Want To Buy A Home But Can’t Because of Student Debt?

Chicago suburbs, by flikr user Scorpions and Centaurs

American student loan debt totals nearly one trillion dollars. These loans break down to about $23,300 owed by each borrower. Changing Gears has been reporting on the effects of that debt and what it takes to pay it off.

We want to know how student debt affects big purchasing decisions. Are you ready to buy a house? And if so, can you get a mortgage?

Tell us how student debt affects your housing plans.

Student Debt: When Fixing Cars Breaks The Bank


Victor Gregory teaches high schoolers about cars. He worries when they take on debt after graduation.

Americans owe close to a trillion dollars in student loan debt.  Changing Gears has been reporting on that debt, a lot of which comes from attending private, for-profit schools.  They’re the fastest growing part of higher education, popular for non-degree technical training.  Call them career colleges, technical schools or trade schools … just don’t call them cheap.

Fact: For-profit schools cost more than community colleges.  Fact: For-profit students borrow more, then default more than students from public colleges.  Fact:  All this explains why I ended up at the strip club in Detroit.

So I’m at Cobra’s the Grind, eyes-avoiding-buttocks, walking up dimly lit stairs to meet the manager. Steve is a big guy; he started here as a bouncer. He lays his gun down next to us as we talk.  He had different life plans after graduating high school in 2006. Continue reading “Student Debt: When Fixing Cars Breaks The Bank”

The Speech Behind Him, Obama Heads To The Midwest

You might have heard something about a speech last night. From his claim that GM is back on top (rated “half-true” by PolitiFact.com), to his mention of a battery plant worker from Holland, Mich. (which, by the way, we’ve covered before), the Midwest got plenty of attention from the President during his State of the Union address.

And he’s not done with us. This afternoon, the President is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to talk manufacturing jobs. He’ll also be traveling to Arizona and Nevada. This Friday, the President returns to the Midwest for a stop in Ann Arbor, Mich. This time, he’ll be talking about higher education.

During the State of the Union speech, President Obama said higher education shouldn’t be a luxury, and he’s committed to funding it. That was the carrot for colleges and universities. This was the stick:

“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,”

The idea is similar to a law passed in Michigan last year for the state’s public universities. They raised tuition anyway.

Teaching After a Year in the Crossfire

David Dolsen (l), Jason Gumenick (center) and Lila Howard (r) sit in Saline High School.


It’s been a tough few years for teachers. Classes are bigger. Pay is down. Benefits cost more. And, in the last year, teachers across the Midwest have been at the center of collective bargaining fights in Wisconsin and Ohio. With all that, we wanted to know what it’s like to be a teacher today. So, three generations assembled in Lila Howard’s classroom at Saline High School near Ann Arbor. Howard is about to retire after years teaching AP Psychology. Jason Gumenick teaches government and is in the middle of his career. Then, there’s David Dolsen, a college freshman, who had both of the others as teachers.

Continue reading “Teaching After a Year in the Crossfire”

Coming At 4:30 EST/3:30 Central: A Live Web Chat With Midwest Teachers

You may have heard the promos on air: This afternoon, Changing Gears will host a live web chat with teachers across the Midwest to talk about the many changes in the past year, and what the future may bring. The web chat accompanies a piece by Dan Bobkoff that’s airing across the Changing Gears partner stations today. It’s the latest in our STATES series. If you’re a teacher, or you’re interested in becoming one, join us here at 4:30 EST/3:30 Central.

Midwest Memo: MLK Day Demonstrations Look At Financial Issues, End Of An Era In Chicago

Here are some stories making news across the Midwest today:

MLK Day: Two of the biggest names in the modern civil rights movement are celebrating MLK day here in the Midwest. The Chicago Sun-Times reports the Rev. Jesse Jackson planned to spend last night sleeping on the floor of a Chicago homeless shelter and the Associated Press reports that Rev. Al Sharpton will be in Michigan protesting outside the house of Gov. Rick Snyder. Sharpton will be protesting the state’s emergency manager law. Activists argue the law has disproportionately affected areas with a high African-American population. Gov. Snyder says the law is needed to prevent bankruptcy in cash-strapped communities. And here’s more information on that emergency manager law, from partner station Michigan Radio.

Ohio Schools: Partner station WCPN Ideastream has an interesting story out this morning that looks at the school districts in Ohio with both the highest and lowest per-pupil spending numbers. Spoiler alert: the district with the lowest per-pupil spending is actually in a well-to-do suburb.

More Rail? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported over the weekend that officials at Amtrak are looking to expand rail service between Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The line runs through Wisconsin. In August, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejected an $810 million plan to expand the line between Madison and Milwaukee. Now, Wisconsin and Minnesota may split the $60,000 price tag for a feasibility study to expand rail across the region.

