• Essay 1: Summary and Response
  • Summary and response essays require you to think critically about a text, dissect the text,

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    evaluate and reflect on the author’s main points and evidence, and respond to the text with your

    own well-supported arguments.

    For your first assignment, you will respond to Stephanie Owen and Isabell Sawhill’s “Should

    Everyone Go to College?” (on D2L under “Week 2”). You will provide an account of the

    authors’ arguments and supporting points. You will then respond to these points by making

    connections to your chosen career field, using strong examples and credible sources to argue the

    validity of a 4-year degree in your specific field. Briefly describe the counterarguments, and

    conclude by reminding the audience of your main points. If you are undecided, then choose a

    field that you’re considering entering. Doing so will help you choose and/or learn more about

    your major.

    In-text citations and a Works Cited page are required; in addition to Owen and Sawhill’s essay,

    credible sources (2-4) from Opposing Viewpoints are necessary to strengthen your responses. An

    outline will be provided in class so you can focus on creating strong arguments and smoothly

    integrating outside sources. Prof. W. will show you how to access Opposing Viewpoints as well

    as how to cite your sources, so be certain to refer to the course materials under “Content.” Use

    the provided Brainstorming and Development Sheet to organize your essay; it follows a specific

    outline so you can focus on developing your content and integrating sources rather than

    wondering where information should be placed.

    Audience: The authors of the article. You are arguing that your 4-year degree is essential despite

    the authors’ points. What types of arguments can you make to help them see your side?

  • Keep in mind the following while writing your essay:
  • • Refrain from writing vague statements—stay focused and on point.

    • Be specific and detailed when writing about the author’s claims when summarizing and

    • Examine the author’s rhetorical strategies; how can you use those strategies to prove your

    • Remember, you are acting as a representative of your major/career field; thus, first person
    pronouns should be used sparingly.

  • Purpose of the assignment:
  • • To practice integrating research to strengthen analytical thinking and confident writing

    • To practice writing college-level thesis statements, topic sentences, and transitions

    • To learn how to critically read and examine a text

    • To help you distinguish between restating someone else’s idea and introducing your own

  • I will grade your essays based on the following:
  • • Solid thesis statement

    • Organization

    • Clarity and cohesion

    • Ability to integrate 2-4 quality sources
    from Opposing Viewpoints

    • Grammar and punctuation

    • Ability to convey personal opinion in a
    thought-provoking, professional manner

    • Ability to summarize and respond to the
    author’s main points

    • Title of essay

    • Meeting length requirement (850-1000

    • Format (MLA, 8th ed.)

  • Helpful Hints:
  • -Do not spend too much time summarizing the reading. Use the materials Prof. W. has provided

    to guide you through writing this essay.

    -The D2L Discussion Board (DB prompts) will also help you craft material for all of your

    assignments; if you miss a DB, then you will miss out on essential brainstorming for your projects.

    -Read Owen and Sawhill’s piece numerous times, and be an engaged reader (take notes, annotate,

    talk to the text, etc.).

    -Start early! Remember that writing is a process. Successful papers take time, effort, and multiple


    -To avoid errors, proofread a printed copy of the essay before turning in the final draft.

    -Ask questions, and don’t forget to visit the UWC.

    Due Dates (Failure to be prepared for class may result in an unexcused absence for the


    *See course calendar for official due dates; make certain you are aware of readings, homework,

    and deadlines. The assignments this semester require more self-discipline and intensive strategies

    than what you experienced in English 1010.

    Citation for E1’s required reading:

    This piece of writing is called a brief (Prof. W. will explain this in the course videos), and most

    likely it’s not a text you will often come across. Because you might not be familiar with a brief,

    the citation is provided here for you (Yep, you may copy and paste it onto your Works Cited

    page). We will work on citation strategies throughout the semester, and Prof. W. will show you

    effective tricks and shortcuts.

    Owen, Stephanie, and Isabel Sawhill. Should Everyone Go to College? Center on Children and

    Families at Brookings, May 2013.

    content/uploads/2016/06/08-should-everyone-go-to-college-owen-sawhill . #50.

      Essay 1: Summary and Response

    • Audience: The authors of the article. You are arguing that your 4-year degree is essential despite the authors’ points. What types of arguments can you make to help them see your side?
    • Keep in mind the following while writing your essay:
      Purpose of the assignment:
      I will grade your essays based on the following:
      Helpful Hints:

    • Due Dates (Failure to be prepared for class may result in an unexcused absence for the period.):

    May 2013 CCF Brief # 50

    | 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036 | 202.797.6000 | fax 202.697.6004 | brookings edu

    Center on
    Children and Families

    Should Everyone Go To College?

  • Stephanie Owen and Isabel Sawhill
  • 1

    For the past few decades, it has been widely argued that a college degree is a prerequisite to
    entering the middle class in the United States. Study after study reminds us that higher
    education is one of the best investments we can make, and President Obama has called it “an
    economic imperative.” We all know that, on average, college graduates make significantly more
    money over their lifetimes than those with only a high school education. What gets less
    attention is the fact that not all college degrees or college graduates are equal. There is
    enormous variation in the so-called return to education depending on factors such as
    institution attended, field of study, whether a student graduates, and post-graduation
    occupation. While the average return to obtaining a college degree is clearly positive, we
    emphasize that it is not universally so. For certain schools, majors, occupations, and individuals,
    college may not be a smart investment. By telling all young people that they should go to
    college no matter what, we are actually doing some of them a disservice.

    One way to estimate the value of education is to look at the increase in earnings associated
    with an additional year of schooling. However, correlation is not causation, and getting at the
    true causal effect of education on earnings is not so easy. The main problem is one of selection:
    if the smartest, most motivated people are both more likely to go to college and more likely to
    be financially successful, then the observed difference in earnings by years of education
    doesn’t measure the true effect of college.

    Researchers have attempted to get around this problem of causality by employing a number of
    clever techniques, including, for example, comparing identical twins with different levels of
    education. The best studies suggest that the return to an additional year of school is around 10
    percent. If we apply this 10 percent rate to the median earnings of about $30,000 for a 25- to
    34-year-old high school graduate working full time in 2010, this implies that a year of college
    increases earnings by $3,000, and four years increases them by $12,000. Notice that this
    amount is less than the raw differences in earnings between high school graduates and
    bachelor’s degree holders of $15,000, but it is in the same ballpark. Similarly, the raw difference
    between high school graduates and associate’s degree holders is about $7,000, but a return of
    10% would predict the causal effect of those additional two years to be $6,000.

    There are other factors to consider. The cost of college matters as well: the more someone has
    to pay to attend, the lower the net benefit of attending. Furthermore, we have to factor in the
    opportunity cost of college, measured as the foregone earnings a student gives up when he or
    she leaves or delays entering the workforce in order to attend school. Using average earnings
    for 18- and 19-year-olds and 20- and 21-year-olds with high school degrees (including those
    working part-time or not at all), Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of Brookings’ Hamilton
    Project calculate an opportunity cost of $54,000 for a four-year degree.

    In this brief, we take a rather narrow view of the value of a college degree, focusing on the
    earnings premium. However, there are many non-monetary benefits of schooling which are
    harder to measure but no less important. Research suggests that additional education improves
    overall wellbeing by affecting things like job satisfaction, health, marriage, parenting, trust, and
    social interaction. Additionally, there are social benefits to education, such as reduced crime
    rates and higher political participation. We also do not want to dismiss personal preferences,
    and we acknowledge that many people derive value from their careers in ways that have
    nothing to do with money. While beyond the scope of this piece, we do want to point out that
    these noneconomic factors can change the cost-benefit calculus.

    As noted above, the gap in annual earnings between young high school graduates and
    bachelor’s degree holders working full time is $15,000. What’s more, the earnings premium
    associated with a college degree grows over a lifetime. Hamilton Project research shows that


    The Rate of Return on Education


    23- to 25-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees make $12,000 more than high school graduates but
    by age 50, the gap has grown to $46,500 (Figure 1). When we look at lifetime earnings—the sum
    of earnings over a career—the total premium is $570,000 for a bachelor’s degree and $170,000
    for an associate’s degree. Compared to the average up-front cost of four years of college
    (tuition plus opportunity cost) of $102,000, the Hamilton Project is not alone in arguing that
    investing in college provides “a tremendous return.”

