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from The Great Debate:

To keep grads solvent, take the middleman out of student loans

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators participating in a street-theater production wear signs around their neck representing their student debt during a protest against the rising national student debt in Union Square, in New York

The mounting student debt crisis could cause serious economic damage to the United States. Rising college costs and declining financial aid at both state and federal levels have significantly contributed to the problem. A good deal of responsibility, however, belongs to the financial institutions that service federal student loans, according to a new report.

Millions of students use loans underwritten by the Treasury Department and granted by the Department of Education to help make college a reality. Once the loan is approved, however, borrowers usually deal with third-party servicers -- and that’s where the trouble often begins.

In 2010, the Education Department expanded its Direct Loan Program and contracted many for-profit financial institutions to service and administer the loans. Complaints to the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid jumped significantly.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has documented a wide range of complaints, including payments not showing up in payment histories; processing errors that maximize late fees and penalties; misinformation on how payments are applied to multiple loans; misplaced paperwork that results in missed deadlines, and poor customer service that denies borrowers vital information about flexible repayment options.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s Plan: One Nation, Under Government

You’ve probably read that the series of speeches President Barack Obama started giving Wednesday are a “pivot” to the economy designed to rev things up. Well, they’re not. Obama’s speeches will be no less than the manifesto of a leftist president who plans to spend his remaining time in office installing as much of his big government “project” as possible by whatever means he can get away with.

If you got the wrong message, it’s because Washington reporters too often have a poor understanding of people who have a systematic philosophy and truly believe in what they are doing. Reporters,  focused on who is up this day and who’s down the next, have difficulty discerning the intent of someone like Obama -- who is thinking much more long term.

from Gregg Easterbrook:

So long and thanks for all the fish

Pundits, columnists and editorialists are good at saying who and what they don’t like. But what is it that they do like? All opinion-makers should be required to pen regular accounts of who and what they admire. As my two-year stint as a Reuters weekly columnist concludes – you’re not out of the woods, I may pop up occasionally – let me offer an incomplete accounting of ideas, organizations and people I view as worthy of praise:

World Vision: Many Christians conveniently ignore Jesus’s teachings about the poor. Many Americans don’t care about the billion people globally who are impoverished. World Vision, an evangelical organization, combats both problems by working to end poverty in developing nations. World Vision has done more to help the global poor than most governments, is pragmatic regarding economics, and its staffers don’t proselytize. There are few organizations one can admire without reservation: World Vision is one.

from The Great Debate:

Occupy Student Debt’s failure to launch

By Chadwick Matlin
The views expressed are his own.
Over the past three months, as Occupy Wall Street has pitched a tent in the American consciousness, doubters have had the same refrain: “But what do they want?” Mothers, uncles, family friends, family of friends, they’ve all asked me—their token 20-something—some version of this. They argued that a movement was not a movement just because it wanted to move somewhere. It also needed to know exactly how it was going to get there. Apparently, all revolutions must now come with a built-in GPS.

A month ago, Occupy Wall Street made a demand. Or, as is the way in the nested hierarchy of OWS, a subcommittee of a committee of the movement made a demand.  They want all student debt in the country forgiven. All $1 trillion of it. And if the government would be so kind, they’d appreciate if it would pay for higher education from here on out, as well.

So this is what they—or at least some of they—want. But what has happened with this proposal, this great demand that we’ve all been waiting for?

from Reuters Money:

Is college worth it?

For recent grads like Peter Turchan, college led to some soul-searching about whether the experience was worth the whopping price tag.

Turchan graduated two years ago from Fordham University and has a good job, as a sales associate at a commercial real-estate brokerage in New York City. But the crippling financial hangover has left him dispirited. “I’m over $100,000 in debt, and find it very hard making payments,” says the 25-year-old. “I often think about whether college was worth it. Before college I was making better money, and think about what I could be doing now if I had focused on saving and furthering my career.”

from Reuters Money:

Families taking bottom-line approach to college: Sallie Mae

You'd have no reason to think that Terry and Laura Truax of Chicago are in any way atypical college parents. Their son Sumner, 22, attends Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he's double majoring in saxophone performance and music education.

Sumner (pictured) is a talented jazz player in the Lux Quartet, but he didn't have to land any college scholarships to pay his way through school, nor did his parents apply for any financial aid. Terry, an attorney, and Laura, a pastor, saved for college ever since their son was a toddler, meaning the $42,000 in annual tuition has been manageable — even as two more Truax teenagers plan to start college in the next two years. Terry is a partner at Jenner & Block LLC; Laura is senior pastor at LaSalle Street Church.

from Reuters Money:

Six-figure student loans? Credit medicine for MDs

By year's end, Stephanie Bourque will owe approximately $165,000 in federal student loans. It's an especially daunting debt load for the first-year University of Colorado pediatric resident whose annual income will likely fall between $40,000 and $50,000 during her three-year residency.

"I think it’s going to take a lot of effort and a lot of budgeting," she says. "Even if my take-home salary increases, I still have a lot of educational debt to pay back."

from Reuters Money:

College students still denied federal funding: report

As more American students turn to community colleges in order to avoid steep tuition costs, students are still facing a lack of funding through the federal loans program.

Still denied: How community colleges shortchange students by not offering federal loans, a study released last week by the Institute for College Access & Success, finds that more than one million students across 31 states do not have access to student loans from the federal government, a low-interest lender.

from Reuters Money:

Paying for college when the freshman is 40

Graduates celebrate receiving a Masters in Business Administration from Columbia University during the year's commencement ceremony in New York in this May 18, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Chip East/FilesA tough job market and majors shifts in where the jobs are has been sending adults back to campus, some for the first time.

In 2008, the year the financial markets and the economy started to tumble, college enrollments for students over 25 were up 18 percent from the year 2000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A significant portion of this group is over 35.

from Reuters Money:

Cut your tax bill now with five big deductions

Sheila Bradley speaks with a client regarding 2010 taxes in Tax Tyme Connection's office, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, February 15, 2011.  REUTERS/Jill KitchenerThis defies the conventional wisdom, but some tax preparation is easy and actually makes sense -- if anything can in the murky U.S. tax code.

Some of my favorite write-offs are "above the line." That means they are relatively simple to declare and you can put them right on the first page of your 1040 tax form.

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