Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education gets aggressive over student loan defaults

Peter Cox at MPR says, “the Office of Higher Education has become more aggressive about taking students to court when they fall behind on payments. The SELF, or Student Educational Loan Fund, loan provides low-interest loans to Minnesota students to help bridge the gap between financial aid and the cost of school. It has helped more than 250,000 students pay for higher education since it started in 1984, lending out more than $2 billion since then. Currently, its fixed interest rate is 6 percent and the variable interest rate is at 4.3 percent. But in order to keep those rates low, it has to keep defaults down. In the past, collections agencies were hired to collect on loans that went into arrears. However, being third parties, they couldn’t take people to court.”

In the Star Tribune, Kelly Smith and Erin Adler report, “Secretary of State candidate John Howe and his campaign manager were recovering Monday after a parade float they were on crashed a day earlier, throwing both men off a trailer. Howe and his campaign manager, Tim Droogsma, were hospitalized Sunday with injuries, but both are expected to fully recover. … the trailer was crowded with people, so Howe and Droogsma stood on the edge, with a foot on the trailer and another foot on the tractor hitch. Howe said the driver of the antique tractor was going about 15 to 20 miles per hour when the steering malfunctioned and the tractor bolted to the right, hitting the curb and sending both men flying off the trailer. Howe said he hit his head on the pavement while Droogsma fell next to the trailer, the 2,800-pound car hauler running over his legs.”

At Politico, Natasha Korecki writes, “There’s every reason to believe this is the beginning of the end for Scott Walker. His presidential bid crashed and burned. He’s running for a third term as governor in what figures to be a hostile midterm for the Republican Party. Polling shows that the independent voters who were so critical to Walker’s wins in the 2012 recall and 2014 reelection are breaking away from him. After years of futility, Democrats here are convinced they finally have him cornered.”

For the Forum News Service, Mike Longaecker reports, “The 24-year-old roofer accused of killing his coworker with a power saw at a River Falls-area job site pleaded not guilty last week to homicide and mayhem charges. … Pierce County Sheriff’s Office investigator Collin Gilles described on the witness stand how, in interviews with authorities, crew member Marvin Fuentes Aguilar reported seeing Flores holding his neck ‘with blood coming out between his fingers’ before watching Navarro cut at the man’s body. ‘(He) did a back-and-forth motion several times’ with the saw, Gilles said, describing Aguilar’s account.”

In the Star Tribune, J. Patrick Coolican writes, “A Democratic-leaning group has launched an ad campaign against Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson, accusing him of pushing policies that would take health care away from people who need it. In a statement, Johnson called the ad ‘blatant lies intended to cover up the fact that the DFL candidate for governor wants to eliminate private health insurance and force all Minnesotans onto one government program.’ It’s in reference to U.S. Rep. Tim Walz’s stated aim to provide a government health plan to all Minnesotans, like seniors currently use under Medicare. The ads from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota thrust health care to the center of the governor’s race … .”

For City Pages, Jay Boller reports, “Last Friday, a shooting left one person dead and three others injured in north Minneapolis, and one local business owner has had enough. ‘How much worse can it get when you leave on Friday night, and there’s bullets flying around?’ asks Kevin Welch, owner and head brewer at nearby Boom Island Brewing Co. ‘The motivation is extremely dire for us to get the heck out of the area.’ Currently located at 2014 N. Washington Ave., Boom Island will have a new home by the end of the year, Welch predicts. He’s currently scouting locations and plans to start a crowd-sourced fundraiser to help with expenses.”

Says Evan Ramstad of the Strib, “U.S. Bank will begin offering small-dollar loans to its depositors via a digital process, aiming to provide cash when customers get in a short-term bind. The product, called Simple Loan, is being unveiled Monday and puts the nation’s fifth-largest bank in more direct competition with payday lenders and other financial firms that offer a few hundred dollars on a short-term basis, often at high interest rates.”

Also at MPR, Bob Collins writes, “It’s not hard at all to see why a district court judge in St. Louis County threw the book at Brian Barthman of Hermantown, Minn., more than a year ago. His criminal sexual conduct was particularly disgusting on many levels. Mandated reporters in the school system alerted authorities to the actions of him and his wife after their daughter — a 12-year-old developmentally and cognitively disabled girl — told them of their assaults against her between October 2012 and December 2015. Barthman raped her on at least two occasions, one in which her mother, who is a vulnerable adult herself, participated and one in which she watched. … On Monday, a Minnesota Court of Appeals panel said [the 60-year sentence] was too harsh, even though it rejected almost every single appeal Barthman’s attorney filed.”

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