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Minneapolis attorney honored at ACA International's annual national awards ceremony

The following article is from Inside ARM

July 23, 2019

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In recognizing the outstanding organizations and individuals who have demonstrated excellence in the accounts receivable management industry, ACA International awarded Wendy Badger, vice president, corporate compliance and chief compliance officer with ECMC Group in Minneapolis, with the James K. Erickson Continuous Service Award. The award was presented during ACA International's 2019 Convention & Expo in San Diego.

The James K. Erickson Continuous Service Award is presented to a distinguished ACA member who has made significant contributions to the association in each of the last 10 consecutive years.

"As a world-class trade association representing the accounts receivable management industry, ACA international relies heavily on the volunteer spirit and dedication of members like Wendy Badger," ACA International CEO Mark Neeb said. "Our annual awards celebration is aimed at recognizing association members who have embraced our mission to educate, advocate and promote the accounts receivable management industry as a necessary part of a healthy economy. Wendy embodies all of these qualities and represents the best of the industry."

Badger is a nationally acclaimed authority on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act and their implementing regulations. She has been recognized with numerous honors and awards, such as the Members' Attorney Program Designation, twice listed in the "Most Influential Collection Professionals" by Collection Advisor magazine and received the ACA International Charles F. Lindemann Certified Instructor of the Year award. Badger is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP). She is a regular presenter at industry events, has conducted continuing education seminars, and published numerous articles.

"I am honored to accept the James K. Erickson Continuous Service Award. It is humbling to be nominated and recognized by my industry peers; I am grateful for and indebted to all those who have helped and guided me throughout my career," Badger said.

Badger's peers frequently praise her passion for mentoring others and helping them enhance their compliance programs. In addition, she has helped craft talking points and draft language for ACA members to present to their state and federal representatives on issues of industry-wide significance.

She earned her BA (magna cum laude) in political science from the University of St. Thomas and a Juris Doctorate (cum laude) from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

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Early college preparation starts freshman year of high school

July 9, 2019

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This fall, my oldest child starts high school, a critical coming-of-age experience most noteworthy because this is the last time she will start a new school that's within ten minutes of our house. The next school she attends will be college, which is both exciting and seriously stressful.

In just a couple of years, my daughter will spend agonizing hours preparing for SATS, writing essays, and filling out college applications. Just thinking about it makes my mom brain go into panic mode.

Will she have the right activities and accolades to put on those applications?

What does she need to do in high school to be competitive?

Am I worrying for no reason?

Is freshman year too early to start prepping for college applications?

I don't have the answers, so I decided to ask those who do. According to the experts, it is important to start thinking about preparing for college applications as early as possible.

Take Some Time to Figure Out the Right Path

Freshman year of high school is a good time to start thinking broadly about a student's goals and next steps, says Danny Eckstein, director of The College Place in Alexandria, Virginia.

"The right fit might be a prestigious four-year college or university," Eckstein says. "But it could also very well be obtaining a certificate at a career or technical school to efficiently develop your industry-related knowledge and skills in order to jump right into your dream career."

Freshmen benefit from taking time to explore their options as soon as possible. College prep in high school starts now.

Take the Right Courses for your Goals

Starting even before freshman year of high school, it is helpful for students to meet with their guidance counselors to discuss the appropriate courses to take.

"Colleges prefer that students have gone above and beyond the minimum graduation requirements of their high school in most subject areas," explains Alyssa Polakowski, School Counseling Manager for Laurel Springs School. "Some also require that students meet particular subject area requirements or standards set forth by their admissions department, which can also vary by specific major areas of study, such as engineering." Researching those college-specific requirements early on can help students ensure their competitive edge.

College admissions counselors like to see that students have challenged themselves and can succeed with college-level coursework. While high schools might only require three years of math, science, and foreign language for graduation, many colleges like to see four years in each of those subjects. The most competitive schools also want to see that students have excelled in the most rigorous courses offered by their particular high school, including AP courses. Students should meet with guidance counselors to discuss their goals and determine the best courses to take.

Ian Curtis, independent college consultant and co-founder of H&C Education, encourages students to figure out the subjects they most enjoy and dig deep in those areas. "Use a part of your summer vacations in high school to enroll in academic programs that will help you build your knowledge and experience in a given subject," he says.

Find and Follow your Passions

When I attended high school, the conventional wisdom was that students needed to appear as well-rounded as possible. According to several college preparation experts, that idea has changed.

Shaan Patel, founder and CEO of Prep Expert, recommends focusing on clubs and activities a student can envision participating in throughout high school. "It's better to concentrate energy on two to three specific things and gain both experience and leadership skills in them, rather than jump from club to club," Patel says. "During your freshman year, choose quality and commitment versus sheer quantity."

Curtis agrees. "The idea is not to show you're well-rounded," he says. Instead, students should focus on long-term commitment to their interests. Some parents might be relieved to hear that those interests could range from community service and entrepreneurship to sports or even video games.

