TIME Education

Cracking the Girl Code: How to End the Tech Gender Gap

Engineering giants bet on summer camps to inspire more female engineers

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Twenty high school girls sit hunched in front of laptops around a polished wooden table at AT&T’s midtown office in New York City. Riya Satara, 17, types a series of ones and zeros to adjust a paddleball game she’s designing so that the ball follows the right trajectory. It’s only her first week learning to code — writing the instructions that tell a computer what to do — but by the end of a seven-week summer stint with Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit that seeks to close the gender gap in the tech industry, Satara and her camp mates will be designing algorithms that do everything from locate public restrooms to detect false positives in breast-cancer testing.

 

This camp is just one of a half-dozen similar programs around the country — many of which are supported by tech giants like Google, Facebook and AT&T — that offer coding classes developed specifically for girls like Satara who have shied away from the subject. “I’m about to be the president of my school,” says Satara, who hopes to become a neurosurgeon. “I can stand on a stage in front of 700 kids, but I was too scared to take a computer-science class where I would have been the only girl in a room of 19 guys.”

 

Changing that kind of mind-set is a national strategic challenge. By 2020, U.S. universities will not be able to fill even a third of the country’s 1.4 million computing positions with qualified graduates. The industry needs to tap the other 50% of the population if it hopes to find candidates for crucial jobs. At present, only 12% of computer-science degrees go to women. “Our motto,” says Reshma Saujani, who founded Girls Who Code, “is infiltrate, infiltrate, infiltrate.”

 

Since it launched in 2012, Saujani’s program has gone from 20 girls in one classroom to graduating 3,000 girls from clubs and camps across the country. Saujani says 95% of graduates want to major in computer science in college.

 

These future female developers are valuable to tech companies in ways beyond simply filling open spots. Most Internet purchases are made by women, and understanding their instincts is a key to business success. “We’re falling behind the rest of the world if we don’t teach our girls how to code,” says Megan Smith, VP of Google X, a semisecret facility at Google in California working on advanced technology. In June, after revealing that only 17% of its engineers were women, Google launched a site called Made With Code that features free programming projects for girls. The company pledged $50 million to programs like Girls Who Code.

 

Money is only part of the answer. Educators are trying to understand how to engage girls in computer science early and why so few of them stick with it — even though they outpace boys in most other subjects. “If a woman is taking an engineering course, she’s likely to drop out if her grade goes below a B-plus,” says Ashley Gavin, who creates the curriculum for Girls Who Code. “A guy won’t drop out unless his grade goes below a B-minus.”

 

That dynamic explains why some academics have made it their mission to change the tone of introductory computer-science classes so that young women don’t drop out. “At many institutions they are weed-out courses,” says Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. “Professors should be saying, ‘We’re thrilled to have you here and know you can succeed.'” Klawe has boosted the percentage of women graduating with computer-science majors at her college from 10% to about 40% in seven years.

 

Klawe implemented some of the strategies that Girls Who Code now emulates: both programs emphasize problem-solving real-world issues because girls tend to want to help their communities. The programs also assign group projects because research shows that girls flourish when they collaborate with others. Many high school programs have also opted for a single-sex approach to help girls build a network they can lean on as they enter a male-dominated workforce. But with so few high-profile female programmers as role models, many girls still have a hard time envisioning themselves in the field.

 

That’s why Google is touting female coders. At the June launch of Made With Code in New York City, alumni from Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code cheered on women like Miral Kotb, founder of iLuminate — a Broadway dance troupe that uses coding to choreograph the lights on their costumes — and Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg, who used code to animate Brave.

 

But gender parity won’t likely be reached until coding is better integrated into the classroom: currently 9 out of 10 schools in the U.S. don’t offer computer science. Code.org, a nonprofit backed by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Google, aims to change that by mimicking China, Vietnam and the U.K., where coding classes are offered as early as elementary school and the gender gap is negligible.

 

Some developers aren’t waiting for U.S. schools to catch up. Consider Hopscotch, an app that teaches children as young as 8 how to build their own games with code. Hopscotch CEO Jocelyn Leavitt says her male friends taught themselves programming when they were kids by playing sports- or war-themed video games and then re-creating them. “We wanted to tap into that desire to create something but make it more accessible to both boys and girls,” she says. So far it’s a hit: more than 1.5 million projects have been coded with Hopscotch in the past year, about half by girls.

 

Riya Satara says if she’d learned coding earlier, she wouldn’t have thought it was just for boys. Now she wants to spread the tech gospel by starting a Girls Who Code club at her school. And she’s finally enrolling in a computer-science class.

 

At the advanced level.

 

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TIME Economy

Surprise: The Economy isn’t As Bad As You Think

7 signs America has turned the corner

Nearly seven years after the onset of the Great Recession, the national mood remains troubled. Surveys find entrenched pessimism over the country’s economic outlook and overall trajectory. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 63% of respondents said the U.S. is on the wrong track. It’s not difficult to see why. Set aside the gridlock in Washington for a moment and appreciate the weakness of the economic recovery: Households whose finances were too weak to spend. Large numbers of unemployed workers who couldn’t do so either. Younger Americans who couldn’t afford their own homes. Banks that were too broken to lend. Yet nearly a year ago, I wrote an essay for TIME suggesting that the economy could surprise on the upside. That hypothesis looks even more valid today.

Despite the pessimistic mood, America is experiencing a profound comeback. Yes, too many Americans are out of work and have been for far too long. And yes, we have a huge amount of slack to make up. In fact, if the 2008 collapse had not happened, the U.S. GDP would be $1 trillion–or more than 5%–higher than it is today.

But in terms of the growth outlook, the news is good. Goldman Sachs and many private-sector forecasters project a 3.3% growth rate for the remainder of 2014. The first half of 2014 saw the best job-creation rate in 15 years. Total household wealth and private employment surpassed 2008 levels last year. Bank loans to businesses exceeded previous highs this year. And income growth will soon improve too. America is finally returning to where it was seven years ago.

