Campus Debit Cards May Carry Hidden Fees

According to a report by the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)  many banks are taking advantage of students who need campus debit cards to access their financial aid.  They may appear to be an easy low-cost solution to handling finances while in school, but many of these cards carry excessive hidden fees.

“Campus debit cards are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Rich Williams, one of the co-authors of the USPIRG report, said in a recent press release,  “Students think they can access their dollars freely, but instead their aid is being eaten up in fees.”

Although campus debit cards are not required to access a student’s financial aid, many banks market their product directly on colleges’ financial aid websites, often creating the perception of being the only option.

Debit cards have received less federal oversight. And, according to a study, by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, an advocacy organization, nearly 900 colleges and universities have card relationships with banks or other financial institutions, some of which manage student aid disbursements by turning student IDs into debit cards. Some schools save money by outsourcing administrative costs. Others receive payments from the banks.

Read the entire article by Jeff Ousley at Veteransunited.com

 

 

Debt Collectors Profiting From Student Loan Crisis

John Hechinger, writer for Bloomberg Businessweek reported on March 26, 2012:

With $67 billion of student loans in default, the Education Department is turning to an army of private debt-collection companies to put the squeeze on borrowers. Working on commissions that totaled about $1 billion last year, these government contractors face growing complaints that they are violating federal laws by insisting on stiff payments, even when borrowers’ incomes make them eligible for leniency.

Education Department contracts — featuring commissions of as much as 20 percent of recoveries — encourage collectors to insist on high payments. Former debt collectors said they worked in a “boiler-room” environment, where they could earn bonuses of thousands of dollars a month, restaurant gift cards and even trips to foreign resorts if they collected enough from borrowers.

The article goes on to describe the specific federal laws that debt collectors must abide by.

Federal-aid law requires collectors to offer “reasonable and affordable” payments, so debtors can “rehabilitate” their loans, repairing their credit and making good on what they owe taxpayers.

The law mandates no minimum payment for a borrower to enter a rehabilitation program, and collection companies may take borrowers’ finances into account. The fair debt act forbids collectors from making “any false, deceptive or misleading representation.”

Insisting that cash-strapped borrowers make minimum payments and then failing to disclose lower-cost options violates both federal-aid and fair debt-collection laws, according to Deanne Loonin, an attorney with the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center.

Read the entire story.

If you are struggling with your student loan debt, check out the National Consumer Law Center’s  Student Loan Borrower Assistance website.

Some student loan issues may need legal intervention.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to an attorney who handles student loan and/or debt collection issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request and online referral.

Report Bullying and Harassment of LGBT Students

Have you or someone you know experienced LGBT based bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school?

According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), you are not alone:

Approximately 85% of high school students report being harassed in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and 64% of students report being harassed for being too masculine or too feminine. Even more troubling, only 18% of LGBT students report that their schools have policies which offer comprehensive protections.

Without  adequate statewide protections, what can members of school communities do to address these issues?

We can take action to ensure LGBT students claim their rights, create a record measuring anti-LGBT harassment, and use this record to advocate laws and policies that will address this epidemic plaguing our nation’s schools.

Empowering school communities with this information , and delivering reports to the U.S. Education Department is a critical first step in claiming our rights and getting the tools to create change and build safer schools. We need your help in this important educational and advocacy effort.

GLSEN recommends  that if you – or someone that you know – have experienced school-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination, please file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Education Department today.  For more information on how to file a complaint, visit GLSEN’s website.

For information regarding New Hampshire’s anti-bullying law and other resources check out Bully Free New Hampshire.

For discrimination matters in areas of employment, public accommodations and the sale or rental of housing or commercial property, because of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability or national origin contact the NH Commission for Human Rights.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association has a panel of competent attorneys experienced with handling discrimination matters.  Most discrimination claims are time-sensitive so call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.