    Figure 1
    Earnings Trajectories by Educational Attainment

    It is always possible to quibble over specific calculations, but it is hard to deny that, on average,
    the benefits of a college degree far outweigh the costs. The key phrase here is “on average.”
    The purpose of this brief is to highlight the reasons why, for a given individual, the benefits may
    not outweigh the costs. We emphasize that a 17- or 18-year-old deciding whether and where to
    go to college should carefully consider his or her own likely path of education and career before
    committing a considerable amount of time and money to that degree. With tuitions rising faster
    than family incomes, the typical college student is now more dependent than in the past on
    loans, creating serious risks for the individual student and perhaps for the system as a whole,
    should widespread defaults occur in the future. Federal student loans now total close to $1
    trillion, larger than credit card debt or auto loans and second only to mortgage debt on
    household balance sheets.

    It is easy to imagine hundreds of dimensions on which college degrees and their payoffs could
    differ. Ideally, we’d like to be able to look into a crystal ball and know which individual school
    will give the highest net benefit for a given student with her unique strengths, weaknesses, and
    interests. Of course, we are not able to do this. What we can do is lay out several key
    dimensions that seem to significantly affect the return to a college degree. These include
    school type, school selectivity level, school cost and financial aid, college major, later
    occupation, and perhaps most importantly, the probability of completing a degree.












    22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60 62 6










    Bachelor’s Degree

    High School Diploma

    Source: Greenstone and Looney (2011).
    Note: Sam ple includes all civilian U.S. citizens, excluding those in school. Annual earnings are averaged over the
    entire sam ple, including those without work. Source: March CPS 2007-2010.

    Variation in the Return to Education


    Variation by school selectivity

    Mark Schneider of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the American Institutes for
    Research (AIR) used longitudinal data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond survey to calculate
    lifetime earnings for bachelor’s earners by type of institution attended, then compared them to
    the lifetime earnings of high school graduates. The difference (after accounting for tuition
    costs and discounting to a present value) is the value of a bachelor’s degree. For every type of
    school (categorized by whether the school was a public institution or a nonprofit private
    institution and by its selectivity) this value is positive, but it varies widely. People who attended
    the most selective private schools have a lifetime earnings premium of over $620,000 (in 2012
    dollars). For those who attended a minimally selective or open admission private school, the
    premium is only a third of that. Schneider performed a similar exercise with campus-level data
    on college graduates (compiled by the online salary information company PayScale), calculating
    the return on investment (ROI) of a bachelor’s degree (Figure 2). These calculations suggest
    that public schools tend to have higher ROIs than private schools, and more selective schools
    offer higher returns than less selective ones. Even within a school type and selectivity category,
    the variation is striking. For example, the average ROI for a competitive public school in 2010 is
    9 percent, but the highest rate within this category is 12 percent while the lowest is 6 percent.

    Figure 2
    Return on Investment of a Bachelor’s Degree by Institution Type

    Another important element in estimating the ROI on a college education is financial aid, which
    can change the expected return dramatically. For example, Vassar College is one of the most
    expensive schools on the 2012 list and has a relatively low annual ROI of 6%. But when you
    factor in its generous aid packages (nearly 60% of students receive aid, and the average
    amount is over $30,000), Vassar’s annual ROI increases 50%, to a return of 9% (data available

    One of the most important takeaways from the PayScale data is that not every bachelor’s
    degree is a smart investment. After attempting to account for in-state vs. out-of-state tuition,
    financial aid, graduation rates, years taken to graduate, wage inflation, and selection, nearly
    two hundred schools on the 2012 list have negative ROIs. Students may want to think twice
    about attending the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia or Jackson State University









    Private, not-f or-prof it


    Source: Schneider (2010).
    Note: Data uses PayScale return on investment data and Barron’s index of school selectivity.�


    in Mississippi. The problem is compounded if the students most likely to attend these less
    selective schools come from disadvantaged families.

