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News, Information, and Perspectives on Credit Repair

For-Profit College Scams: Five Ways to Protect Yourself

February 26th, 2015 by Sarah

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A college degree is a valuable asset, or is it? Unfortunately for many students, not all institutions are created equal. A recent Consumerist.com article revealed a Minnesota college’s shady business practices when a former dean reported them for using deceptive means to lure new students. If you’re hoping to earn an advanced degree, don’t fall for the same tactics. Protect yourself by keeping the following factors in mind. These strategies will help you find the right educational partner.

Factors of a reputable university include:

1. Accreditation. What makes a college education valuable? One word: accreditation. In the U.S., post-secondary institutions prove their worth by meeting specific criteria established by regional, national and specialized associations. A university must also be accredited in order for their students to receive federal financial aid and loans. So, what are the differences between these accreditations?

  • Regional: Regional accreditation is common. In fact, roughly 85 percent of universities in the United States are regionally accredited. As a result, regionally-accredited universities are widely accepted, receive government aid, provide transferable credits and are recognized by employers.
  • National: Unlimited by geographic location, nationally-accredited universities often include online and distance learning programs. Many of these institutions enjoy the same benefits as their regional counterparts, but it’s a good idea to ask about government aid and credit transfer policies.
  • Specialized: Specialty degrees often require additional accreditation, especially in healthcare and teaching fields. For example, suppose Kyra earns her bachelor’s degree in nursing from an online university. Degree in hand, she begins applying for jobs. Unfortunately, he receives a pile of rejections that state the following:

“Unfortunately, your degree program is not accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the primary accrediting body for nursing schools that offer baccalaureate and graduate degrees in the United States. Based on this information, we cannot assess your skills or hire you as a nurse.” 

The bottom line: Accreditation is a vital part of earning your degree. Without it, your qualifications are limited. Do your research to learn more about what employers expect and verify that your degree program is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

2. Transferable credits. Speaking of recognition, an important part of career success is universal acknowledgement. For example, is your Wisconsin-earned degree recognized in Michigan? What happens if you decide to transfer schools? Can you take your credits with you? Protect your finances by answering these questions before applying to a new school. If you plan to attend community college or online university, verify that your credits will transfer to an accredited four-year university if you decide to transfer later. Don’t lose precious cash by failing to learn the specifics.

3. Honest billing. As we’ve learned, reputable universities are able to offer federal aid to qualifying students. That said, pay attention to the billing practices of your university. Consider the following example:

Mara recently enrolled in a for-profit university to earn her degree in business administration. Although she was told that tuition is affordable and billed per-semester, she begins receiving additional bills for expenses that weren’t discussed, e.g., technology fees, enrollment fees, etc. She also receives monthly tuition bills with a high interest rate attached. She’s confused because her sister—a sophomore at a four-year state school—has never dealt with these issues.

As a student and a customer, you have a right to know what you’re paying for. Safeguard your bank account by researching the university and searching for known complaints. Don’t fall for a well-established scam.

4. Limited marketing. So, you’ve been accepted into the college of your choice. Upon admission, you are asked to sign several documents, one of which allows the university to share your private information with businesses. What’s wrong with this picture?

Higher education is about self-improvement, and reputable universities won’t ask you to become a part of a pyramid or marketing scheme. Beware of these tactics and frequent sales calls. Both imply shady motives.

5. No promises. “100 percent of our graduates find satisfying careers!” “Say goodbye to unemployment! Earning a degree at our university guarantees lifelong prospects!” –Nothing in life is guaranteed. If your college of choice promises definite change and unwavering happiness, it’s time to step back and examine their business practices. Don’t fall for a sales pitch. Find a university that takes their role seriously. The result will provide you with the necessary skills to succeed.

 

Newly Single? Five Things to Do Right Now

February 19th, 2015 by Staff

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It’s no secret that relationships are complicated, and unfortunately, many end on poor terms. If you’re entering 2015 as a newly single person, you’re probably wondering about the financial implications. Use the tips below to help you navigate new territory. What you learn won’t protect your feelings, but it will protect your credit score.