Speaking of Wisconsin, The TV website Hulu announced it’s launching an original comedy show focused on Wisconsin politics.

And, finally, the Chicago Tribune reports on the end of an era. Playboy, which started in Chicago in 1953, says it will close its Chicago office on April 30th. Employees will be asked to move to LA.

Midwest Money Question: Is It A Good Idea To Go Back to School?

Last month, Changing Gears teamed with authors and CNN anchors Ali Velshi and Christine Romans to collect your questions on the personal finance issues that you’re facing because of the recession.

Today, we’re bringing you the next in our series of Midwest Money answers from Ali and Christine, based on their new book, How To Speak Money: The Language and Knowledge You Need Now. (Each person whose question is used will receive a copy of the book.)

Today’s question comes from Regina Baldwin of Bowling Green, Ohio.

I am returning to school, while continuing to work full-time, to try to expand on my experience and enhance my ability to get a better job with a degree.  I’m concerned that I am on the correct path as I am over 40.  I am keeping my student loan debt at a minimum by attending a community college.  I am worried that I will not get a better paying job by the time I finish.  (If it makes a difference, I am pursing a BS in Business Administration-Computer Information Sciences with a focus on Accounting, and I currently work in healthcare.)

Ali and Christine answer,

If we were writing another book, we’d highlight you as an example of someone with exactly the right attitude and initiative in a new, more difficult jobs market. You are making exactly the right investment in yourself with this education and retraining, and the student debt you are taking on is what we consider “good debt.” Continue reading “Midwest Money Question: Is It A Good Idea To Go Back to School?”

Last Chance for Midwest Money Advice: Send Your Questions for Ali Velshi & Christine Romans

Retirement, debt, going back to school, and mortgages are all issues that are magnified by the recession. Where can you get Midwest Money advice?

Here. But you’d better hurry up. Through the end of today, CNN anchors and authors Ali Velshi and Christine Romans are taking Midwest Money questions from the Changing Gears audience.

We’ll be posting their answers next week. If Ali and Christine select your question, you’ll win a copy of their new book, “How To Speak Money.”

Send your questions by the end of today for Ali and Christine, then come back for the answers all next week.

Midwest Memo: Chicago Mayor Unveils Microlending Plan, Auto Dealerships Renovate, Indiana Finds Extra $320 Million

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chicago unveils microlending program. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a plan Tuesday to create a new organization that helps the city’s small businesses. The Chicago Microlending Institute would train potential lenders on advising and giving loans to people starting small businesses, and would be funded by a $1 million loan pool funded by the city. Our partner station WBEZ says the proposed institute would be run by ACCION Chicago, an area small business lender. Emanuel said small businesses sometimes struggle to get loans from traditional institutions. “That’s the hardest first step,” Emanuel tells WBEZ. “That’s the hardest loan. You don’t have a proven model. You don’t have a proven record.”

2. Auto dealerships undergo facelifts. Three auto dealerships in the Milwaukee area are joining a growing national trend of expanding or renovating their facilities. Jim Tolkan, president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Mega Milwaukee, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that auto manufacturers are requiring dealerships to remodel in order to meet “a look that is easily recognizable regardless of where you are in the country.” Others are unconvinced that dealers will recoup expensive outlays. “That is the unknown question,” Tolkan tells the newspaper. The National Automobile Dealers Association is expected to issue a report on the subject later this year.

3. Whoops! Indiana finds leftover $320 million. Indiana officials discovered Tuesday the state had $320 million more than anticipated in its main account. Gov. Mitch Daniels said the windfall came as a result of a multi-year programming error that was only recently caught by a stunned employee. Democrats aren’t necessarily buying the explanation after watching Republicans cut public education funding by $300 million at the end of 2009, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This wasn’t just an accounting error,” Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson told the newspaper. “Children got hurt by this, families have suffered.”

Should I Borrow Money To Go Back To School? Ask Personal Finance Experts Velshi and Romans

People all over our region are deciding whether they should go back to school to learn new skills, and possibly begin a new career. But for some, there’s a big obstacle: how to pay for it. Should you use your savings — or borrow money? What’s the best place for returning students to find scholarships?

Authors Ali Velshi and Christine Romans want to help. All this week, they’re taking Midwest Money questions from our Changing Gears audience.

We’ll be posting their answers during the week of Dec. 19. If Ali and Christine pick your question, you’ll win a copy of their new book, How to Speak Money.

Click here and ask your Midwest Money questions about financing your education, or any other topic.