Keep Track of your Activities and Experiences

What's the point of becoming involved in all those great activities if you can't remember what you've done? Phyllis Zimbler Miller, mother of two and author of How to Succeed in High School and Prep for College, urges high school students to keep track of after school activities and volunteer hours beginning freshman year. This will ensure those countless hours aren't forgotten when it's time to begin filling out college applications.

In a similar vein, Yelena Shuster, an admissions essay editor, recommends journaling to incoming high school freshmen. Not only does journaling helps students remember what they have done when it's time to apply for schools, it also makes it easier to write that college application essay.

"By senior year, most high school students do not have experience or practice with creative writing, let alone writing about themselves," she says. "Having four years of practice and journal entries will ensure they're set up for success writing the personal essay."

Be Careful About your Online Presence

We have all seen the stories of students who have lost out on opportunities for college acceptance because of inappropriate social media behavior. It's advice worth repeating, and heeding.

"Never put anything online that could be detrimental to your college applications, no matter how secure you think the site is," says Phyllis Zimbler Miller of CollegePrep.

Remind your teen that anything shared on social media will be accessible to college admissions staff and could affect their acceptance.

Don't Forget to Enjoy Yourself

Although the college preparation process seems overwhelming, high school should also be a time for fun. Eckstein encourages students to relax and spend those four years thinking about who they are and what they want.

"As you get to know yourself better over these next four years," he tells students, "you'll also better understand what you want out of your college experience and beyond."

As I help my daughter prepare for her freshman year of high school, I will remind her to make the most of these years. I know if she spends the next four years discovering her passion, she'll end up exactly where she should be.

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3 steps college grads can take toward financial independence

The following article is CNBC

June 25, 2019

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Goodbye study sessions, dorm food and lecture halls. Real life awaits.

For Jessica Granofsky, 23, however, that means moving back home.

Granofsky graduated from college last year and now works full time as a communications coordinator in the Toronto office of a San Francisco-based start-up. Although she says she earns a good salary and even makes more than many of her friends, she also owes $40,000 Canadian (about US$30,300) in student debt.

"It influences every decision I make," she said.

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Those armed with a newly minted college diploma will enter a U.S. job market with unemployment near the lowest level in 50 years and job prospects up significantly from just last year.

Starting salaries are also higher. In 2018, college grads earned an overall average of $51,022, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

And yet, 7 in 10 college seniors graduate with debt, owing around $30,000 per borrower, according to data from the Institute for College Access & Success. Overall student debt stands at more than $1.5 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. Americans are now more burdened by college loans than they are by credit card or auto debt.

A whopping 87 percent of millennials say they have been broke in the past or are currently broke, according to a survey by CreditLoan.

Those hefty student loan bills from school, which are at an all-time high, have put a severe strain on most recent graduates' financial circumstances. A whopping 87% of millennials said they'd been broke in the past or were currently broke, according to a separate survey by CreditLoan.

Abril Hunt, outreach manager at Educational Credit Management Corp., or ECMC, a nonprofit dedicated to helping student borrowers, offers the following tips on the road to financial independence for those just starting out and facing student loan payments, in addition to other expenses:

1. Build a budget

For starters, don't "put the cart before the horse," Hunt said. "Your income determines your lifestyle, so figure out all your expenses and expected take-home pay," she added, if you have a job after graduation.

"Look at how much money you'll make and adjust your lifestyle accordingly," she said.

For example, if you're earning $32,000 a year, that leaves $2,238 in take-home pay each month after taxes, according to Hunt's hypothetical. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 30% of income on housing, Hunt said. She also advises saving for retirement as well as building an emergency fund.

"If you don't think about retirement, you'll be scrambling later on," Hunt said. From there, you can determine how much you can afford in rent or how often you can eat out. See her budget breakdown for that $2,238 a month below:

  • $223.80, or 10%, to student loan payments. (10% of your income is the standard repayment amount income-based repayment plans.)
  • $335.70, or 15%, to groceries
  • $223.80, or 10%, to retirement savings
  • $223.80, or 10%, to transportation, including gas, car payments and insurance
  • $223.80, or 10%, to an emergency fund
  • $671.40, or 30%, to housing
  • $335.70, or 15%, on discretionary spending, such as clothes, eating out, gym memberships and travel

2. Find a job

"Be practical," Hunt said. You'll want a revenue stream coming in even while you are hunting for the perfect position, so take something short term to pay the bills while you are looking for your dream job, she said.

To that end, regardless of your age or lack of experience, when it comes to landing a sought-after gig in today's market, networking is still your best bet, experts say.

In the meantime, take steps to cut costs, such as canceling a gym membership you don't use, scaling back food and clothing purchases to the bare necessities and opting for free entertainment until your income picks up.

