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Many workers in public sector retiring sooner

MADISON, Wis. — As states and cities struggle to resolve paralyzing budget shortfalls by sending workers on unpaid furloughs, freezing salaries and extracting larger contributions for health benefits and pensions, a growing number of public-sector workers are finding fewer reasons to stay.

In part, the flood of retirements reflects a broader demographic picture. Baby boomers, wherever they work, have begun reaching the traditional retirement age.

But increasingly workers fear a permanent shift away from the traditional security of government jobs, and they are making plans to get out now, before salaries and retirement benefits retreat further.

“You start to feel like, ‘What will they do next?’” said Bob McLinn, 63, a labor union president who left his job with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in March, earlier than he planned, after political leaders pressed to cut benefits and collective bargaining rights for workers.

—Monica Davey, The New York Times

Obama meets with college leaders on rising costs

In a private meeting on Monday, President Barack Obama and his secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, conferred with a dozen college presidents, mostly from public institutions, and leaders of two nonprofit education organizations, about how to curb the rising cost of college and improve degree attainment.

“It was an unusually interesting meeting, and not your usual list of college presidents,” said Jane Wellman, founder and director of the nonprofit Delta Project, in Washington. “These were all people who had led institutions that had done something about reducing spending or improving student learning.”

The Obama administration’s first salvo at college costs came last Tuesday, in a speech by Duncan in Las Vegas, in which he prodded college officials to tackle the issue with greater creativity and urgency. In recent months, the cost of higher education has become a central issue of the Occupy movement, and one that arouses bipartisan concern.

Jamie P. Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, said there seemed to be some consensus at the White House meeting that the federal government should develop policies on financial aid, its biggest tool, to spur a higher level of college completion, whether by limiting the number of semesters for which students could receive aid, requiring them to attend full-time, doling out aid bit by bit to discourage students from dropping out mid-semester, among other approaches.

—Tamar Lewin, The New York Times

Merkel and Sarkozy call for European treaty changes

PARIS — Under the pressure of financial crisis and with the euro currency at stake, the two key leaders of the eurozone said Monday that they would together push to remake the EU into a more integrated political and economic federation, with tight legal restraints on how much debt national parliaments can issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meeting here at the start of a crucial week that will end with a EU summit meeting on Thursday and Friday, called for amendments to European treaties that would include centralized oversight over budgets and automatic sanctions against countries that violate firmer rules on deficits.

The changes are among the most sweeping proposed since European countries began coordinating their economic policies in the aftermath of World War II. They would effectively subordinate economic sovereignty to collective discipline enforced by European technocrats in Brussels.

—Steven Erlanger, The New York Times