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U.S. to Corinthian Colleges: Forgive $500 million in student loans
cci college
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Embattled for-profit education behemoth Corinthian Colleges is facing yet another legal fight: This time, from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The consumer agency announced Tuesday it is suing Corinthian for "illegal predatory lending" and is demanding that the school forgive more than $500 million in private loans it has given to students since July of 2011.

According to the CFPB's complaint, Corinthian convinced students to enroll in the school by inflating its job placement rates. It even paid employers to hire graduates for at least one day in order to boost its numbers

Related: 40 million Americans now have student loan debt

Meanwhile, Corinthian's tuition and fees -- which can climb to as high as $75,000 for a bachelor's degree -- are higher than what federal loans generally cover, forcing many students to take out private loans from the school. These loans, called "Genesis loans," came with origination fees of 6% and interest rates of around 15% as of 2011 -- much higher than the 3% and 7% charged on federal loans.

College 'can't just be for rich folks'

And it doesn't stop there. After extending these loans to cash-strapped students, Corinthian allegedly used illegal and abusive tactics to collect on that money while students were still enrolled in school.

The CFPB found that Corinthian employees have pulled students who were delinquent on their payments out of class, informed professors about the debts and blocked students from using computers or even receiving diplomas. Unlike other colleges, private student loans extended by Corinthian come due once a student begins classes, the CFPB said.

Related: Colleges with the highest paid grads

Many of the students attending Corinthian (COCO) schools, which include Everest, Heald and WyoTech, are low-income and are often the first in their family to attend college -- view a degree as a ticket to a better future, said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

"For too many students, Corinthian has turned the American dream of higher education into an ongoing nightmare of debt and despair," Corday said.

Corinthian said in a statement that it "strongly disputes the allegations" made by the CFPB. It said fewer than 40% of Corinthian's students take out Genesis student loans and that the average interest rate is 9%. It added that it asks for repayment while students are still in school "to help them develop the discipline and practice of repaying their federal and other loan obligations."

The Department of Education had already been looking into Corinthian's practices, and is currently working with the school to sell and close down its more than 100 campuses, where approximately 74,000 students are enrolled.

Related: States, federal government cracking down on for-profit colleges

Various attorneys general have also investigated Corinthian in recent years, and most recently, the school disclosed to investors that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles is launching a criminal probe into its practices. Nonetheless, the CFPB says Corinthian is still enrolling students.

Along with its announcement about the lawsuit, the CFPB published a notice on its website here, with information to help Corinthian students understand their options.


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Join @CNNMoney as we tackle your tough retirement questions!
The retirement checklist
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Have you always wanted to know the secrets to saving $1 million before you retire? Or the best way to talk with mom and dad about their finances before it's too late?

Come join CNNMoney's Christine Romans on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 12:00 p.m. EDT as she tackles readers' biggest retirement questions.

She'll be taking over @CNNMoney's Twitter handle for a live, one-hour chat on retirement, estate planning, insurance and more. Come prepared to #AskChristine your big questions.

The details:

Date: Thursday, Sept. 18

Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT

Location: On Twitter @CNNMoney or find us through #AskChristine


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Workaholism: Regain balance before you burn out
workaholic vacation
Working on vacation is a problem if it's just one more way that you let work prevent you from paying attention to your health and relationships outside of the office.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Just because you work long hours, slave away more intensely than your coworkers or hold down more than one job doesn't necessarily mean you're a workaholic.

It's not that simple.

There's no universally accepted definition of workaholism and it's not listed in psychiatrists' official manual of mental disorders.

"I wouldn't call workaholism a disease because there are so many different grades and degrees of being one," said Dr. Gabi Cora, a psychiatrist and co-founder of the Executive Health and Wealth Institute.

But there is some overlap in how therapists, social scientists and sufferers themselves describe workaholics: They feel compelled to work, are always preoccupied with work and can't relax when they're not working. And often their compulsion to work has a destructive effect on their health and their relationships.

"People can work many hours without being addicted to work. Workaholics, however, are heavy work investors at all times ... demonstrating a chronic loss of perspective," said Cecilie Andreassen, a psychosocial science researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Related: These people took months off ... and it paid off big time

Andreassen and her colleagues have come up with the latest screening test to determine if someone may be a workaholic. Their underlying assumption: workaholism is a behavioral addiction, not just an attitude, trait or Type-A behavior. (Take the quiz.)

Michele S., an outreach coordinator for Workaholics Anonymous, said some workaholics feel they constantly have to be productive because if they're not, they lose their sense of self-worth.

The biggest concern for Cora, the psychiatrist, is the inevitable burnout that can result from workaholism. "As a workaholic, you don't have time to rest and recover," she said.

Quiz: Are you a workaholic?

A spiral of bad habits can result -- for instance, drinking more at night to relax, not sleeping much, drinking more coffee in the morning to stay awake, not exercising, gaining weight, developing high blood pressure, and getting anxious or depressed.

After years of driving herself into the ground and being irritable with her family, Michele S. said that 7 years ago, her body gave out: She would cry all the time and was bone tired every day.