3. Start paying back your student loans

The good news for graduates is that, for federal loans, which make up the bulk of student debt, there is generally a six-month grace period after graduation that gives borrowers time to get on their feet before they have to start repaying their college debt.

However, even though payment is not required during the grace period, interest continues to accrue, so consider starting your payments as soon as you can, Hunt said.

By default, you are likely in a 10-year standard repayment plan but there are other options, including pay-as-you-earn or income-based repayment.

"Be aware of the many repayment options, and understand you can switch between plans if necessary," Hunt said.

If your budget feels stretched too thin, look into those income-based repayment programs, which allow you to pay a percentage of your income rather than a flat rate, as long as you are under a certain income threshold.

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Minnesota can lead the way in bridging the skills gap

The following article is from the Star Tribune

May 28, 2019

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Minnesotans have much to be proud of, including the third-highest labor-force participation rate in the country and an unemployment rate below the national average for 10 years running.

Even so, a shortage of skilled workers is impeding Minnesota's economic growth. By 2024, projections show a gap of 400,000 workers needed to fill middle-skill jobs — those requiring education beyond high school but not a four-year degree.

My organization, ECMC Group, recently hosted several experts to discuss the biggest issues facing the education, training and workforce industries as part of the annual MN Cup competition. Panelists emphasized that the rising cost of traditional four-year college is an opportunity to spur changes to our outdated workforce training model.

Every year, high school students say the same thing: They are enrolling in college — particularly four-year institutions — to find a job. Yet only 27% of four-year degree holders are working in a job directly related to their college major, with many underemployed.

And students are getting left behind financially while businesses aren't finding the supply of trained workers they need. Aanand Radia, managing director of University Ventures, summarized this concisely, "Clearly, the way higher education is set up today and how it's traditionally been set up is not going to answer the needs of what employers want and to shrink the skills gap."

It's long past time to expand our horizons. Many don't realize that middle-skill credentials, like an associate degree or training program certificate, can lead to an equally well-paying job and long-term career growth as a four-year degree but at a significantly lower cost.

Instead, Americans still see traditional four-year higher education as the only pathway to the middle class. Panelist Mitch DeJong, chief technology officer of Brooklyn Park manufacturer Design Ready Controls, called it the "dirty hands stigma" where middle-skills jobs are considered less-desirable or for the less-intelligent. In reality, these "new collar" jobs also typically require strong backgrounds in mathematics, critical thinking and collaboration.

Kim Taylor, CEO of job-matching software provider Cluster, similarly lamented the stereotype that "if you don't go to college, you have somehow lost the opportunity to be successful." She rightly emphasized how elitist that notion can be, "knowing that two-thirds of Americans don't have a college degree."

Instead of leaning on four-year institutions as the only option for workforce preparation, policymakers, businesses and higher-education leaders should champion alternatives including career and technical education programs and "learn and earn" models to equip students with the skills needed for the 21st-century workforce.

Thanks to collaboration between local employers and the Department of Labor, apprenticeships in Minnesota have grown nearly 30% over the last five years. But we cannot close the middle-skills gap without first diversifying the middle-skills workforce. White men often dominate high-wage apprenticeships, in fields like construction, while workers of color and women are overrepresented in lower-wage programs.

Last month, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to increase funding for tuition-assistance programs for participants in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. Speaking about her bill, Sen. Klobuchar rightly emphasized, "Today, there isn't just one path to success — there are many ways to access the skills and education necessary to get a high-paying and rewarding job."

During our discussion, DeJong and fellow local employer Louis King, president and CEO of Minneapolis' Summit Academy OIC, spoke candidly about how they've diversified their recruitment and training efforts. When underserved populations can't get the quality, affordable education and training they need, Minnesota employers face more severe skills gaps. As King said, while we search for skills-gap solutions, there is already "a workforce hiding in plain sight."

Our workforce needs are changing, and it is time for our attitudes about what will put students on the best pathway to success to change as well.

If local policymakers, employers and educators can work together to train more people in more effective ways, shaping them into lifelong learners and valued employees, the country will owe Minnesota a debt of gratitude — and that is a far better debt to carry.

Jeremy J. Wheaton is the president and chief executive of Minneapolis-based ECMC Group, where he creates and executes strategic initiatives for ECMC Group and its affiliates, and the president and CEO for Zenith Education Group, a nonprofit provider of career school training.

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Thousands of Latino students expected at leadership conference

The following article is from WoodburnIndependent

April 30, 2019

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The Lynchburg Public Library will host a workshop to help prospective college students in their preparations for college.

"Beyond the SAT," with Danny Eckstein will go over tips and tricks to get accepted and pay for college.

The workshop will help prospective students find and apply for federal financial aid and discuss ways to help pay for school.

Eckstein, director of the Educational Credit Management Corporation, will provide free resources and helpful information to navigate the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process as well as tips on college resume building and work study options.

The workshop will take place in the Community Meeting Room and is free and open to the public.

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