Dietz Frets About Possible Election Year Budget Politics

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Illinois State University President Larry Dietz said a looming state election cycle could hold new budget negotiations hostage.

Dietz told the campus community during his State of the University speech on Thursday that possibility is tempering his essential optimism and forcing planners to come up with contingencies in case stopgap budgeting returns.

Dietz says the last two years of deadlock reduced ISU funding by $51 million compared to budgets frozen at 2015 levels.

Dietz repeated his mantra that ISU is strong and stable and has weathered the budget deadlock better than many public universities in the state.

Dietz said he would try to address pay discrepancies for some faculty compared to other institutions.

“Right now, the salaries of full and associate professors at Illinois State lag significantly behind those at many of our peer group institutions. My goal is to begin closing that gap—a gap that has resulted in salary compression and inversion issues on campus. One mechanism we are investigating is to enhance the promotion increase for those who have been elevated from assistant to associate professor and associate to full professor while serving at Illinois State,” said Dietz.

Dietz also said he hopes to offer a mid-year pay increase for faculty and staff.

“I stress that none of these initiatives are as of yet written in stone, but you will be likely be hearing more about them at the college, departmental and divisional levels during this academic year” said Dietz.

On the academic front, the President said ISU is exploring whether to add engineering physics and mechanical, electrical and systems engineering programs.
    
“Faculty have already examined employment outlook data for various engineering specialties and have drafted some plans of study. Next steps for our faculty include visits to several universities with existing programs to better understand the resources, facilities, equipment and personnel needed to launch engineering programs,” said Dietz.  

Dietz also praised the work of a Climate Assessment Task Force which has issued a report on making the campus more diverse. Dietz said a number of new initiatives are already under way.

“One includes a new, campuswide Diversity Executive Council, which I see as a clear step toward the institutionalization of diversity on campus. We are all a reflection of our University values, and the establishment of the Diversity Executive Council reinforces this core value while sending the message that diversity and inclusion must emanate from every office and every individual on campus.,” said Dietz.

Dietz said he believes the executive council will offer a chance for everyone to have a voice to strengthen the university.

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Dietz Frets About Possible Election Year Budget Politics

Little: Falling student enrollment bad sign for Illinois

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Illinois’ education environment has been extremely volatile for the last couple of years. State funding for our state’s public colleges and universities has significantly decreased, schools are laying off faculty members, library hours have been reduced and maintenance work has been delayed. Low-income students face the threat of having their state-funded scholarships taken away from them, and there doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution in sight.

This financial crisis stems from decades of fiscal mismanagement, which has lead to $15 billion in unpaid bills and a preposterous quarter-trillion dollars in unfunded pension liabilities to loyal, public employees.

Cuts in state funding have forced schools to raise tuition and fees, causing a host of negative effects. In addition to stealing the hope that low income students have for procuring a higher education, increases in cost lead to declining graduation rates, more student loan debt, inability to make large purchases (e.g., a home or a car) and emotional stress.

Uncertainty about financial aid, as well as increased competition from surrounding states, have led to Illinois gaining the title of the second largest exporter of freshmen to other state’s public colleges. Thousands of students are following the money and searching for the biggest bang for their buck. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education Outmigration Context Report, the net loss of students in 2014 — the most recent year for which data is available — was 16,623, which is greater than the undergraduate student body of nine of Illinois’ public universities.

Inevitably, this has all contributed to lower enrollment at most state schools. Illinois State University had fewer new freshmen and transfer students this fall, ending three continuous years of record breaking growth. Our school is down over 300 freshmen and over 200 transfer students in comparison to last year. ISU’s overall enrollment remained relatively constant, with only a 1.2 percent decline versus fall 2016.

Many other state schools were not nearly as lucky. Chicago State University’s enrollment dropped 25 percent in 2016, and 11.4 percent this year. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and Western Illinois University were neck and neck at with a fall of 8.9 percent.

Public universities in neighboring states are jumping at the opportunity to attract Illinois talent to their institutions. Schools like University of Iowa provide shiny scholarships, but still make more money off out-of-state students than residents. Some colleges, such as the University of Missouri, show students how they can become eligible for in-state tuition after just one year.