As halting as the U.S. recovery has been, the economy is now leaner and more capable of healthy, sustained growth through 2016 and beyond. Our outlook shines compared with that of the rest of the industrialized world, as Europe and Japan are stagnant. The 2008 economic crisis and Great Recession forced widespread restructuring throughout the U.S. economy–not unlike a company gritting its teeth through a lifesaving bankruptcy. Manufacturing costs are down. The banking system has been recapitalized. The excess and abuse that defined the housing market are gone. And it’s all being turbocharged by an energy boom nobody saw coming.

It’s not just economic trends that are looking up: crime rates, teen pregnancy and carbon emissions are down; public-education outcomes are improving dramatically; inflation in health care costs is at a half-century low. That points to something I did not foresee last year: that the social health of America seems to be mending. Americans may still feel discontented, but winter is finally over.

AMERICANS ARE SPENDING LIKE THEY MEAN IT

The biggest piece of the U.S. economy, by far, is the consumer sector. It represents 70% of GDP in most years. But consumers suffered historic setbacks in 2008 and 2009. According to a Federal Reserve Board report, 13% of households experienced “substantial financial stress.” This compares with only 1% during the previous two recessions. And it is why consumer spending fell so sharply in 2009, as frightened households cut back.

It has taken years for total household finances to recover fully, but now they have. Total household net worth is now well above its 2007 peak, driven by the recovery in stock prices and home values. Household debt-to-income ratios are the lowest in more than 30 years. And the first half of 2014 has seen employment begin to take off.

Indeed, consumer spending is strengthening alongside consumer confidence, which is nearly back to prerecession levels. For all of 2014, consumer spending should grow around 3% as real disposable income rises and the savings rate moderates. With an average of 248,000 new jobs having been added in each of the past five months, the unemployment rate is probably on course to fall to 5% in 2016. Although part of the decline in the unemployment rate to date is due to stubbornly low labor-participation rates, the overall outlook for consumer spending, the engine of our economy, is healthy again.

HOUSING HAS COME BACK TO LIFE

A good recovery in the housing sector was inevitable because both the supply of viable housing and household-formation rates had dropped to very low levels. That combination finally triggered a snapback.

At first, it was housing prices that turned up. Over the past year, they rose in each of the 20 largest metropolitan areas. And since its low point in early 2012, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index has risen more than 25%. This revived the housing market and helped restore overall household balance nationwide.

Single-family and multifamily housing starts have also recovered strongly. They exceeded 1.5 million annually in the decade before the crisis but collapsed to less than 500,000 in its aftermath. Now they are over 1 million and should go higher. Most forecasts envision a rate of roughly 1.2 million next year, continuing to rise to 1.6 million over the next few years. Keep in mind that new housing construction and renovations drive a wide range of manufacturing and services output, from appliances to trucking. Indeed, private residential investment has jumped by more than 27% since 2012.

Finally, economic hardship forced record numbers of grown kids to stay with their parents, depressing household formation to rates far below normal. But this too is improving. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that formation rates will double to 1.2 million annually as kids finally move out and the adult population increases.

AMERICAN-MADE MAKES SENSE AGAIN

A new factor to add since my previous analysis is manufacturing. A near consensus that this sector was in permanent decline has existed for many years. It was accentuated by the loss of nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010 and by the sense that much lower wages in Asia made continued offshoring inevitable.

But recently the greater role of technology in manufacturing and rising wages in Asia have given our manufacturing sector some life. A recent Brookings Institution report on manufacturing stresses how robotics, 3-D printing and the relentless advance of digital technology are transforming big parts of U.S. manufacturing. Moreover, as China’s GDP has continued to grow, its wages have risen considerably, narrowing the cost differential with the U.S. In many industries, the cost-to-produce difference is now down to 15%.

That explains why certain U.S. producers are reversing themselves and committing to manufacturing goods at home. Walmart announced that it would sell $50 billion more in American-made products over the next 10 years, and the Boston Consulting Group recently estimated that up to 30% of offshore production would return. Although manufacturing has added 668,000 jobs since the 2010 nadir, continued automation will prevent this sector from being a major contributor of new jobs in the future. But the role of manufacturing in our GDP is stable, and the sense that other sectors of the economy would need to compensate for continued declines in manufacturing is out of date.

ENERGY PRODUCTION IS BOOMING

If ever there was proof of the difficulty of forecasting, it is the stunning recovery in our oil-and-gas production. Virtually no one from ExxonMobil on down saw this coming. Nor the way in which made-in-the-USA technology made it happen. The idea that America, whose oil production has been declining for the past 40 years, is now on track to become the world’s biggest producer by 2015 is still hard to grasp. As is the notion that after similar declines in production of natural gas, we now have a 100-year supply of natural gas at current rates of consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects total U.S. crude-oil production to increase more than 25% to 9.3 million barrels per day by 2015, which would mark the highest level since 1972. Daily natural gas production, which grew by 5% over the past year, is expected to continue climbing, with the U.S. becoming a net exporter by 2018.

This is a plus for growth, for household budgets and consumption, for climate protection and for America’s national security. Given our huge new supplies, natural gas is cheaper here–around $4.70 per 1,000 cu. ft.–than anywhere else. This means lower utility bills across the country. It also means that gas is being substituted rapidly for the dirtiest fuel, coal, to produce electricity. And that both America’s stake in the unstable Persian Gulf and our borrowing from China are diminished as we import less energy. The rise, fall and rise of the American oil-and-gas sector is probably, together with development of the Internet, the biggest economic breakthrough in this country in 50 years.