    Variation by field of study and career

    Even within a school, the choices a student makes about his or her field of study and later
    career can have a large impact on what he or she gets out of her degree. It is no coincidence
    that the three schools with the highest 30-year ROIs on the 2012 PayScale list—Harvey Mudd,
    Caltech, and MIT—specialize in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math.
    Recent analysis by the Census Bureau also shows that the lifetime earnings of workers with
    bachelor’s degrees vary widely by college major and occupation. The highest paid major is
    engineering, followed by computers and math. The lowest paid major, with barely half the
    lifetime earnings of engineering majors, is education, followed by the arts and psychology
    (Figure 3). The highest-earning occupation category is architecture and engineering, with
    computers, math, and management in second place. The lowest-earning occupation for college
    graduates is service (Figure 4). According to Census’s calculations, the lifetime earnings of an
    education or arts major working in the service sector are actually lower than the average
    lifetime earnings of a high school graduate.

    Figure 3
    Work-Life Earnings of Bachelor’s Degree Holders by College Major

    When we dig even deeper, we see that just as not all college degrees are equal, neither are all
    high school diplomas. Anthony Carnevale and his colleagues at the Georgetown Center on
    Education and the Workforce use similar methodology to the Census calculations but
    disaggregate even further, estimating median lifetime earnings for all education levels by
    occupation. They find that 14 percent of people with a high school diploma make at least as
    much as those with a bachelor’s degree, and 17 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree
    make more than those with a professional degree. The authors argue that much of this finding
    is explained by occupation. In every occupation category, more educated workers earn more.



















    Source: Julian (2012).
    Note: Synthetic work-life earnings estim ates are calculated by finding m edian earnings for each 5-year age
    group between 25 and 64 (25-29, 30-34, etc.). Earnings for each group is m ultiplied by 5 to get total
    earnings for that period, then aggregated to get total lifetim e earnings. This is done for high school
    graduates, bachelor’s degree holders, and bachelor’s degree holders by m ajor.


    But, for example, someone working in a STEM job with only a high school diploma can expect to
    make more over a lifetime than someone with a bachelor’s degree working in education,
    community service and arts, sales and office work, health support, blue collar jobs, or personal

    Figure 4
    Work-Life Earnings of Bachelor’s Degree Holders by Occupation

    The numbers above are for full-time workers in a given field. In fact, choice of major can also
    affect whether a college graduate can find a job at all. Another recent report from the
    Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce breaks down unemployment rates by
    major for both recent (age 22-26) and experienced (age 30-54) college graduates in 2009-
    2010. People who majored in education or health have very low unemployment—even though
    education is one of the lowest-paying majors. Architecture graduates have particularly high
    unemployment, which may simply reflect the decline of the construction industry during the
    Great Recession. Arts majors don’t fare too well, either. The expected earnings (median full-
    time earnings times the probability of being employed) of a young college graduate with a
    theater degree are about $6,000 more than the expected earnings of a young high school
    graduate. For a young person with a mechanical engineering degree, the expected earnings of
    the college graduate is a staggering $35,000 more than that of a typical high school graduate.

    Variation in graduation rates

    Comparisons of the return to college by highest degree attained include only people who
    actually complete college. Students who fail to obtain a degree incur some or all of the costs of
    a bachelor’s degree without the ultimate payoff. This has major implications for inequalities of
    income and wealth, as the students least likely to graduate—lower-income students—are also the
    most likely to take on debt to finance their education.











    Source: Julian (2012).
    Note: Synthetic work-life earnings estim ates are calculated by finding m edian earnings for each 5-year age
    group between 25 and 64 (25-29, 30-34, etc.). Earnings for each group is m ultiplied by 5 to get total
    earnings for that period, then aggregated to get total lifetim e earnings. This is done for high school
    graduates, bachelor’s degree holders, and bachelor’s degree holders by occupation.


    Fewer than 60 percent of students who enter four-year schools finish within six years, and for
    low-income students it’s even worse. Again, the variation in this measure is huge. Just within
    Washington, D.C., for example, six-year graduation rates range from a near-universal 93
    percent at Georgetown University to a dismal 19 percent at the University of D.C. Of course,
    these are very different institutions, and we might expect high-achieving students at an elite
    school like Georgetown to have higher completion rates than at a less competitive school like
    UDC. In fact, Frederick Hess and his colleagues at AEI have documented that the relationship
    between selectivity and completion is positive, echoing other work that suggests that students
    are more likely to succeed in and graduate from college when they attend more selective
    schools (Figure 5). At the most selective schools, 88 percent of students graduate within six
    years; at non-competitive schools, only 35 percent do. Furthermore, the range of completion
    rates is negatively correlated with school ranking, meaning the least selective schools have the
    widest range. For example, one non-competitive school, Arkansas Baptist College, graduates
    100 percent of its students, while only 8 percent of students at Southern University at New
    Orleans finish. Not every student can get into Harvard, where the likelihood of graduating is 97
    percent, but students can choose to attend a school with a better track record within their
    ability level.

    Unfortunately, recent evidence by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of
    Harvard shows that most high-achieving low-income students never even apply to the selective
    schools that they are qualified to attend—and at which they would be eligible for generous
    financial aid. There is clearly room for policies that do a better job of matching students to

    Figure 5

    Average Six-Year Graduation Rates by School Selectivity

    All of this suggests that it is a mistake to unilaterally tell young Americans that going to
    college—any college—is the best decision they can make. If they choose wisely and attend a
    school with generous financial aid and high expected earnings, and if they don’t just enroll but










    Policy Implications

    Source: Hess et al (2009).


    graduate, they can greatly improve their lifetime prospects. The information needed to make a
    wise decision, however, can be difficult to find and hard to interpret.

    One solution is simply to make the type of information discussed above more readily available.
    A study by Andrew Kelly and Mark Schneider of AEI found that when parents were asked to
    choose between two similar public universities in their state, giving them information on the
    schools’ graduation rates caused them to prefer the higher-performing school.

    The PayScale college rankings are a step in the right direction, giving potential students and
    their parents information with which to make better decisions. Similarly, the Obama
    Administration’s new College Scorecard is being developed to increase transparency in the
    college application process. As it operates now, a prospective student can type in a college’s
    name and learn its average net price, graduation rate, loan default rate, and median borrowed
    amount. The Department of Education is working to add information about the earnings of a
    given school’s graduates. There is also a multi-dimensional search feature that allows users to
    find schools by location, size, and degrees and majors offered. The Student Right to Know
    Before You Go Act, sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), also
    aims to expand the data available on the costs and benefits of individual schools, as well as
    programs and majors within schools.

    The College Scorecard is an admirable effort to help students and parents navigate the
    complicated process of choosing a college. However, it may not go far enough in improving
    transparency and helping students make the best possible decisions. A recent report by the
    Center for American Progress (CAP) showed a draft of the Scorecard to a focus group of
    college-bound high school students and found, among other things, that they are frequently
    confused about the term “net price” and give little weight to six-year graduation rates because
    they expect to graduate in four. It appears that the White House has responded to some of
    these critiques, for example showing median amount borrowed and default rates rather than
    the confusing “student loan repayment.” Nevertheless, more information for students and their
    parents is needed.

    There is also room for improvement in the financial aid system, which can seem
    overwhelmingly complex for families not familiar with the process. Studies have shown that
    students frequently underestimate how much aid they are eligible for, and don’t claim the tax
    incentives that would save them money. Since 2009, the Administration has worked to simplify
    the FAFSA, the form that families must fill out to receive federal aid—but more could be done to
    guide low-income families through the process.