Another downfall of losing students is that gifted students may never return to positively impact our state’s workforce. It’s very common for students to stay put after graduation. Losing talented students means losing talented workers, innovators and entrepreneurs who can benefit our economy.

Illinois made this financial nightmare a reality by ignoring the long-term consequences of poor short-term decision making. Our state’s unstable budget has led to the increase of tuition, and ultimately the loss of students to other states’ public schools. Luckily, ISU has weathered the storm and has not been nearly as affected as other Illinois colleges and universities.

Although our enrollment rates have been resilient in the face of danger, will we be able to uphold our financial and educational value if this trend of mismanagement of funds continues? The bottom line is that if Illinois does not get the budget on a sustainable path, vital organizations and institutions will crash and burn. While it isn’t too late to get back on track, immediate action must be taken to stop the downfall of our state before the damage becomes irreversible.

Little: Falling student enrollment bad sign for Illinois

EIU joins in effort to keep students in state for college

http://ift.tt/2hc03HLCHARLESTON, Ill. (WCCU) — 

Eastern Illinois University enrollment rates are down by five percent– and this is actually good news.

Administrators say it’s the lowest decline they’ve seen in six years.

“Illinois for a long time has been the second highest exporter of college bound students, only second to New Jersey,” Associate Vice President for Enrollment Josh Norman said. “And it’s incredible how much that has accelerated in the last few years.”

But for students like Kate Mushinski from Peoria, Illinois schools offered everything she needed.

“They academically have a really good history,” Mushinski said. “Job placement for a lot of the Illinois schools here, especially Eastern, U of I, ISU, depending on the major and with the school, is really good at producing.”

Schools across the state have lost an estimated 150,000 students to out-of-state schools over the past 14 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Administrators are blaming the two year budget impasse and the fact that out-of-state competitors sometimes offer in-state tuition to Illinois students.

Earlier this week EIU, University of Illinois and Southern Illinois university organized a joint recruiting event in Mount Vernon to encourage high school students to stay in state. They say the event was a success with more than 170 students showing up.

“We as a public institution of higher ed need to step our game up when it comes to making sure that students know that there’s a quality education to be had here at an affordable price,” Norman said.

When students leave the state, experts say it has a ripple effect, meaning a loss of valuable employees once those students graduate and enter the workforce.

EIU joins in effort to keep students in state for college

State universities rolling out red carpet for Illinois high-schoolers

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Several state universities are partnering on new efforts to keep talented Illinois high school seniors in the state for college — and combat declining enrollment at some campuses — most recently at a high-profile recruiting event for top students in southern Illinois.

The University of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University co-sponsored the first “Salute to Illinois Scholars” on Tuesday at Mount Vernon’s Doubletree Hilton for more than 170 college-bound students from the region.

Students at the college fair connected with more than 100 admissions and academic staff from Eastern, the UI’s three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield; and Southern’s campuses in Carbondale and Edwardsville.

All three university presidents also took part in a panel discussion with students from their schools to give future applicants a first-hand perspective on college life.

The fair drew students from 34 counties south of Interstate 70 and the Metro-East area who are “college ready,” with a B average or above and qualifying ACT score, officials said.

They were encouraged to apply to each of the six participating schools, which agreed to waive their application fees for those who attended.

The hope is to stem the migration of Illinois high school students to colleges in other states and, for the UI, improve its recruiting in southern Illinois.

Illinois is second only to New Jersey in the net number of students lost to colleges in other states, with 16,000, officials said. In 2015, 45 percent of college-bound high school graduates in Illinois enrolled out of state, up from 29 percent in 2002. UI President Tim Killeen said studies show that most college graduates stay in the state where they earn their degrees.

Going out of state is the right option for some students, but in other cases, families just don’t have enough information about the opportunities at Illinois public universities, said Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and VP for academic affairs for the UI system.

The fair was designed to counter the perception that “you need to go outside because things are bad here,” she said.

Both Eastern and Southern have also seen steep enrollment declines over the past few years, blamed mostly on the state’s budget crisis. Southern’s fall enrollment is down 8.96 percent from 2016, to 14,554 students. At Eastern, enrollment dropped 5 percent to 7,030 students, though it was the smallest decline in six years.