OUR ENVIRONMENT IS GETTING HEALTHIER

Although there remains a heated political debate over climate change and its causes, few people, regardless of their views on that, actually favor more carbon emissions. But there is also an unexpected positive trend. Carbon emissions in the U.S. actually have been falling. Today they are down nearly 10% from 2005 levels. It is possible that the U.S. will meet its goal of cutting emissions by 2020 to 17% below that 2005 baseline.

Technology and regulation explain this surprising trend. Take the auto industry. At one level, Washington upped fuel-efficiency requirements to a stiff fleetwide average of 54.5 m.p.g. by model year 2025. At another, galloping advances in engine technology and vehicle weight are enabling automakers to improve their mileage more quickly than anyone forecast. And the EPA has just mandated sharp reductions in emissions from coal-fired plants.

The U.S. has been among the worst offenders in emissions. To have any credibility in leading global negotiations on these issues, we need to lead the way.

AMERICAN SCHOOLS ARE WORKING SMARTER

How often have you read that America’s education system, especially public education, is a failure? It has a long way to go, but it has started to improve. This is crucial because differentials in lifetime earnings by level of education are widening. Driven by globalization and technology, labor markets are demanding higher and higher levels of skills. Therefore, to improve incomes for younger Americans, we must get better educational outcomes.

For 25 years, those outcomes were stagnant. High school graduation rates had fallen to 60% or lower in many large cities and rural areas. And just over half of first-year college students would graduate within six years. These are poor results by the standards of advanced countries.

But beginning in 2006, the decline began to reverse. High school completion rates are now up almost 10 points, crossing 80% for the first time.

According to a recent report from Johns Hopkins University, the turnaround reflects countless grassroots efforts toward public-school reform. Instigated by parents, business groups, nonprofits, state and local governments and, in some areas, teacher unions, these efforts have concentrated on teacher training and evaluation, better collection and use of data in supporting students, improved curriculum materials and the restructuring or closing of underperforming schools, sometimes called dropout factories.

It is crucial that these reforms continue because if they do, that same Johns Hopkins study predicts that U.S. high schools will reach a 90% completion rate by 2020. That would be a huge achievement. Over the past decade, college-completion rates also have strengthened, nearing 60%. True, the college readiness of high school graduates has not improved in line with graduation rates. But recent advances that tie online education to different approaches in the classroom may soon improve this too.

SOCIAL TRENDS ARE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

America has seen a drop in crime rates that in earlier years would have been universally viewed as impossible. The overall crime rate has plummeted by 45% since peaking in 1991 and by 13% just since 2007–counterintuitively continuing to drop through the recession and sharp spike in unemployment.

Since 1991, according to FBI data, the number of violent crimes has fallen 36% nationally and 64% in the nation’s largest cities. And in New York and Los Angeles, our two largest cities, it has fallen even further. Property crime has also become increasingly rare. Incredibly, in New York City, car thefts have plunged 94% in the past two decades.

How is this possible? In the mid-1990s, few saw this decline coming, and many warned that crime would surge once again as teens of that era grew into young adults. Today, criminologists still differ on what has caused the nationwide turnaround in crime rates and why those dire predictions never came to pass. But crime-fighting technology, better policing, aging societies, growing urban populations and declining usage of hard drugs are widely cited.

For many Americans, the drop in crime has resulted not only in a much higher quality of life but in a reduced economic burden as well. Safer cities generally mean stronger urban economies.

In the same category of big surprises, teen-pregnancy rates have fallen to their lowest level in more than 30 years, according to the widely respected Guttmacher Institute. They have declined 51% from their 1990 peak, based on the latest available data, and the teenage birthrate is down 43% from that year’s level. Today, fewer teens are becoming pregnant and becoming mothers than at any point since reliable data has been collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. This is also true for women in the 20-to-24 age group. To put it mildly, there were very few predictions to this effect a generation ago.

In addition, overall birthrates in the U.S. have turned up for the first time since 2007–including for children born to women with a college education–to just shy of 4 million.

THE CHALLENGE AHEAD

Our country’s biggest challenge now is the plight of lower-income Americans, who are under severe and sustained economic pressure. Today, America resembles a tale of two cities. Those who own homes or stocks have benefited from the recovery in these asset classes and are moving up again. But 40% of our working-age families earn $40,000 a year or less. Generally they live within 250% of the official poverty level, which is the eligibility threshold for food stamps. Indeed, judging from current trends, half of today’s 20-year-olds will receive food stamps during their adult lives. More broadly, median household income is still 8% below the precrisis level, and those who have not completed college are seeing declines in anticipated lifetime earnings compared with their peers with college degrees.

This is our primary economic challenge. If a third of our population has little purchasing power, it will be hard to achieve the rate of long-term growth we want. We need to improve the work skills of this group, strengthen the social safety net and increase the number of young Americans receiving a full college education.

Although doing more to relieve the financial burdens of working Americans is good economics, it is also, and perhaps more important, a matter of values. For much of the 20th century we strove, with much success, to build a fairer and more inclusive society. But today, too many working families are living paycheck to paycheck or even in outright poverty, while the toeholds to economic stability become fewer and farther between.

With our economy’s near- and medium-term economic outlook strong, now is the time to remove the barriers that are keeping hardworking Americans walking a far too thin financial line.

Altman, who served as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton Administration, is the founder and executive chairman of Evercore Partners

TIME Economy

U.S. Job Creation at 6-Year High, Poll Says

Office Work Station
John Lamb—Getty Images

On par with May levels

The percentage of Americans who say their employers are hiring remains at a six-year high, according to a new poll, in another positive economic indicator following a sluggish winter.

The Gallup survey out Wednesday found that 40% of employed Americans said their workplace was hiring, while 41% reported no staffing changes and just 13% said their employer was letting workers go. U.S. workers have reported increased hiring at their workplaces for five months.