Newly single? Don’t forget to:

1. Redefine your budget. Blended finances are common in a serious relationship. Unfortunately, separation also means separate finances. Start by being honest with yourself about financial independence. How much do you rely on your ex for financial support? Can you afford to live on your own? Should you consider new employment opportunities now? Consider these options as you edit your budget and plan for the future. Understanding the facts is the first step.

2. Seek legal support. If you’re married, separation implies more than splitting the DVD collection. In many states, filing for legal separation sets the stage for divorce proceedings, creating rules you and your ex should follow until D-Day. This option provides you with a legal document that upholds your rights when considering joint:

  • Tax returns. Tax season is approaching, and separated couples are usually required to split their tax refund or debt during divorce proceedings. Don’t let your ex take the lion’s share. Ask the courts to assert your rights.
  • Assets. This covers retirement accounts, savings, property, insurance coverage and more. While you won’t divide these assets immediately, legal separation prevents a spouse from making changes without mutual approval. Freeze your holdings in writing as soon as possible.
  • Savings. Suppose you and your ex share a $15,000 savings account. After the initial separation, you notice $3,000 in missing funds and can’t trace its movement. Legal separation prevents this action by putting restrictions on how liquid savings are managed during a separation.
  • Debts. You share a home that your ex wants to keep. Who pays the mortgage before the divorce? Outline debt responsibilities during legal separation to avoid confusion and credit damage.

3. Protect your accounts. After any separation, it’s important to protect your personal accounts. Consider the following example:

Tom and Marissa are divorcing after six years of marriage. Although they are living separately, Tom is still listed as an authorized user on Marissa’s Visa card. She is shocked to discover that Tom recently charged $3,500 in expenses without her knowledge. Although Tom will answer for his actions in divorce court, Marissa is responsible for the debt in the meantime.

Don’t allow an ex to damage your heart and your credit. Remove risk by protecting personal accounts.

4. Honor financial responsibilities. You’ve just broken up. Maybe you’re feeling lost, depressed and hopeless about the future. Unfortunately, the credit bureaus can’t factor emotional hardship into your credit reports. Suppose Marissa refuses to pay her credit card bill since her ex made charges without her knowledge. Although she is justified in her anger, as the primary account holder, she will suffer the consequences. Her creditor will charge late fees, raise her interest rate and report overdue bills to the credit bureaus. While Tom is at fault, Marissa’s credit score will suffer. Take a lesson from this unfortunate situation by honoring your responsibilities.

5. Start fresh. Closing joint accounts can leave a void in your credit health, often causing temporary damage and loss of vital credit history. Lessen the blow by starting fresh as a newly single person. Review your credit reports with us and consider opening new accounts to strengthen your independence. Breakups may hurt, but your credit score doesn’t need to suffer as well. Take steps to create a positive future.

Is Credit Repair Legitimate?

February 17th, 2015 by Staff

I love these letters from creditors most of all because they are a testament to the fact that legitimate credit repair has a place and exists and um, is the right thing to do. You know the world seems prejudiced against credit repair and I understand why. There have been many lesser players who have conducted their business unethically. Mostly by trying to use tricks of a calendar to get the credit bureaus to delete things as a result of a 30 day-timer or something. That’s not the best way to do credit repair as we’ve discussed. continue reading “Is Credit Repair Legitimate?” »

Tax Time: Should I “Fib” on My Return?

February 17th, 2015 by Sarah

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Tax Day is coming up, and you’re probably compiling your W-2s, receipts and other important information. If you are among the estimated 1.6 million people who cheat on their taxes, now is the time to change your tune. Review some common “fibs” and the consequences that could follow. When it comes to Uncle Sam, honesty is the best policy.

Are you thinking of lying on your tax return? Indiscretions include:

Inflating deductions and credits. Let’s start with the basics: continue reading “Tax Time: Should I “Fib” on My Return?” »

Valentine’s Day: Five (Affordable) Ways to Celebrate

February 12th, 2015 by Sarah

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Valentine’s Day is close at-hand, and you’re probably wondering what to do this year. While February 14 is supposed to be a romantic day, it’s difficult to get excited when you can’t afford to celebrate. If you’re struggling, consider the following tips to honor the holiday. They won’t put a strain on your budget and will help you appreciate your significant other.

If you’re at a loss this Valentine’s Day: continue reading “Valentine’s Day: Five (Affordable) Ways to Celebrate” »


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