The UI system’s enrollment grew by nearly 3 percent this year, including a 2.4 percent increase in undergraduates from Illinois, and the Urbana campus hit a new record high. But the UI Springfield’s enrollment fell.

And while 80 percent of the UI system’s students are from Illinois, the number of in-state freshmen dropped slightly at the Urbana campus, even though it admitted 400 more Illinois applicants than last year.

Killeen said the southern Illinois event is important for the UI because the region includes several counties with relatively low student enrollment at the university’s three campuses.

“Our goal is to enhance our outreach to the southern part of the state,” Wilson said.

Twelve counties south of Interstate 70, and nine more in western or northwestern Illinois, sent no freshmen to the Urbana campus this year. A sizable majority of the freshman class — more than 4,400 students — hail from Chicago or its suburbs.

Wilson said there are only two counties with no undergraduates at the UI, but “we don’t get the applications we might like.” She’s hoping to see an uptick after this year’s event in Mount Vernon, and the UI plans to repeat it next year, perhaps in a different southern Illinois city.

The UI has long hosted a similar event in Chicago every year for all three of its campuses, but wasn’t “embracing southern Illinois the way we needed to,” Wilson said.

The UI invited other schools that recruit from the region to co-sponsor the fair so they could work in partnership rather than compete, she said. At the college fair, students were able to talk to six campuses of “different sizes, different focus areas,” she said.

Killeen said he wants to strengthen connections with the state’s brightest students and its “best-in-class” universities.

State universities rolling out red carpet for Illinois high-schoolers

State universities rolling out red carpet for Illinois high-schoolers

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Several state universities are partnering on new efforts to keep talented Illinois high school seniors in the state for college — and combat declining enrollment at some campuses — most recently at a high-profile recruiting event for top students in southern Illinois.

The University of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University co-sponsored the first “Salute to Illinois Scholars” on Tuesday at Mount Vernon’s Doubletree Hilton for more than 170 college-bound students from the region.

Students at the college fair connected with more than 100 admissions and academic staff from Eastern, the UI’s three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield; and Southern’s campuses in Carbondale and Edwardsville.

All three university presidents also took part in a panel discussion with students from their schools to give future applicants a first-hand perspective on college life.

The fair drew students from 34 counties south of Interstate 70 and the Metro-East area who are “college ready,” with a B average or above and qualifying ACT score, officials said.

They were encouraged to apply to each of the six participating schools, which agreed to waive their application fees for those who attended.

The hope is to stem the migration of Illinois high school students to colleges in other states and, for the UI, improve its recruiting in southern Illinois.

Illinois is second only to New Jersey in the net number of students lost to colleges in other states, with 16,000, officials said. In 2015, 45 percent of college-bound high school graduates in Illinois enrolled out of state, up from 29 percent in 2002. UI President Tim Killeen said studies show that most college graduates stay in the state where they earn their degrees.

Going out of state is the right option for some students, but in other cases, families just don’t have enough information about the opportunities at Illinois public universities, said Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and VP for academic affairs for the UI system.

The fair was designed to counter the perception that “you need to go outside because things are bad here,” she said.

Both Eastern and Southern have also seen steep enrollment declines over the past few years, blamed mostly on the state’s budget crisis. Southern’s fall enrollment is down 8.96 percent from 2016, to 14,554 students. At Eastern, enrollment dropped 5 percent to 7,030 students, though it was the smallest decline in six years.

The UI system’s enrollment grew by nearly 3 percent this year, including a 2.4 percent increase in undergraduates from Illinois, and the Urbana campus hit a new record high. But the UI Springfield’s enrollment fell.

And while 80 percent of the UI system’s students are from Illinois, the number of in-state freshmen dropped slightly at the Urbana campus, even though it admitted 400 more Illinois applicants than last year.

Killeen said the southern Illinois event is important for the UI because the region includes several counties with relatively low student enrollment at the university’s three campuses.

“Our goal is to enhance our outreach to the southern part of the state,” Wilson said.