She has since been able to restore balance to her life, she said. But she acknowledges the 12-step program endorsed by Workaholics Anonymous -- which is based on the program used for recovering alcoholics -- isn't the only way to overcome the condition.

Indeed, lots of different approaches exist from behavioral therapy to work-life balance programs. So far, though, there haven't been empirically valid studies of their effectiveness, Andreassen said.

Related: What it really takes to be a great boss

If you (or your family) feel you might be at risk of becoming a workaholic, you might take some preventative steps:

Take good physical care of yourself: Making an effort to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep is vital.

Put a lid on your workday: It can be tempting to take work calls and answer emails until all hours, but it's unhealthy, Cora said. It's better if you call it quits around the same hour every day, knowing you can pick up where you left off in the morning.

Set other limits: If possible, try not to work at all once you get home, Andreassen suggested. And when you are working, let yourself schedule regular breaks.

Try to restore balance in your life: Force yourself to carve out some time to spend alone and with family and friends.

"Build in ways to have enforced rest," said psychologist Ben Dattner. The trick: Remove as many temptations to work as possible.

Start small. For instance, when you take a walk with a friend, don't bring your phone with you. When you take a day off with your family, tell colleagues only to call in case of emergency.

And if you hate wasting money, buy non-refundable tickets so it will be harder to just blow off that show or weekend getaway. (*Warning: This trick doesn't always work with gym memberships.)


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Occupy abolishes $4 million in other people's student loan debt
College 'can't just be for rich folks'
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

After forgiving millions of dollars in medical debt, Occupy Wall Street is tackling a new beast: student loans.

Marking the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the group's Strike Debt initiative announced Wednesday it has abolished $3.8 million worth of private student loan debt since January. It said it has been buying the debts for pennies on the dollar from debt collectors, and then simply forgiving that money rather than trying to collect it.

In total, the group spent a little more than $100,000 to purchase the $3.8 million in debt.

While the group is unable to purchase the majority of the country's $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt because it is backed by the federal government, private student debt is fair game.

Related: U.S. government to Corinthian Colleges: Forgive $500 million in student loans

This debt Occupy bought belonged to 2,700 people who had taken out private student loans to attend Everest College, which is run by Corinthian Colleges. Occupy zeroed in on Everest because Corinthian Colleges is one of the country's largest for-profit education companies and has been in serious legal hot water lately.

Following a number of federal investigations, the college told investors this summer that it plans to sell or close its 107 campuses due to financial problems -- potentially leaving its 74,000 students in a lurch.

"Despite Corinthian's dire financial straits, checkered past, and history of lying to and misleading vulnerable students, tens of thousands of people may still be liable for the loans they have incurred while playing by the rules and trying to get an education," a Strike Debt member said in an email.

Then on Tuesday, the company was hit with a lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over allegations of predatory lending practices. The lawsuit demanded that Corinthian forgive the more than $500 million in outstanding student loan debt that its students had incurred since 2011 through Corinthian's Genesis loan program.

Strike Debt said it doesn't think the lawsuit will impact the debts it has already forgiven.

Related: States, federal government cracking down on for-profit colleges

Corinthian Colleges spokesman Kent Jenkins said the school stands by the "high-quality" education its students have received and disputes the CFPB's allegations. He noted that Corinthian's default rate is lower than other community colleges and its graduation and job placement rates are higher.

Sen. Warren pushes for student loan reform

Levia Welch, 32, enrolled at Everest College in January of last year. She had been struggling to find a job without a high school diploma or GED, so she signed up for an 8-month career training and GED preparation program at Everest. She took out several loans to pay for the program, and as it came to an end, she says administrators told her she wouldn't be able to get a GED unless she stayed in the program longer -- which meant taking out even more loans.

Related: 40 million Americans now have student loan debt

Eventually she gave up, saying the classes weren't helpful and were just putting her deeper into debt. She dropped out in May with nearly $18,000 in debt, spread out between four or five loans. She paid off one small loan of $636 while she was still in the program, and she has been looking for jobs so that she can pay the rest off. But without a GED, finding an employer to hire her has been tough.

"I just wanted to move forward in life but I didn't get that," she said. "I feel like I'm a victim."

Then, last week, she received a letter from Strike Debt saying it had abolished one of her loans of $669. While this means she still owes more than $16,000 in federal and private loans, the letter was a nice surprise.

Related: Big protests are coming to Hong Kong's financial district

The money Strike Debt uses to buy debts comes from a pool of about $700,000 it has received through fundraising events over the past few years. Before starting on student loan debt, the group abolished more than $15 million worth of emergency room bills for thousands of people.

Because the group realizes that abolishing all of the country's student loan and medical debt would be an impossible task, it is turning its attentions to a new platform called The Debt Collective as a way to bring debtors together so they can negotiate debts with creditors -- or refuse to pay them entirely.

"Debt is the tie that binds the 99%, whether you are a student delinquent on your student loans or a parent struggling to pay healthcare bills," Strike Debt member Ann Larson said in a statement. "Being forced into debt for basic social services is a systemic problem."


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