Thursday, March 23, 2017

Education Department rescinds rule that stopped aggressive student debt collectors

The Department of Education has rolled back a 2015 rule that prevented student-debt collection of large fees from defaulted borrowers who quickly begin paying again.

In a statement Thursday, the department said the Obama administration rule would have benefited from public comment before it was put in place. It applied to Federal Family Education Loans and prevented guaranty agencies that collect on federally-backed student loans from borrowers who have started repaying or worked out a payment plan.

Agencies want the ability to charge late fees to students who have defaulted, but the Obama administration argued they shouldn’t be able to do so if the student has committed to start paying again. United Student Aid Funds, a guaranty agency, spent $90,000 in the first half of 2016 lobbying against the rule, claiming that the Higher Education Act allows the imposition of such fees. The previous year, an appeals court ruled against USA Funds when it came to collection of the fees.

At issue was a Minnesota woman who was charged $4,547 in fees for defaulting on $18,000 in student loans. She argued that because she had agreed to resume paying off her debt, USA Funds shouldn’t be allowed its 16 percent collection fee. Earlier this year, the company agreed to pay $23 million to settle a class action lawsuit on its practices, although it did not admit to wrongdoing.

After nine months of nonpayment, student loans default. The number of people defaulting hit an all-time high in 2016, with 8 million people abandoning repayment on loans exceeding $137 billion. More than 1 million people defaulted for the first time last year.

The Department of Education said the rule would not be reinstated without a period of public comments. In the meantime, guaranty agencies are free to resume collecting the fees.

FFEL are no longer used because the Education Department now loans directly to students, so anyone who has taken out federal student loans since 2010 is not impacted by the rule change.


What it's like to be a conservative student on campus
For Madeline May, it’s not worth it to speak out about her political beliefs on campus. May, a senior telecommunications major, feels she will automatically be stereotyped and dismissed because of her conservative leanings.

“I don’t try to make my voice heard, it’s not worth it,” May said. “It’s the minority opinion on campus, so we don’t publicize our opinion because it’s too divisive.”

Of course, that’s not true for every Republican. But that doesn't mean it's easy for them to speak out.

At most colleges, a liberal view is the norm, Matthew Woessner, a political science professor at Penn State University, told the Daily News. Conservative beliefs are considered a deviation.

This makes it harder for Republican students to speak out and have their voice heard on campus for fear of being labeled as racist or intolerant, Woessner said.

May experienced this during her first semester of college. In her COMM 210 class, she said her clearly liberal professor would argue with her consistently on her beliefs, and as a result, her grades suffered. May said it's all because she said she was a Republican.

“I just learned to not talk about it in a classroom,” May said. “It’s not worth your grade being damaged, not worth people having a bad view of you.”

And historically, faculty have fallen on the left side of the political spectrum, Woessner said. A 2016 survey by Econ Journal Watch found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans 11.5-1.

This can make it harder for conservative students on campus in general, he said. When they try to speak out, they don’t have professors sympathetic to their point of view. Having a mentor to validate their beliefs can make a big difference, Woessner said.

Republicans tend to have the burden of proof, and are the ones who have to show other students that they are not intolerant just because of their political leanings.

“The trick is to have conservative views but be intellectually deep enough to communicate with someone with different beliefs and not come across as unkind and aggressive,” he said. “Be extremely patient when the other side thinks the worst of you and make a point calmly and intellectually.”

In other words, they have to demonstrate to any non-Republican students that they don’t fit in with the negative stereotype.

But on campuses that may not be overly receptive to their beliefs, that’s easier said than done.

At both New York University and University of California Berkeley, conservative speakers coming to campus sparked protests. University officials canceled former senior editor for Breitbart News Milo Yiannopoulos' speech at Cal Berkeley. Additionally, Gavin McInnes, a conservative actor, comedian and co-founder of Vice Media, cut his presentation short at NYU.