The poll of more than 16,000 Americans put Gallup’s Job Creation Index—a measure of net hiring activity in the U.S.—at +27, matching May’s index as the top score in more than six years. The index does not measure the actual number of jobs created, but rather reflects the percentage of employers who are hiring.

Another survey by the payroll processor ADP showed that private employers in the U.S. added 281,000 jobs in June, up from 179,000 added in May.

TIME green living

Tracking Carbon Footprints and Saving Money: The Pecan Street Project

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Walk around the Austin Mueller neighborhood in Texas’s capital city and you’ll see a modern planned, green community with homes that sport solar panels and garages that shelter electric cars. But the most important innovation in these homes can’t be seen by the casual observer. It is the smart circuitry that allows residents to track their homes’ electrical use appliance by appliance, in real time, showing clearly how they consume power and enabling them to reduce their power bills and minimize waste.

“You can literally see when a lightbulb is turned on,” says homeowner Dan McAtee. “It’s been educational.” He’s learned, for instance, to lower his monthly utility bill by using his most power-hungry appliances at night, when electricity costs less. And he knows just how much power is generated by the solar panels on his roof — far more than his family consumes, as it turns out, allowing them to send the surplus back into the grid.

McAtee’s home is one of more than a thousand participating in the Pecan Street Project, the most extensive smart grid in the United States. Since 2009, the project has provided homeowners incentives for installing renewable energy and buying plug-in electric vehicles, while also helping them reduce their carbon footprints.

Across the country, use of two-way “smart meters” has been growing, with more than 40 million already in use. Pecan Street meters are far more precise, however and provide both residents and their municipal utility, Austin Energy, with enormous amounts of constantly updated, detailed and actionable data that benefits both individuals and the community. When replicated in other cities, the system may help solve pressing environmental and infrastructure challenges affecting the entire country by making us smarter about how changing individual behavior can benefit society as a whole.

TIME Education

The Ambitious Plan to Teach 100,000 Poor Kids to Code

Kids Who Code
11-year-old Nuh Mahamud works on a computer at the Bridge Project, which provides educational opportunities for children living in public housing neighborhoods, in the South Lincoln area of Denver on Jan. 23, 2012. Yes We Code plans to partner with such existing organizations to focus specifically on preparing kids for careers writing computer code. Cyrus McCrimmon—Denver Post/Getty Images

#YesWeCode looks to close the coding inequality gap

Shortly after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in February 2012, liberal activist Van Jones was talking with his friend Prince—yes, that Prince—about the circumstances of the shooting.

“I think he made the observation,” Jones told TIME, “that when African-American young people wear hoodies people think they’re thugs, but when white kids wear hoodies you assume that they’re going to be dot-com billionaires,” a reference to the outerwear favored by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk. “We just started thinking: ‘Well, how do we turn that around?’”

Out of that spark was born Yes We Code, an ambitious initiative of Jones’ Rebuild the Dream organization aimed at preparing 100,000 low-income children for careers writing computer code. While good-paying blue-collar jobs continue to disappear in the U.S., computer science is a rare bright spot of opportunity for people without a college education. “This is another opportunity for people to make a really serious, solid middle-class income,” said Jones, a former environmental aide in the Obama Administration.

It’s an old yarn by now that computer science is one of the fastest-growing, highest-paying career paths in America. By 2020, half of all jobs in the STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) fields will be in computing, according to the Association for Computer Machinery. The latest salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers says the average starting salary for computer science majors in 2014 is more than $61,000—just about $1,000 shy of the top earners, engineering grads.

Contrast that with the fact that computer science education in STEM has seen a decrease in enrollment in the last 20 years, with a particularly precipitous drop in the past decade as school districts have reconfigured curriculums to meet standards set by the No Child Left Behind initiative. Those students who do enroll in computer science are overwhelmingly white and male. In 11 states last year, not a single black student took the Computer Science Advanced Placement exam for college credit. That may not mean much in a place like Maine, but in Mississippi, where more than 37 percent of the population is black, the statistic takes on a whole new significance.

Put simply, many parts of the country have systematically reduced educational opportunities in the growing field of computer science for students who depend on the public school system. “It has become privileged knowledge,” said Chris Stephenson, executive director of the Computer Science Teacher’s Association. “The haves have continued to get access and the have-nots, however you want to define that, have not.”

There are dozens of organizations around the country working to address this disparity—Black Girls Code, Hack the Hood, and many others. What Yes We Code hopes to do is connect those groups with the tools and resources to radically scale up. “There’s a ton of wasted genius in low-opportunity communities,” Jones said, adding that Yes We Code does not exist solely to serve black children. “African-American, Latino, low-income Asian, Native American, Appalachian. We aren’t only for African-Americans,” he said.

Beginning with a launch at the 20th annual Essence Festival in New Orleans on July 4—Prince agreed to headline the event on the condition that Yes We Code be included in the festivities—the group will unveil its website to connect coding education organizations with low-income pupils. At the festival, Yes We Code will also launch a fundraising drive to amass a $10 million scholarship fund to pay for the cost of coding education for kids who can’t afford it on their own. (Disclosure: The Essence Festival is a production of Essence magazine, which is owned by Time Inc., the parent company of TIME.)

The cadre of young, poor kids Jones hopes to help teach to write code will not be young forever and Jones hopes they won’t be poor forever either, creating a new generation of role models he sees as lacking in their communities today.

“Athletes, or rappers, or hustlers or President Obama. That’s it. All four of those are very hard and unlikely pathways for success,” Jones said. “We just haven’t really been putting a spotlight on this opportunity.” Yes We Code intends to turn on that spotlight.

“The future,” Jones told TIME, ”is being written in code.”