Twelve counties south of Interstate 70, and nine more in western or northwestern Illinois, sent no freshmen to the Urbana campus this year. A sizable majority of the freshman class — more than 4,400 students — hail from Chicago or its suburbs.

Wilson said there are only two counties with no undergraduates at the UI, but “we don’t get the applications we might like.” She’s hoping to see an uptick after this year’s event in Mount Vernon, and the UI plans to repeat it next year, perhaps in a different southern Illinois city.

The UI has long hosted a similar event in Chicago every year for all three of its campuses, but wasn’t “embracing southern Illinois the way we needed to,” Wilson said.

The UI invited other schools that recruit from the region to co-sponsor the fair so they could work in partnership rather than compete, she said. At the college fair, students were able to talk to six campuses of “different sizes, different focus areas,” she said.

Killeen said he wants to strengthen connections with the state’s brightest students and its “best-in-class” universities.

State universities rolling out red carpet for Illinois high-schoolers

Illinois Is Still Losing People—Especially College Students

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The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability recently published a good piece on why Illinois is losing residents (and it’s losing a lot). But “losing” suggests that people leaving Illinois is the problem.

And that’s what the CTBA post clarifies. Compared to other states, Illinois is in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of people leaving, or out-migration. It’s in-migration that’s the problem, where Illinois is third from the bottom. While 27 people per thousand left in 2015, only 22 people per thousand moved in.

The problem’s gotten worse throughout the state as well. Cook County has had net out-migration every year since 1990; downstate hovered around zero from 1990 to 2007; the collar counties had high in-migration until 2006. Beginning around 2006, net migration in all three areas regressed to near zero, as the Great Recession made it harder and less appealing to move at all, whether in or out.

Since the economy’s recovered, all three areas, including the former growth region of the collar counties, have declined.

What’s going on? CTBA goes through a number of causes, but one in particular caught my eye: migration trends downstate where there are public universities.

While typically these college-adjacent areas (the blue line in the graph) are more immune to population loss than those without nearby public universities (the orange line), both have fallen quite low in the last seven years. 

Chicago has covered this trend before. In January, well into the budget crisis, Judith Crown covered the out-migration of Illinois high schoolers to neighboring states, finding that a problem which predated the crisis had gotten worse.

At the root of all this are cuts in state funding that have forced Illinois schools to raise base tuition and fees. At Urbana, in-state rates rose 59 percent over the past 10 years, to a minimum of $15,700 and a maximum of $20,700 (not including room and board), depending on the major. At the same time, financial aid through the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides need-based grants to residents, doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s not even clear from term to term whether funds will be available: In a survey released in December by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, 47 percent of Illinois schools said they couldn’t guarantee that students would continue to receive in the spring semester awards they got in the fall.

Meanwhile, schools like the University of Iowa and the University of Missouri were making their schools just as or more affordable to attend for Illinois residents, wiping out the most obvious and easiest-to-control advantage one state has over another in terms of retaining its high-school graduates.

The results aren’t particularly surprising, as I wrote not long after. State university enrollment has declined in Illinois while it’s increased for our neighbors.

The problem seems to have gotten worse. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute recently released an overview of enrollment trends and the economic impact of the state’s higher-ed contraction (h/t Capitol Fax), finding that Illinois colleges and universities lost 72,000 students during the budget impasse. That includes community-college students, a population much greater than the four-year student population, but it’s still about a nine-percent decline; 4,900 direct jobs were lost, about a six percent cut.

Put together, it’s a lot of students gone, and a lot of jobs lost that could also impact local populations. Smaller schools were the hardest hit. NEIU, Governor’s State, and the two SIU campuses increased their tuition over nine percent from 2015-2017; UIUC, an internationally regarded, well-endowed flagship, raised its tuition just two percent. It also added about 2,500 students from 2011 to 2016.

This issue long predates the budget impasse. Back in 2008, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at UIUC sounded the alarm: In the previous decade, state support of universities declined 18 percent, while tuition and fees at UIUC itself had increased from about 12 percent of the state median income to 16 percent. In 1988, MAP grants covered about 65 percent of public-university tuition; in 2008, about 40 percent.