    In the longer run, colleges need to do more to ensure that their students graduate, particularly
    the lower-income students who struggle most with persistence and completion. Research
    suggests that grants and loans increase enrollment but that aid must be tied to performance in
    order to affect persistence. Currently, we spend over $100 billion on Pell Grants and federal
    loans, despite a complete lack of evidence that this money leads to higher graduation rates.
    Good research on programs like Georgia’s HOPE scholarships or West Virginia’s PROMISE
    scholarships suggest that attaching strings to grant aid can improve college persistence and

    Finally, we want to emphasize that the personal characteristics and skills of each individual are
    equally important. It may be that for a student with poor grades who is on the fence about
    enrolling in a four-year program, the most bang-for-the-buck will come from a vocationally-
    oriented associate’s degree or career-specific technical training. Indeed, there are many well-
    paid job openings going unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the right skills—skills
    that young potential workers could learn from training programs, apprenticeships, a vocational
    certificate, or an associate’s degree. Policymakers should encourage these alternatives at the
    high school as well as the postsecondary level, with a focus on high-demand occupations and
    high-growth sectors. There has long been resistance to vocational education in American high
    schools, for fear that “tracking” students reinforces socioeconomic (and racial) stratification
    and impedes mobility. But if the default for many lower-achieving students was a career-
    focused training path rather than a path that involves dropping out of traditional college, their
    job prospects would probably improve. For example, Career Academies are high schools
    organized around an occupational or industry focus, and have partnerships with local�


    employers and colleges. They have been shown by gold standard research to increase men’s
    wages, hours worked, and employment stability after high school, particularly for those at high
    risk of dropping out.

    In this brief, we have corralled existing research to make the point that while on average the
    return to college is highly positive, there is a considerable spread in the value of going to
    college. A bachelor’s degree is not a smart investment for every student in every circumstance.
    We have outlined three important steps policymakers can take to make sure every person does
    make a smart investment in their choice of postsecondary education. First, we must provide
    more information in a comprehensible manner. Second, the federal government should lead the
    way on performance-based scholarships to incentivize college attendance and persistence.
    Finally, there should be more good alternatives to a traditional academic path, including career
    and technical education and apprenticeships.

    Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Jeff Strohl, “Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment,
    and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal,” (Washington, D.C.: The Georgetown
    University Center on Education and the Workforce, January 2012).

    Anthony P. Carnevale, Stephen J. Rose, and Ban Cheah, “The College Payoff: Education,
    Occupations, Lifetime Earnings,” (Washington, D.C.: The Georgetown University Center on
    Education and the Workforce, August 2011).

    Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney, “Where is the Best Place to Invest $102,000 – In Stocks,
    Bonds, or a College Degree?” (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, June 2011).

    Frederick M. Hess, Mark Schneider, Kevin Carey, and Andrew P. Kelly, “Diplomas and Dropouts:
    Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t),” (Washington, D.C.:
    American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, June 2009).

    Harry J. Holzer and Robert I. Lerman, “The Future of Middle-Skill Jobs,” (Washington, D.C.: The
    Brookings Institution, February 2009).

    Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery, “The Missing ‘One-Offs’: The Hidden Supply of High-
    Achieving, Low Income Students,” (Cambridge, MA, Working Paper, National Bureau of
    Economic Research, 2012).

    Tiffany Julian, “Work-Life Earnings by Field of Degree and Occupation for People With a
    Bachelor’s Degree: 2011,” (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, October 2012).

    Andrew P. Kelly and Mark Schneider, “Filling In the Blanks: How Information Can Affect Choice
    in Higher Education,” (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy
    Research, January 2011).

    Julie Margetta Morgan and Gadi Dechter, “Improving the College Scorecard: Using Student
    Feedback to Create an Effective Disclosure,” (Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress,
    November 2012).

    Mark Schneider, “How Much Is That Bachelor’s Degree Really Worth? The Million Dollar
    Misunderstanding,” (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research,
    May 2009).

    Mark Schneider, “Is College Worth the Investment?” Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise
    Institute for Public Policy Research, October 2010).


    Additional Reading


    Stephanie Owen is a senior research assistant in the Center on Children and Families at the
    Brookings Institution.

    Isabel Sawhill is a senior fellow in Economic Studies and co-director of the Center on Children
    and Families at the Brookings Institution.

    The views expressed in this policy brief are those of the authors and should not be attributed to
    the staff, officers, or trustees of The Brookings Institution.

    To learn more about the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings
    Institution, please visit our website,


      Stephanie Owen and Isabel Sawhill

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