TIME energy

Harley Davidson Goes Electric

Harley Davidson, battery powered, 2014, Motorcycle
Profile full body photograph of Harley-Davidson’s 2014 battery powered motorcycle, taken on June 5, 2014 at the Harley-Davidson headquarters in Milwaukee, WI. Grant Cornett for TIME

Will this battery-powered hog help the famed cyclemaker grow beyond aging boomers?

It’s bike night at the Harley-Davidson Museum near downtown Milwaukee. Outside this Modernist cathedral of chrome, hundreds of riders have parked their Harleys to admire one another’s bikes, swap stories and enjoy a perfect May evening. Anyone from a corporate marketing department happening on this scene might have been horrified, because it would not suggest a growing market. Bike Night in Milwaukee sure looks like Old White Guys’ Night. The only diversity among this group of aging boomers is in the beer brands in the cozies they carry. But Mark-Hans Richer, who is indeed Harley’s marketing boss, isn’t bothered. “We love old white guys,” says Richer, who is not quite one. “Our old white guys are great customers, we love them, and we never want to walk away from them.”

That said, Harley is in the midst of a complete reimagining as it increasingly tries to appeal to African Americans, Hispanics and women, not to mention riders in China and India, all of whom have become target customers. Global demographics–more young people with less money to spend–are forging big changes at the iconic firm. Harley still sells the rebellious, hell-raising, American free-spirit ideal that it rode to fame in the 1950s and ’60s. But that isn’t a strategy for running a company in 2014.

The Great Recession drove Ford to the wall and Chrysler and GM into bankruptcy, forcing drastic operational and cultural changes that made them more efficient, higher-quality operators. Harley was in better shape than the auto companies going into the recession but fared worse after the downturn: motorcycles are typically a second or third ride for Americans. Harley’s sales plunged from $5.8 billion in 2006 to $3.1 billion in 2010, even as autos were recovering. Its U.S. market share fell from 51% in 2006 to 43% in 2008, according to the Trefis research firm. The average age of its customers increased to 49 from 44.

Worse, perhaps, is that when sales turned up again, Harley reverted to form. And form wasn’t particularly good. Harley’s product line was full of retreads, and it had little to offer consumers in emerging markets like India and China. “There was a recognition that it was a great company, 108 years old,” says CEO Keith Wandell, a former auto-parts executive who took over in 2009 and began to force Harley to behave. “A lot of great things had happened, but I think what was apparent was that we’d become stuck in time. We had become sort of resistant to change and doing things differently.”

This year Harley’s sales should increase 9.7%, to $6.5 billion, and it will move perhaps 283,000 motorcycles. It’s introducing new lower-powered, lower-priced models for young riders and taking its biggest technology risk ever: the LiveWire, an electric-powered, urban globocycle whose high-pitched, jetlike whine sounds nothing like the Harley roar–that hurricane of sound that tells you a V-twin gas-engine hog is approaching even before you check your rearview. “We have a powerful brand and a powerful product–that’s why we are doing this. It isn’t the better-mousetrap strategy,” says Wandell. If the bike sells, it will punctuate the turnaround of a uniquely American corporation.

The electric Harley sitting on a small test track behind the company’s development center in Wauwatosa, outside Milwaukee, isn’t going to be confused with some of the putt-putt electrics on the market today. The design of LiveWire is gnarly enough to be Harley: it’s angular and agile, with a cast-aluminum exoskeleton sitting on a short wheelbase with 18-in. tires. The tires are a little bigger than normal and the seat a little higher, so the cycle can more easily jump curbs and handle the potholes of New Delhi or New York City. The turn signals and rear lamp are glowing LEDs, like those found on high-end Audis. What’s missing is the steroidal engine sitting under the rider–replaced by a lithium-ion-battery-powered motor.

In electric cars, the compartment for the battery that powers the vehicle takes up a disproportionate amount of space and produces a lot of heat that has to be dissipated. That’s a lot harder to do on a bike. Engineers jammed as much battery into the bike as they could to deliver sufficient acceleration. LiveWire generates 75 horsepower and goes from zero to 60 m.p.h. in four seconds.

Sound was another challenge because Harleys rumble even at low r.p.m.–a sound referenced, onomatopoeically, as potato, potato, potato. The LiveWire’s gearbox-and-motor combo produced a new and somewhat unexpected sound, which the engineers tuned. “We knew immediately we had something cool,” says Jeff Richlen, the chief engineer.

What’s it like to ride? The beauty of all electric motors is that you get torque–the force that turns the wheels–on command. You don’t have to go through the gears. Twist the throttle and LiveWire responds like an impatient New Yorker, even if the engine growl lags. (The pedal-to-engine-noise disconnect is familiar to owners of electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf.) LiveWire’s speed tops out at 92 m.p.h, by which time it sounds like a big Fourth of July rocket whizzing by. “We wanted to make this a real Harley,” says Richlen. Right now, the bike has a range of 100 miles–fine for city riding–and recharges in about three hours.

Harley isn’t releasing LiveWire for sale until customers and dealers have a chance to weigh in. The company began offering test rides to select customers this month. Can they accept any battery-powered bike as a true Harley? Yes, says Gail Worth, who owns Gail’s Harley-Davidson, located outside Kansas City, Mo. “The world is ready for a Harley-Davidson e-bike,” she says. “Electric bikes are going to be on the street. That is the one element left that will allow Harley to just take over the motorcycle market.” Harley hasn’t priced its rocket yet, but as with electric automobiles, consumers will typically pay a 10% to 20% premium for electric bikes, which suggests something north of $20,000. Worth expects LiveWire to debut in a year.

The electric-motorcycle market is generating a lot of interest these days. BMW already sells a $22,500 C Evolution e-Scooter in Europe. Although the market for e-cycles is still small, the consultancy Navigant Research predicts that domestic sales will grow tenfold and reach 36,000 units by 2018. A couple of specialty manufacturers, such as Brammo and Zero, are already in the market. Harley says it isn’t worried about being late to market. “If it’s green, it’s badass green. It has character,” says Richer. “We don’t see our competitor understanding that.”