The budget crisis simply accelerated this decline. To get out of it, the state can look to its neighbors—and why our high-school graduates are moving there.

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Illinois Is Still Losing People—Especially College Students

Regulators, consumers target student debt servicer Navient

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Fanny Sampson co-signed student loans for three of her four children, so when one of her daughters got a letter in May from student debt servicer Navient saying it would no longer accept credit card payments, the Northbrook resident stepped up with her checking account number.

Not long after, Sampson, her daughter and even her son, whose name isn’t on the loan, started getting calls saying the loan was delinquent. Sampson, who estimates that her children are on the hook for nearly $100,000 in combined student debt, said she wasn’t notified about an increase in the loan’s variable interest rate. As a result, the automatic payments deducted from her checking account no longer covered the entire balance due.

“I said, ‘You call me three times a day to tell me that I’m delinquent, but why didn’t you have a courtesy call telling me that my interest rate was going up?'” Sampson recalled. Other aggravations she’s encountered include inconsistent service from call center representatives and requests to speak to supervisors that go unmet.

Sampson is far from alone in experiencing frustrations dealing with Navient, which services $300 billion in student debt — about a quarter of all federal and private loans nationally.

The company is facing lawsuits in Illinois and elsewhere from federal and state regulators, as well as consumers, over a range of business practices, including allegedly making unauthorized robocalls, doing a poor job of tracking payment processing errors, steering borrowers into costlier repayment options and misapplying payments. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Navient earlier this year in federal court in Pennsylvania, accusing the company in a news release of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers sent Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill earlier this summer that would create new rights for customers of Navient and other student debt servicers. Among other measures, the proposed law would require the companies to give borrowers clear information about how they can pay their loans and the amount of payments, including fees assessed, the total amount due for each loan, payment due dates and interest accrued during billing cycles. Rauner has until early next week to sign or veto the bill, which has the backing of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office filed its own lawsuit against Navient earlier this year.

Navient has denied the state and federal allegations against it and is fighting them in court, arguing that the company follows the law and goes above and beyond disclosure requirements.

Consumer complaints about student debt servicers — whose responsibilities include processing payments, explaining repayment options to borrowers, and collecting on delinquent and defaulted loans — aren’t limited to Navient.

A recent report from the CFPB found that borrowers say their servicers often provide them with information on hardship forbearance or deferment — which pause payments but not interest on outstanding debt — instead of “potentially more beneficial” options like income-driven repayment plans. Borrowers also complained about lost documents and inaccurate accounting that muddied their good names. Some reported being contacted by collection companies for accounts that had been paid in full.

The CFPB echoes other consumer advocates, who say the U.S. Department of Education is stalling on critical protections for borrowers.

“For too many years, the Department of Education and private lenders have failed to conduct active oversight of the loan servicers they use to collect payments, leaving borrowers to fend for themselves,” said Suzanne Martindale, a Consumers Union lawyer whose areas of focus include student loans.

While complaints about the student debt servicing industry are widespread, Navient in particular has become a focal point for regulators and consumers.

“Navient is one of the worst offenders in Illinois and around the country, steering borrowers toward forbearances that increase loan costs and applying repayments inaccurately,” said Erin Steva, Midwest director for Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for adults ages 18 to 34.

The CFPB received more complaints about Navient in a recent three-month period than it did about any other company in any industry. From November through January, the CFPB received an average of 1,439 complaints against Navient per month, according to an April report from the agency. The student debt company with the next-highest average was American Education Services, with 149.

Year to date, about 300 complaints from Illinoisans have been filed against Navient at the federal agency, more than double the number that piled up in all of 2016. Virtually all of the complaints lodged by Illinois consumers with the federal bureau received a timely response from Navient, agency records show.

The CFPB isn’t the only federal agency fielding complaints about Navient.

In June, a half-dozen consumer groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to take action against the company, accusing it of harassing borrowers with automated phone calls. And an Illinois man filed a federal lawsuit against the company in May seeking class-action status over robocalls.

Navient, meanwhile, is aggressively defending itself against the allegations brought by consumers and regulators, asking courts to toss out the state and federal lawsuits.

