loan for graduate and professional students—This loan is available to graduate and professional students and can cover up to 100 percent of remaining education-related expenses. A credit check is required, but the student debt and current income are not considered.

Private (or alternative) student loans—These loans are made available to students through banks and other private lenders. These loans can typically cover 100 percent of the remaining costs of eligible education-related expenses. Full credit underwriting is required as well as a debt and current income. Most students will need a qualified co-signer to meet credit eligibility requirements.

Know your deadlines and compare your options: Pay special attention to the college application deadlines to make sure that you take full advantage of these opportunities.

For additional financial aid resources, visit or

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Tips On Surviving A Natural Disaster

(NAPSI)—Failing to prepare for a natural disaster is not an option for businesses. That's because 75 percent of companies without business continuity plans fail within three years of a disaster.

So says Andrew Sachs, Vice President at Witt O'Brien's—a global leader in preparedness, crisis management and disaster response and recovery.

Sachs contends that if recent patterns continue, the U.S. is likely to experience anywhere from three to six major hurricanes a year and up to 1,000 tornadoes. Trends such as these, he thinks, make a disaster plan a necessity.

He also believes that companies that aren't able to resume operations within 10 days of a disaster are not likely to survive. According to data collected by his company, of those businesses that experience a disaster and have no emergency plan, 43 percent never reopen; of those that do reopen, only 29 percent are still operating two years later.

Expert Tips

To help, Sachs offers the following tips:

• A business should start by looking at its business continuity plan, and if it doesn't have one, it should start one now. Its objective should be to organize, develop and administer a preparedness program.

• The first step should be to gather information about the hazards and risks presented by a disaster, which could be as simple as a fire or power outage.

• The business should then develop a preparedness plan that includes resource management, emergency response, crisis communication, business continuity, information technology, employee assistance, incident management and training.

• Once it has a plan, a company must test, exercise and evaluate the plan and identify what needs to be improved.

• Finally, a business should ensure that its employees are up to speed personally and encourage them to institute their own preparedness plan at home.

Employees who are prepared at their homes are employees who are able to come to work to get you back in business following a disaster.

To learn more, visit the website at

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Our Best Days Can Be Ahead Of Us

(NAPSI)—Our economy is slowly rebounding from its collapse but it's still far from healthy.

We are experiencing a whole generation of high unemployment, and young people who expected more for their hard work are deferring their dreams. This generation is not building the employment histories and work experience it needs to succeed.

In the face of high unemployment and slow growth, out-of-touch Republicans are throwing tantrums and threatening to harm our economy through a series of manufactured crises. They want Democrats to agree to cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, cutting the safety net out from under middle-class families that have borne the brunt of decades of slow growth and diminished opportunities.

This doesn't even begin to touch on the harmful effects of sequestration, which is just a fancy word for a dumb idea. The across-the-board cuts will cost 750,000 jobs—defense facilities that aren't staffed, families with less money, closed national parks and children cut off Head Start rolls.

So what are we doing to reverse course? Nothing. We're actually moving toward more fiscal austerity, which will further weaken the economy and cost jobs.

The consensus around fiscal austerity doesn't extend to asking corporations and the richest 1 percent to share in the sacrifice. If we were really talking about things we can't afford, at the top of that list would be tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, tax breaks for hedge fund managers, more tax breaks for corporations that hide their profits outside the country, and continuing tax cuts for the top 2 percent. Just closing one destructive loophole—tax cuts for corporations that ship jobs overseas—would be enough to replace almost half the job-destroying sequester.

Meanwhile, other countries invest in workers and raise wages to create demand. While we bicker over whether we can afford to invest in our crumbling roads and bridges, strengthen our education system and lead global innovation, our competitors are moving ahead.

We can turn this around—by investing in our nation, not calling for brutal cuts to vital programs; raising the minimum wage, not allowing employers to lowball U.S. workers; reforming our immigration system, not creating a second class of workers without rights to achieve the American dream; allowing workers to join together and bargain for better lives, not continuing a generation of wage stagnation. These aren't new ideas and they aren't rocket science; they just take the courage to lead.

• Mr. Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO.

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New Study Finds 21 States Have More Nonteachers Than Teachers In Public Schools

(NAPSI)—Although parents may think those running public schools exist primarily to hire teachers, a new report found that, in 21 states, bureaucracy actually outnumbers those teaching children. And while nonteaching staff has surged, academic outcomes have stagnated.

The study, released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, analyzes states' hiring practices between 1992 and 2009, using data from the U.S. Department of Education. "The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America's Public Schools, Part II" is a follow-up to a 2012 study by the Friedman Foundation that also examined hiring practices in public schools.

The report calls 21 states "top heavy" for having more nonteaching personnel on payroll than teachers in 2009: Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Louisiana, Wyoming, Vermont, Utah, Georgia, Alaska, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia, which is treated as a state in the report.

Virginia had the most excess personnel outside the classroom, with 60,737 more nonteaching staff than teachers, followed by Ohio, with 19,040 more nonteaching personnel than teachers.

"In many states, teachers have endured ever-growing class sizes or have not had a raise in years," Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation, said. "If that money had been spent more effectively, great teachers could have had raises or children could have been offered scholarships to attend the schools of their choice."

The new report also found that states could have saved $24 billion annually if they had adjusted the employment of nonteaching staff to the changes in student population from 1992 to 2009. During that time period, the number of students in public schools increased 17 percent while the number of administrators and nonteaching staff increased 46 percent.

In Texas alone, taxpayers would have saved almost $6.4 billion annually if public schools' nonteaching personnel had not outpaced its growth in students.

"Public schools have become employment centers—and not necessarily to provide hands-on education for children," said Ben Scafidi, an economist at Georgia College & State University and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation, who wrote the report. "Many of these jobs do not result in improved student learning."