Livewire isn’t just a flashy new concept for Harley; it’s also the product of a painful corporate revolution long in the making. In the depths of the downturn, the company produced print ads that proclaimed, “We don’t do fear … Screw it, let’s ride.” The bravado was a misdirected rallying cry. “We were heading downhill–not spiraling but walking down this hill pretty fast,” says Worth, who also heads Harley’s dealer council. Sales of the company’s best-selling heavy bikes fell 50%.

When Wandell arrived in 2009, sales had begun to pick up, but the company had no new products in the pipeline to meet the increasing demand. Harley’s 1,500 dealers vented, but Harley’s product-development cycle was so sluggish that the company needed far more time to get new products to market than the competition: some five to six years. New cars are created in half that time.

Global regard for the Harley brand had long insulated it from bad management. In 1969 a conglomerate named AMF, which you might know from its bowling pins, bought Harley. The motorcycle company suffered from corporate inattention, and in 1981 a management-led investor group bought it back. But it remained a boom-bust outfit that relied on periodic economic upticks to bail it out.

Wandell spent most of his career at Johnson Controls, an auto-components maker. So his being chosen to become Harley’s boss attracted some criticism–he wasn’t a Harley guy. But Wandell quickly drew up a “short list of big things” that had to change: how the company designed products, how it made them and how it interacted with customers. Everything, in other words. He replaced all but one of the top bosses, mostly with talent he found being squandered in middle management.

One of those talented people was Michelle Kumbier, whom Wandell tapped to reshape Harley’s product development. Though not an engineer, Kumbier took an engineer’s approach, benchmarking the company against other manufacturers like Ford. Then she shared the not-so-pretty results: by any measure, Harley was a laggard in both product-development cycles and manufacturing efficiency. “Engineers were able to accept the truth if you showed them the data and the evidence. We showed them the road map. This is how we are going to get to world class.” Since then Harley has cut its time to market in half.

In another big shift, Harley says it has become customer- and dealer-led. Worth says the listening is real. “It used to be lip service,” she says. “‘Let’s sit down and have a beer.’ They’d fix onesie-twosie things. Now they handle it as business. We don’t sit around drinking beer with each other anymore.” Oddly enough, for an outfit with such a devoted following, Harley used to build products based on its managers’ gut feelings, which was fine when the customers were mostly white boomers. But now the customers could be newly wealthy Chinese looking for style, city-dwelling millennials who need utility and affordability or retirees who want a trike that doesn’t embarrass them.

That shift led to a company initiative code-named Rushmore, whose mission was to produce new products for this multiculti world. Harley took a fresh look at every aspect of motorcycling–the issue of the rider’s head being buffeted by wind, the position of the saddlebags, the passenger’s viewpoint–and integrated new technology like GPS. How, for instance, could a rider use a touchscreen while going 80 m.p.h. and wearing leather riding gloves? The research led to more than 106 changes in the way that its touring bikes are built.

Harley-Davidson’s plunge into advanced technology–a third of its engineering is now focused on innovation–led it to LiveWire. A small group of developers was freed to work on the project. “It’s a symbol of what we can be,” says Matt Levatich, Harley’s president, “not what we shouldn’t do. Why not us?”

More immediately, Rushmore yielded something that wouldn’t have been contemplated before: smaller bikes for younger riders, especially women. This year Harley introduced its lower-end Street series, high-riding bikes with 500-cc and 750-cc engines that still provide a Harley feel for less than $7,500. “Street is about access over engine displacement,” says Richer. “It is designed with a global customer in mind. You can grow up in Beijing and Chicago, and you might have a cultural connection that your parents didn’t have 25 years ago.”

With Street, the company now has models that can compete in developing nations such as Brazil, South Africa and India, where price matters. Harley is a latecomer to India, but it is now assembling bikes in Bawal and sponsoring group rides in places like Goa that can attract 5,000 cyclists who want to taste the American ideal. Harley is feeding that hunger: overseas cycle sales now account for 36% of the company’s total. Indeed, there are now group-ride events in China, Africa and India.

The smaller bikes are also a better fit for Europe, where consumers prefer sport and utility cycles like Street over Softail cruisers. In China, Harley doesn’t have the opportunity that American automakers have. Motorcycles are banned from many highways and urban areas. But just as they prefer big Buicks, Chinese riders are hog lovers, as are riders in Japan, home to giants such as Yamaha and Kawasaki.

So far, the strategy appears to be working. Harley has picked up two market-share points in Europe on BMW. And while Street models are now heading to U.S. dealers, the company is living you-know-where on the hog with its traditional cruiser bikes. It owns 56% of the market, up from 41.5% in 2008, according to Wells Fargo Securities. Even better, the supply of white guys over age 35 figures to be about 50 million strong in the U.S. for the next 25 years. “We’re not dying a slow death,” says Levatich. “We’re creating a new future.”

TO SEE MORE SOLUTIONS, GO TO time.com/solutionsforamerica

TIME Education

There Is a Fast Track Through College

Daranie Ounchaidee, a student at Ivy Tech Community College. Courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College

The longer it takes a student to graduate, the lower the chances that they ever will

Like many friends from her graduating class, Daranie Ounchaidee attended a community college not far from their Indianapolis high school. In the corridors, the classmates often stopped to commiserate about the twists, turns, and missteps they had already taken on their paths to associate’s degrees.

Many work part time, prolonging their time in school. Others have changed majors or dropped courses. Most, whose parents never went to college, struggle with the red tape of registering, paying, and applying for financial aid. For them, Ounchaidee says, “it’s like there’s no ending.”