Cook County Circuit Judge Kathleen Pantle held a hearing last month on Navient’s motion to dismiss Madigan’s lawsuit, which the judge is now weighing.

Madigan’s lawsuit, filed in January, alleges some borrowers must contact Navient monthly to “fix the same errors on their accounts,” including how payments are spread across multiple loans or applied to unpaid interest, fees or principal.

“Sometimes the payment was intended to pay off a specific loan, but Navient allocated the payment to all of the loans,” the lawsuit alleges. Decisions on allocating and applying payments could lead to higher interest charges and negative information sent to credit agencies, the suit says.

Assistant Attorney General Michele Casey told Pantle at the July hearing that Navient assured struggling borrowers it would give tailored advice, including whether income-based repayment plans or forbearancewould be most suitable.

In reality, Casey alleged, Navient workers were compensated partly by keeping phone calls to under six minutes and therefore steered most borrowers into “one-size-fits-all” forbearance because it got them “off the phone fast.” Casey said that saves Navient money even as its training materials say forbearance should be a “last resort.”

“That was an unfair and deceptive practice under the Consumer Fraud Act,” she said.

Navient’s lawyer, however, told the judge the federal Higher Education and Truth in Lending acts already impose disclosure requirements. The Illinois attorney general wants to retroactively impose new disclosure requirements, Navient said.

“What they’re doing is adding disclosure requirements that exceed the ones that Congress set,” Michael Shumsky, a lawyer representing Navient, told the judge.

“There’s no allegation that when somebody called Navient and said, ‘I’m struggling to make my payments. Is there something that you can do for me?’ that Navient said, ‘Go away. We’re not interested in helping you,'” Shumsky said.

As for allegations that payments were misapplied, Navient said an internal analysis of customer complaints shows, in most cases, borrowers didn’t specify how to allocate their payments. The company said it’s a common consumer credit practice to apply payments to outstanding interest before principal.

While Navient’s request to toss out the Illinois lawsuit is under review, a federal judge in Pennsylvania earlier this month rejected the company’s motion to dismiss the CFPB’s lawsuit.

Navient takes issue with many of the complaints that have been filed against the company with regulators.

For example, Navient spokeswoman Patricia Nash Christel said the company’s analysis shows most of the complaints lodged against it through the CFPB’s portal are related to loan policies — including disagreements about loan terms set at the time they were made — not servicing errors.

The more than 1,400 complaints per month Navient saw from November to January represent a tiny fraction of the 12 million customers whose loans it services. The company says it has 750 million interactions a year with borrowers, including through letters and phone calls, and processes more than 90 million payments annually.

In response to complaints about robocalls, Navient told the FCC in June that student loan servicers “are different from telemarketers offering a free cruise.”

“Calls and text messages from student loan servicers are proven methods that help millions of Americans,” Navient said in a 64-page letter to the FCC. “Live contact with borrowers is key to helping them navigate the multitude of options and the complexity of the repayment system.”

Nine times out of 10, federal student loan borrowers who default haven’t responded to Navient’s outreach or contact in the preceding year of missed payments, Christel said.

Navient has said it tried “telephone contact” in 2015 with 1.2 million borrowers who weren’t enrolled in income-driven repayment plans, but they “never responded to our outreach.” The company said some borrowers choose forbearance even when offered enrollment in alternative repayment plans.

The company’s arguments on its behalf are of little comfort to Sampson, the Northbrook mother who co-signed her kids’ loans.

Navient said it couldn’t discuss Sampson’s situation unless she signed a waiver granting permission, which she declined to do.

Her children have bachelor’s degrees from DePaul University, the University of Maryland, the University of Wisconsin and Loyola University. One has a political science degree, another a liberal arts degree, and two have bachelor’s degrees in business. Her 23-year-old son has a steady job, but he lives at home, and much of his pay is going to repay his student loans. She said he was briefly in a forbearance program.

“He said, ‘Mom, I got a breather,'” Sampson recalled. “I said, ‘You have to be careful because it’s not that they’re pardoning what you owe.'”

byerak@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @beckyyerak

Regulators, consumers target student debt servicer Navient