Scafidi points out that during the same time period as the growth in nonteaching personnel, high school graduation rates peaked around 1970 and scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress were flat or in decline between 1992 and 2009.

Number of Nonteaching Staff In Excess Of Teachers, FY 2009

Virginia                                   60,737

Ohio                                        19,040

Michigan                                 18,550

Indiana                                    16,643

Kentucky                                 13,315

Mississippi                                 5,334

Colorado                                    5,182

Oregon                                       4,802

Maine                                         4,635

Minnesota                                  3,056

Nebraska                                    2,928                                               

Mexico                                        2,200

Louisiana                                    2,119

Wyoming                                    1,841

Vermont                                      1,838

Utah                                            1,743

District of Columbia                    1,489

Georgia                                        1,461

Alaska                                         1,306

New Hampshire                             586

Iowa                                               428

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010 Digest of Education Statistics, Table 87; Author's Calculations

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You Can Make Volunteering A Rewarding Part Of A Job Search

(NAPSI)—It's often said that searching for a job can be a full-time job. While at times the job search may feel like a never-ending task, there are ways to keep your spirits up and improve your chances of getting that much- desired job offer.

For instance, volunteering can be a great way to learn new skills, keep your current skills in shape and show potential employers you aren't just sitting at home waiting for them to call you.

Employers are aware of economy fluctuations and personal life changes; they also realize that volunteering can provide valuable experience on par with paid work. Plus, donating your efforts to a worthy cause can fill a need in your community, provide personal satisfaction and open doors for job prospects.

"All of our undergraduate students complete service projects in communities across the nation," said Dr. Mary Hawkins, Bellevue University president. "Many of these are working adults who take online classes to complete their degrees. Many have reported the direct and indirect career benefits of these experiences, from making new contacts to expanding their qualifications."

Volunteering can offer a number of benefits, including:

Meeting new people—You never know who you will meet while volunteering. You might meet someone who is hiring, someone who can be a reference and vouch for your work ethic, or someone who can serve as a mentor. Take a personal interest in those you meet—ask where they work and why they chose to volunteer. Be sure to mention that you are seeking a new opportunity, or they might not even think to mention openings to you if they hear about positions.

Learning new skills—The nice thing about doing work without pay is there are few prerequisites. Have you always wanted to plan events, run AV equipment or operate power tools? Volunteering can be an excellent chance to grow some skills you may not have gotten the opportunity to pursue in your professional life. Be sure to add these newly acquired skills to your résumé.

Showing diversity—When a potential employer looks at your résumé, items that show you care about more than just making money are beneficial.

Also, community involvement is a key value for many organizations, as it shows you have taken the initiative to give of your time. Employers want new individuals who will fit into their existing cultures and improve the overall profile of the company. Volunteer experience on your résumé can put you one step ahead.

Adding balance to your life: Volunteering can relieve stress by getting your mind off your own worries and providing perspective on the situations of others. It can also improve your overall health. In general, volunteers report greater life satisfaction and better physical health than do nonvolunteers, and their life satisfaction and physical health improve at a greater rate as a result of volunteering.

Setting an example—If possible, invite friends, family and your children to volunteer with you. Not only are you improving your situation, you can help improve theirs. It is never too early or too late to experience the benefits of giving back to your community. Volunteering with loved ones can also bring camaraderie to your own family and group of friends, as well.

As you continue the job search, your new volunteer experiences will help you maintain an upbeat attitude. Leave no stone unturned—talk to everyone you can and read every career advice article you can. With a little patience and persistence, and some résumé- boosting volunteer work, your job search will pay off.

Learn more at

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Morocco And The Progressive Path To Reform

(NAPSI)—Those with an interest in events in North Africa may already be aware that the push toward democratic reforms in the region did not begin with what is known in the West as the Arab Spring.

For example, as early as 2004, under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco began to take a number of significant steps along a more progressive path, beginning with a landmark family law that ushered in stronger protections for women's rights.

This was followed by the implementation of a commission that investigated the previous regime's human rights abuses.

Building on these achievements, the Moroccan government is taking several concrete steps to advance changes to its judicial system that were set forth in the country's 2011 Constitutional reforms. These were presented in four separate reports that focus on:

• Organization and procedures of the Constitutional Court, which will oversee free and fair elections and uphold principles and rights guaranteed by the Moroccan Constitution

• Procedures for allowing parties to a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of a law

• Narrowing the jurisdiction of military courts by limiting their authority to military personnel

• Establishment of the Higher Judiciary Council to promote separation of powers and increase judicial independence.

King Mohammed VI has welcomed these recommendations as a significant contribution to advancing Morocco's dialogue on democracy, the rule of law, human rights protections, and an independent judiciary. He called for their speedy implementation.

Under the Constitution, these recommendations will be debated by Parliament, drafted into legislation, and submitted for passage into law—demonstrating what the path to progress can look like.

This information is provided by Beckerman on behalf of the government of Morocco . Further information is available at the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Congressional Leaders Help Student Teams

(NAPSI)—Investing a little time and effort with students can pay big dividends—particularly when it comes to their financial education.

That's one of the concepts behind the Capitol Hill Challenge (CHC)-a special version of the Stock Market Game. Sponsored by SIFMA and the SIFMA Foundation, CHC is designed to help students strengthen their personal financial skills and improve their knowledge of economics and business, while learning more about government.

Since it began in 2004, nearly 1,700 representatives and senators and more than 45,000 students have engaged in this special version of the Stock Market Game Program.

In the "Challenge," teams of high school students invest a hypothetical $100,000 in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The 2013 winners will be announced in June at a reception in Washington, D.C., where they will get to meet their member of Congress.

To learn more and to see how schools in your district rank, visit

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