But Ounchaidee is no longer among them. As part of a select group of 40 students from low-income families in which they were the first to go to college, Ounchaidee just received her two-year associate’s degree from Ivy Tech Community College in only 11 months.

These students are among the pioneers of a new movement to speed up the ever-slowing pace at which students get through college, from two years to one for associate’s degrees and four years to three for bachelor’s degrees, saving them and taxpayers money and improving low graduation rates. That’s because the longer it takes students to reach the finish line, the less likely they ever will.

Only 4 percent of community college students complete an associate’s degree within two years, and 36 percent of students at public universities earn a bachelor’s degree in four, according to the advocacy organization Complete College America. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that 60 percent of community college and more than 40 percent of university students are still flailing toward those credentials after even six years.

Among the reasons: Students right out of highly regimented high schools find themselves lost in college, need academic help but don’t know where to find it or are hesitant to ask, or work so many hours to afford tuition and life expenses such as gas and rent that they crawl through their required coursework.

The inability to devote complete attention to school seems to be a particular hurdle. Fewer than half of community college students attend full-time. Of those who are in school full-time, a fifth have full-time jobs and 40 percent have part-time jobs, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

In order to qualify for the Associate Accelerated Program, or ASAP, at Ivy Tech,attendees needed high school grade-point averages of at least 2.5, and had to pledge to attend school full-time, not work, and continue living with their parents or guardians to forestall having to contend with real-world expenses such as rent and food.

They also had no choices of what courses to take or scheduling flexibility. ASAP classes began days after high school graduation and included 60 hours a week of rigidly proscribed classes and outside assignments.

“We have their curriculum laid out from Day One,” says Jon Arbuckle, one of the instructors. “Without these guidelines, students bounce around. They’ll take a handful of classes, then some life event occurs, they take a semester off, and they’re lost.”

At the sprawling Ivy Tech, ASAP occupies its own small warren of offices and classrooms in a single building, where counselors and advisors are never farther away than across the hall.

“We give them all the support they need — often more than they need,” says Jeff Jourdan, a psychologist and former Arena Football League player who serves as the program’s coordinator and the students’ de facto coach. “They’re not an island. They have people they can go to.”

In their first week, students get the sorts of basic lessons about contending with the college’s bureaucracy that can be easy to take for granted— who and what the registrar or bursar are, for instance. Colleges, Arbcukle says, “assume students coming in already know how to navigate the higher-education waters. But they don’t necessarily know that. Even the physical environment, just how it’s scattered—you’re taking a class in one building and another class in another building and your advisor is in another building.”

New students, Jourdan says, “put off the vibe of, ‘I can handle this. I’m cool.’ But underneath they’re scared, they’re nervous. This is something no one in their families has ever done.”

When the meetings shrink to one on one, these anxieties finally surface.

“We go through a lot of Kleenex,” Jordan says, tapping a box of it on his desk.

The students in ASAP say they appreciate the structure.

“That’s a good thing,” says Carrington Murry, who also just graduated with a degree in one year. “It feels like a continuation of high school. Otherwise it would have been hard to stay focused.”

Yawning at the start of an early morning course in archaeology just a few weeks shy of getting their degrees, the ASAP students lugged heavy backpacks to their seats, asked perceptive questions, and filled in latecomers about the assignments. The other classes they had to take included English composition, American history, critical thinking, ethics, algebra, earth science, sociology, interpersonal communication, psychology, and economics.

All the students agree the program wasn’t easy, and some say their parents were skeptical at the outset. Ounchaidee says her parents, who are Thai and Laotian, were reluctant to let her go to college because they rely on her to help them communicate in English. They came around when she convinced them of the opportunity. “They told me that if I wanted a better life, they’d give it a chance,” she says.

ASAP is part of a wave of programs, many with similarly catchy acronyms, to fast-track college students. They include the Accelerated Higher Education Associate Degree, or AHEAD, at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, and the Accelerated Study in Associate Program, also called ASAP, at the City University of New York.

Since 2009, about 20 private four-year colleges and universities, most recently Wesleyan in Connecticut, have started offering three-year bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. So have public universities including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Mississippi State University, Miami University of Ohio, and some campuses of the State University of New York.

Eighty-six percent of Ivy Tech’s ASAP students earn their degrees on time, or at least remain enrolled, the college says. That’s a rate five times higher than for their counterparts in the standard program. The condensed time frame also saves the students money: the one-year degree costs $7,119, most of which can be covered by federal Pell grants and state financial aid. That fast-track approach also reduces the cost per degree for taxpayers, since students who graduate on time don’t continue to use taxpayer subsidies while they slog through additional years in public colleges and universities, according to a Columbia University study of the CUNY program.

ASAP began in 2010, and Ivy Tech doesn’t have reliable data to know how graduates have done since finishing the program, but some are majoring at four-year universities in fields including engineering, business, graphic design, and architecture.

“These are amazingly bright kids,” says Jourdan. “Imagine what they could have done with the resources other kids have.”

Ounchaidee has been accepted to study biomedical engineering at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where she will begin August.

“It’s a good thing,” she says of her speeded-up associate’s degree. “Without it, I would probably just be working. It gives me plans and hope.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

TIME White House

Obama Looks to Reduce Student Loan Payments

A plan would cap student loan payments for five million graduates at 10 percent of their monthly income, expanding on a 2010 law

President Barack Obama will take executive action Monday to reduce ballooning student loan payments for millions of Americans, as part of a plan to ease the economic effects of massive student loan debt.

The plan will cap borrowers’ repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income, officials said, expanding on a 2010 law and providing relief for about five million people who took out loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011.

The executive action takes new steps to “further lift the burden of crushing student loan debt,” the White House said, and is part of Obama’s effort to circumvent Republican opposition in a midterm election year.

“From reforming the student loan system and increasing Pell Grants to offering millions of students the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their income, making a degree more affordable and accessible has been a longtime priority for the President,” the White House said in a statement. “But he knows there is much more work to do and that’s what this week is all about.”

Economists say the more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt is burdening the economy, limiting graduates’ ability to buy cars, take out mortgages and spend money to spur the economy. The average student who graduates with outstanding loans is $29,400 in debt.

Other parts of the plan include teaming up with Intuit, Inc. and H&R Block, two of the U.S.’s largest tax preparation firms, to implement student loan repayment option and pilot a program to test the effectiveness of student loan counseling, among other measures.

Under the plan, a 2009 graduate with a student loan debt of $26,500 who earns $39,000 a year as a fourth year teacher would see an annual reduction of $1,500 in annual loan payments.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has sponsored a bill that would allow about 25 million Americans to refinance federal and private loans at lower interest rates. The legislation would cost the government $58 billion over 10 years and raise $72 billion through a new tax on high-income earners, the New York Times reports.

The President’s executive action would be a backstop if the bill does not make it through the Senate and the Republican-controlled House. “Even though our bill goes further, the President’s action means something will be done even if Republicans block it,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

House Speaker John Boehner said the executive action would do little to make college more affordable. “Today’s much-hyped loophole closure does nothing to reduce the cost of pursuing a higher education, or improve access to federal student loans – nor will it help millions of recent graduates struggling to find jobs in the Obama economy,” he said.

TIME Economy

One Ohio City’s Growth Strategy? Immigrants

Dayton puts out the welcome mats

In old North Dayton, It’s easy to spot the newcomers. Over the past few years, about 3,000 Turkish refugees have settled here and set about rebuilding this blighted neighborhood. Decaying houses with weed-choked lawns are giving way to tidy dwellings with colorful paint jobs. As his minivan winds through the streets, businessman Islom Shakhbandarov points out the white picket fences the Turks favor–a sign that they have achieved the American Dream. “This,” he says from the front seat, “is the Ellis Island of our region.”

Southwest Ohio has never been much of a melting pot. Even now, Dayton’s proportion of foreign-born residents is among the lowest of any large U.S. city. But economic decline is the mother of reinvention. Dayton’s population has plunged 40% since 1960, as the loss of manufacturing jobs hollowed out its middle class. “We were hit really hard,” says city manager Tim Riordan. And so in 2009, Dayton began plotting an unlikely path to renewal–growing its economy by courting immigrants.

Two years later, the city adopted a series of policies designed to lure new residents: tutoring for foreign students, support networks to help entrepreneurs clear complex bureaucratic hurdles, and translation services to help immigrants integrate into the community. Libraries began stocking books in new languages. Police officers were directed not to check the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, or of people suspected of minor offenses.

The push to repopulate the city by wooing foreigners was an unusual move at a moment when states from Alabama to Arizona were requiring cops to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. City officials braced for an outcry against the proposal, but few residents balked. (The only pushback at public meetings came from nonresidents who warned that the city could become a magnet for the undocumented.) The initiative, known as Welcome Dayton, won unanimous support from the city commission. “We made a policy decision to be open,” says Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “This is a city that will welcome you.”

Word of mouth helped. A handful of Ahiska Turks, a stateless ethnic minority that was granted refugee status to escape persecution in Russia, resettled in Dayton in 2006, lured by cheap housing and solid jobs. They told friends that neighbors were tolerant of their Muslim faith. Now the Turkish community’s leaders have become some of Dayton’s best boosters, working to court foreign investment and pumping their own cash into the local economy through new trucking, logistics and real estate businesses.

Dayton is also home to robust communities of Central Africans, Indians and Hispanics, many of whom have started businesses or cultural agencies of their own. City officials have sought to stitch them into the cultural fabric with celebrations of diversity like a new annual parade to commemorate the Mexican Day of the Dead. And the lenient approach to law enforcement has soothed nerves. “They’re not chasing people or trying to focus on their legal status,” says Gabriela Pickett, an art-gallery owner and Mexican immigrant who has lived in Dayton since 2001. “That’s a battle they don’t want.”

None of this has required much money, and the economic gains have been relatively modest. But the new approach is paying off. In the year after enacting the policy, Dayton’s immigration rate grew by 40%, nearly six times the state average. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce lauded Dayton as one of seven “enterprising cities.” And Dayton has plans to expand its approach by recruiting immigrant entrepreneurs, using a visa program that offers green cards to foreigners who invest in rural or cash-strapped areas.

Dayton’s model is attracting copycats elsewhere in the Midwest. And the experiment has “changed the culture and the way people perceive immigrants,” says Tony Ortiz, vice president of Dayton’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the head of Latino Affairs at nearby Wright State University. “Instead of a burden, they see these folks as potential taxpayers and contributing members to the area. Instead of chasing them away, all we have to do is make them feel welcome.”

TO SEE MORE SOLUTIONS, GO TO time.com/solutionsforamerica

TIME Economy

U.S. Workers See a Surge of New Hires, Poll Finds

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Lauri Wiberg—Getty Images

A swelling proportion of workers say their companies are hiring, not firing

Job creation in the United States has hit a six-year high according to a new survey out Wednesday.

The Gallup job creation survey asks workers if they’ve witnessed more hiring or firing at their workplaces to create an index score that rises and falls with the eyewitness accounts of the nation’s workforce. In May, the workers reported a happy scene: 40% saw hiring, dwarfing the 13% who saw firing. That brought the index to 27, its highest level in six years.

The encouraging news was reinforced by another measure of job growth. TrimTabs Investment Research said the U.S. economy added 229,000 jobs in May, following solid gains in March and April. “Employment growth has exceeded 200,000 jobs for three consecutive months for the first time since the spring of 2011,” said David Santschi, Chief Executive Officer of TrimTabs Investment Research.

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