And at Ball State, Donald Trump’s election brought liberal rallies and protests to campus. These reactions remained peaceful, and none got out of hand. It was just a group of students standing up for what they believe in.

But Mike Lee, a sophomore criminal justice major, suggested that if Republican students were to do the same thing on campus, he would fear for his safety. “If I grouped all of us together and plopped us out on campus, we’d be threatened and called racists or bigots,” Lee said.

Lee said when he talks politics with people, they automatically assume he’s wrong. When he tells people he voted for Donald Trump, some call him a racist.  “College is supposed to be about expanding your knowledge,” Lee said. “Why are they scared of my point of view?”


IRS Gives "After School Satan Club" Tax-Exempt Status in 10 Days

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes conservative groups wait years for tax-exempt status an "After School Satan Club" launched to hinder Christian-based counterparts got its nonprofit ranking in just ten days, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The classification is offered to charitable, religious and educational organizations that operate as nonprofits. Under the Obama administration IRS political appointees illegally targeted conservative groups, either making them wait up to seven years for tax-exempt status or denying their application altogether. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and has obtained piles of government records showing how the IRS illegally colluded with another federal agency to single out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.

In the meantime, leftist groups like the Satan club got fast tracked. The principle goal of establishing the Satan clubs in public schools throughout Washington State appears to be to counter existing enterprises operated by a Christian-based group. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch include the process of establishing an after-school Satan club at Point Defiance Elementary in Tacoma. The entity behind the club is a nonprofit called Reason Alliance, which is based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and operates in Washington State as the Satanic Temple of Seattle. Its director, Lilith X. Starr, established the Point Defiance Elementary Satanic club, the records show. In its application the club states that its purpose is "character development" and that adult instructors are vetted by the Satanic Temple's "Executive Ministry." Children ages 5-12 will develop basic critical reasoning, character qualities, problem solving and creative expression, according to the Satanic Temple filings included in the documents. The club logo is a pencil with devil's horns. Records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Treasury Department show that the Satanic cult applied for tax-exempt status on October 21, 2014 and received it on October 31, 2014.

The parent permission forms ask for the name of the child's church and pastor, the records show. They also reveal that Starr, the Seattle Satanic Temple director, told Tacoma School District Superintendent Carla Santorno that the clubs are led by "caring Satanists" and each child receives a membership card. Starr also tells the superintendent that the effort to establish after-school Satan clubs in Tacoma schools is in direct response to the Christian-based Good News Clubs operating in campuses throughout the district. This ignited concern among some Tacoma district officials, the records show. In one electronic mail exchange, Tacoma Schools official Andrea O-Brien-Henley sends colleague Paul Koch a citation from the Satanic Temple's website noting that the temple only wants to establish after-school Satan clubs in school districts with Christian Good News Clubs. O'Brien-Henley notes that it's odd that the Satanic Temple only targets schools that have Good News Clubs, writing to hear colleague: "If they really want to get their message out to kids it seems kind of odd that they would only be targeting schools with a Good News Club; one would think that they would want to start clubs anywhere there is an *interest* in them."

Here's the citation that O'Brien-Henley forwarded to fellow school district official Koch from the Satanic Temple's website: "How do I start an After School Satan Club in my school district? If there isn't a chapter of The Satanic Temple near you, but you're interested in starting and After School Satan Club in your school district, please contact The Satanic Temple. Please keep in mind that the Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented."

In another exchange, the Executive Director of Communications for the Tacoma School District, Dan Voelpel, expresses concern to colleagues that people will confuse the school district's message of tolerance toward the Satan Club with tolerance toward alleged "hate-related activities around the country in the wake of the presidential election." In the records the principal of Point Defiance Elementary reveals that, two weeks after the Satan club was launched, no one had signed up for it. The fact remains however, that the IRS fast-tracked a deranged Satanic cult to operate as a nonprofit in taxpayer-funded elementary schools.


No comments: