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    Debt ceiling deal would push student loan borrowers into repayment by fall

    If nothing in the debt ceiling deal changes, the pause on federal student loan payments will “cease to be effective” within months.
    However, the Biden administration was able to keep its sweeping loan forgiveness plan off the chopping block in the negotiations.

    Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

    Federal student loan borrowers hoping for another extension of the pandemic-era payment pause received bad news in the tentative deal between Republican lawmakers and President Joe Biden to suspend the debt ceiling and avoid default.
    According to the legislative text of the agreement, the pause on federal student loan payments, which has been in effect for more than three years now and spanned two presidencies, will “cease to be effective.” Borrowers will be required to resume paying their student loan bills 60 days after June 30. Their due date will likely be in September, experts said.

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    Consumer advocates criticized the deal.
    More from Personal Finance:Parents paying for college ‘is the norm’4 strategies to avoid taking on too much student debtThese moves can help you save big on college costs
    “The deal codifies an assurance for Republicans that Biden will head into 2024 as Americans’ debt collector in chief,” said Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective, a union for debtors.
    White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan defended the president’s negotiations on behalf of borrowers.
    “President Biden protected the student debt relief plan in its entirety,” Hasan said, adding that the administration “announced back in November that the current student loan payment pause would end this summer — this agreement makes no changes to that plan.”

    Here’s what borrowers need to know about the debt ceiling legislation.

    Deal ends the payment pause, likely for good

    The pause on federal student loan payments is one of the few remaining Covid-related relief measures still in effect. It was first announced by then President Donald Trump in March 2020, and has since been extended eight times.
    The policy has suspended the accrual of interest on federal student debt and allowed borrowers to forgo making their payments without facing any penalties. Tens of millions of Americans are taking advantage of it. Since the start of the public health crisis, those who have benefited from the pause have saved around $5,000 in interest on average, according to calculations by higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.
    In the current version of the debt ceiling agreement, the pause would be terminated 60 days after the end of June. The U.S. Department of Education would also be restricted in its ability to extend this particular relief again, with another prolongment likely only possible from Congress.

    The White House was aiming to restart student loan payments within months anyway, Kantrowitz said, and so “the legislation does not represent a change in that regard.”
    Indeed, the Biden administration had been bracing borrowers to be ready for the bills to resume 60 days after the legal troubles over its student loan forgiveness plan were resolved, or by the end of August, at the latest.
    However, the fact that only Congress may be able to extend the current pause worried advocates, given that the president’s sweeping student loan forgiveness plan is currently on hold while the Supreme Court decides its fate.

    The deal codifies an assurance for Republicans that Biden will head into 2024 as Americans’ debt collector in chief.

    Astra Taylor
    co-founder of the Debt Collective

    “This deal takes away the White House’s ability to extend the current payment pause if the Supreme Court kills the relief, making it more likely 40 million people will have to repay loans that the president promised were canceled,” Taylor said.
    The Biden administration has warned that resuming student loan payments without being able to carry out its debt forgiveness plan could trigger a historic spike in defaults and delinquencies.

    Student loan forgiveness, other relief, not in agreement

    The agreement to avert economic default doesn’t include a cut to Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for tens of millions of Americans. House Republicans wanted to halt the program.
    The Supreme Court is likely to strike down the policy, given that the conservative justices outnumber the liberals. A decision by the highest court is expected in June or July.
    The Biden administration’s “pending regulatory changes” to student loan repayment would also not be impacted by the deal, including implementing a new repayment plan, said Kantrowitz.
    Under the plan, qualifying borrowers would pay just 5% of their discretionary income toward their student debt each month. More

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    As emergency savings drop and credit card balances rise, experts say taking 3 steps can help

    FA Playbook

    As high inflation continues, the financial strain on many households has worsened.
    For those feeling financial stress, there are several ways to find some wiggle room, experts said.

    Miniseries | E+ | Getty Images

    Americans have suffered in “declines in overall financial well-being,” according to a new annual Federal Reserve report on economic well-being of U.S. households released last week.
    Only 63% of all adults can cover an unexpected $400 expense, the report on 2022 found, down from a high of about 68% in 2021. The results are in keeping with other recent surveys that likewise show the cash cushion Americans have set aside for emergencies has dwindled in the face of record high inflation.

    To slow the price growth, the Federal Reserve has steadily raised interest rates, which has posed another problem for households: higher interest rates on debt.
    U.S. credit card debts now total nearly $1 trillion — or $986 billion, to be precise — as of the first quarter of 2023, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That marks the first time in 20 years balances have not fallen following the holiday season, according to the central bank’s research.

    In February, Bruce McClary, senior vice president of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, told CNBC an “ugly stew is brewing” as individuals and families juggle the pressures of rising prices, lower savings and higher costs on their debts.
    Now, experts say they’ve seen those pressures continue.
    “It’s obviously a time for many people of rising stress levels with respect to their personal finances,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

    The situation will continue for as long as economic growth is subpar and inflation is elevated, Hamrick predicted.
    Nevertheless, there are several ways consumers can try to ease their financial stress, experts say.

    1. ‘Don’t wait until the debt collector calls you’

    The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is seeing two trends: an increasing number of people reaching out to nonprofit credit counselors for help, and elevated demand for the debt management programs offered by these nonprofits, according to McClary.
    “We’ve seen over the past year that there’s less and less wiggle room in people’s budgets,” McClary said.
    Some people are seeking help after they’ve already fallen behind and have started to get debt collection calls, he said.
    “My advice to people is: Don’t wait until the debt collector calls you,” McClary said.
    “If you’re at the point where you’re going to miss a payment, reach out and get help,” he said, from your lenders, a credit counselor or another trusted financial professional.
    If a person waits until after they have missed a payment, they may have fewer options, he said.

    2. ‘Think seriously about delaying discretionary purchases’

    As prices and interest rates have gone up, it’s a good time to think about putting off unnecessary purchases, according to Hamrick.
    “Think seriously about delaying discretionary purchases or at least keep them on or under budget,” Hamrick said.
    In the years Bankrate has been doing surveys on top financial regrets, respondents never regret not spending more money, Hamrick noted. But the regret that often ranks highly is not saving more for long-term goals such as emergency savings or retirement, he said.
    Delaying big-ticket purchases, such as replacing a car, may free up more of a household’s budget to cover other expenses or possibly to set cash aside.

    3. Schedule time to manage household finances

    In the same way individuals and families spend time planning their daily, weekly or monthly activities, they should also be setting aside time to keep tabs on their finances, Hamrick said.
    This may be as simple as going through bank account transactions to make sure they’re on budget. It may also include keeping tabs on subscriptions and other monthly charges to see where it might be possible to trim costs, he said.
    People may be surprised at how much money per month they’re able to save by canceling services, renegotiating rates or finding another provider, he said.
    If there is extra cash to set aside, high interest rates have made it a great time to get a better return on those funds, he said.
    “High-yield savings is a remarkable opportunity right now,” Hamrick said. More

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    529 college savings plans took a hit last year: How to protect your money with more volatility ahead

    Total investments in 529 college savings plans took a hit in 2022, sinking 15% from a year earlier.
    But these portfolios are designed to weather some ups and downs.
    Alternatively, there are also relatively risk-free investment options for 529 plans that may provide more peace of mind in an uncertain market, one expert said.

    These days, many people are worried about paying for college. Less than half of Americans are confident that they’re currently saving enough for future education expenses, according to a recent report by Edward Jones.
    Checking your 529 college savings balance may not provide much comfort, either.

    Last year, these popular savings plans took a hit during a prolonged period of market volatility. The average account balance was $25,630 at the end of 2022, down from a high of more than $30,000 in 2021, according to the College Savings Plans Network, or CSPN, a network of state-administered college savings programs.
    Total investments in 529s also fell, to $411 billion in 2022, down nearly 15% from $480 billion the year before.
    More from Personal Finance:Parents paying for college ‘is the norm’4 strategies to avoid taking on too much student debtThese moves can help you save big on college costs

    Advantages of a 529 plan

    Overall, there are many advantages to a 529 plan. In some states, you can get a tax deduction or credit for contributions. Earnings grow on a tax-advantaged basis and, when you withdraw the money, it is tax-free if the funds are used for qualified education expenses such as tuition, fees, books, and room and board, or even apprenticeship programs.
    A few states also offer additional benefits, such as scholarships or matching grants, to their residents if they invest in their home state’s 529 plan.

    Further, you can now put some of the funds toward your student loan tab: up to $10,000 for each plan beneficiary, as well as another $10,000 for each of the beneficiary’s siblings.
    And starting in 2024, savers can roll money from 529 plans over to Roth individual retirement accounts free of income tax or tax penalties.

    How to account for risk

    On the downside, these plans are susceptible to losses, just like any other investment account.
    Generally, 529 plans offer age-based portfolios, which start off with more equity exposure early on in a child’s life and then automatically adjust so as the start of college draws near, the portfolio will be weighted toward more conservative investments, such as bonds.
    “An enrollment-based strategy is designed for market volatility,” said Chris Lynch, president of TIAA Tuition Financing. 
    For example, during a downturn, a beneficiary in third grade with a portfolio heavily weighted toward equities could see a more pronounced reduction, he said, compared with a beneficiary in high school, whose portfolio would be more muted due to a higher allocation in cash and bonds.
    Still, the time horizon for college is much shorter compared with most retirement savings accounts, he added. “We’d love it if people started when their children were newborns, but most people don’t — that could drive a little more urgency around a market drop.”

    Plan holders have two opportunities a year to change their asset allocation if, for example, they feel that an overly aggressive portfolio is too nerve-wracking in the current climate, according to Rachel Biar, chair of CSPN and assistant state treasurer of Nebraska. “All plans have options,” she said.
    “Thinking long-term about your money is critical but right now, investing can feel risky,” added Mary Morris, CEO of Virginia529, one of the largest 529 plans in the country.
    “Fortunately, there are safe investment options for 529 plans that can handle market turbulence and provide peace of mind.” 
    Here are Morris’ recommendations for some ways to preserve capital in a volatile year:

    FDIC-insured accounts. An FDIC-insured portfolio element may appeal to risk-averse investors or those with a shorter time before the funds are needed for higher education or other qualified education expenses. These interest-bearing deposit accounts are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 for each account owner, similar to other checking and savings accounts.
    Stable value funds. Stable value funds are a good investment option for those looking to balance with low-risk portfolios that boast a steady return, which is often better than a money market fund. In recent years, a growing number of 529 plans have begun offering a stable value fund portfolio for college savings investors. During recent market changes, these funds were one of the few investments that produced a positive return.

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    TipRanks reveals the top 10 consumer goods sector analysts of the past decade

    A Citibank sign in front of one of the company’s offices in California.
    Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

    Over the past decade, rising household incomes have helped boost the consumer goods sector, providing a great investment opportunity for those who know where to look.
    TipRanks recognized Wall Street’s 10 best analysts in the consumer goods sector for identifying the best investment opportunities. These analysts outperformed their peers with their stock picking and generated significant returns through their recommendations.

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    TipRanks used its Experts Center tool to identify the pros with a high success rate, and analyzed each stock recommendation made by analysts in the consumer goods sector over the past decade. 
    The ranking highlights the analysts’ ability to deliver returns from their recommendations. TipRanks’ algorithms calculated the statistical significance of each rating, the analysts’ overall success rate and the average return. Further, each rating was measured over one year.

    Top 10 analysts from the consumer goods sector

    The image below shows the most successful Wall Street analysts from the consumer goods sector.

    Arrows pointing outwards

    1. John Baugh – Stifel Nicolaus 

    John Baugh tops the list. Baugh has an overall success rate of 63%. His best rating has been on RH (NYSE:RH), a leading retailer of luxury home furnishings. His buy call on RH stock from March 31, 2020, to March 31, 2021, generated a solid return of 493.8%.

    2. Paul Quinn – RBC

    Paul Quinn is second on this list and has a success rate of 58%. Quinn’s top recommendation is Interfor (TSE:IFP), a Canadian company offering a diverse range of lumber products. The analyst generated a profit of 440.2% through his buy recommendation on Interfor stock from May 8, 2020, to May 8, 2021.

    3. Anthony Pettinari – Citi

    Citi analyst Anthony Pettinari ranks No. 3 on the list. Pettinari has a success rate of 69%. His best recommendation has been on Lennar (NYSE:LEN), a home construction company. The analyst generated a return of 161.2% through a buy recommendation on LEN from April 15, 2020, to April 15, 2021. 

    4. Sam Poser – Williams Trading 

    Sam Poser bags the fourth spot on the list. The analyst has a 53% overall success rate. Poser’s best recommendation has been on Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX), a footwear company. His buy call on CROX stock generated a 375.5% return from May 13, 2020, to May 13, 2021.

    5. Martin Landry – Stifel Nicolaus

    Fifth-place analyst Martin Landry has a success rate of 57%. His best recommendation is Canopy Growth (TSE:WEED), a Canadian cannabis company. The analyst delivered a profit on this stock of 580.8% from Sept. 8, 2017, to Sept. 8, 2018.

    6. Toshiya Hari – Goldman Sachs

    Taking the sixth position is Toshiya Hari. The analyst has a success rate of 62%. His top recommendation was for leading chip company Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA). Through his buy call on NVDA stock, Hari generated a solid return of 206.4% from June 2, 2016, to June 2, 2017.

    7. Chip Moore – EF Hutton

    EF Hutton analyst Chip Moore is seventh on this list, with a success rate of 61%. Moore’s best call has been a buy on the shares of Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG), a company focused on developing hydrogen fuel cell systems. The recommendation generated a return of 382.5% from Sept.19, 2019, to Sept. 19, 2020.

    8. Michael Swartz – Truist Financial 

    In the eighth position is Michael Swartz of Truist Financial. Swartz has an overall success rate of 49%. The analyst’s top recommendation is MarineMax (NYSE:HZO), a retailer of recreational boats and yachts. Based on his buy call on HZO, Swartz generated a profit of 609.6% from March 20, 2020, to March 20, 2021. 

    9. Nik Modi – RBC

    Nik Modi ranks ninth on the list. The analyst sports a 65% success rate. His top recommendation has been on Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM), offering craft-brewed beers. The buy recommendation generated a return of 230.2% from March 23, 2020, to March 23, 2021.

    10. Mark Astrachan – Stifel Nicolaus

    Mark Astrachan has the 10th spot on the list, with a success rate of 65%. Astrachan’s best call has been a buy on shares of Celsius Holdings (NASDAQ:CELH), a consumer packaged goods company focused on lifestyle energy drinks. The recommendation generated a return of 174.5% from May 11, 2022, to May 11, 2023.

    Bottom line

    Investors can follow the ratings of top analysts to help them make an informed investment decision. We will soon return with the top 10 analysts of the past decade in the service sector. More

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    Here’s why Shake Shack’s recent deal with Engaged Capital may have fallen short for shareholders

    Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

    Company: Shake Shack (SHAK)

    Business: Shake Shack owns, operates and licenses Shake Shack restaurants, which offer hamburgers, chicken, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, shakes, frozen custard, beer, wine and other products. The company was originally founded in 2001 by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. The company has owned restaurants in every region of the U.S. and licensed locations across the Middle East, Asia and the United Kingdom.
    Stock Market Value: $2.76B ($65.40 per share)

    Activist: Engaged Capital

    Percentage Ownership: 6.6%
    Average Cost: n/a
    Activist Commentary: Engaged Capital was founded by Glenn W. Welling, a former principal and managing director at Relational Investors. Engaged is an experienced and successful small cap investor and makes investments with a two-to-five-year investment horizon. Its style is holding management and boards accountable behind closed doors.

    What’s happening?

    Shake Shack entered a cooperation agreement with Engaged. As part of that agreement, the restaurant chain appointed Jeffrey D. Lawrence, former CFO of Domino’s Pizza, to its board and agreed to work with Engaged to identify an additional mutually agreed upon independent director to appoint to the Shake Shack board with restaurant operations experience.

    Behind the scenes

    Shake Shack is an iconic fast-casual restaurant founded by a culinary visionary, Danny Meyer. Through Union Square Hospitality Group, Meyer founded and operated some of the most critically acclaimed gourmet restaurants in the world for many years. Over the past 20 years, he and his team have developed one of the greatest casual hamburger chain restaurants in the country, Shake Shack. They took Shake Shack public in 2015 with 63 restaurants and have expanded to 436 restaurants in eight years.

    Much of the senior management team came from Union Square Hospitality Group and the fine dining industry. Perhaps most notably the CEO, Randy Garutti, has a long history working with Meyer and was the general manager at Union Square Café and Tabla in New York City. The problem is that the same skillset required to create a brand and run upscale, gourmet restaurants is not the same skillset needed to operate and scale a quick-service restaurant. In fact, some might say it is a completely opposite skillset. Accordingly, restaurant margins at Shake Shack have declined by 790 basis points since 2018 and corporate return on capital has gone from greater than 30% to less than zero today. As a public company, Shake Shack has significantly underperformed both the market and its peers.
    The good news is that the hard part – creating an iconic brand – has already been done. Not many people can do that. The easy part – scaling an already strong and growing brand – has been done by innumerable people, many of whom are available to do it again. This means getting a board that is focused on putting together a management team with experience operating and expanding quick-service or fast-casual restaurants and holding that team accountable if they do not succeed.
    To that end, Engaged announced that it had identified three new director candidates and was pushing for the company to retain an operational consulting firm. One of these candidates, Kevin Reddy, has extensive experience operating and growing restaurant chains like Chipotle. Another candidate is a co-founder of Engaged, and the other is an experienced advisor and consultant. Because the board is staggered, only four of 11 directors are up for election this year. That is only the tip of the iceberg of the challenges Engaged faces in this campaign as this is as bad of a corporate governance structure as we have seen in a public company.
    Meyer controls just under 9% of the company’s shares, but he holds special rights over corporate actions that far exceed his economic ownership, including (i) the ability to appoint five directors; (ii) the ability to designate 50% of the members of each committee of the board; (iii) hiring or firing the CEO; and (iv) increasing or decreasing the size of the board. In other words, this is Meyer’s company and only he can make significant changes.
    As a result, this is a crusade of persuasion for Engaged. Engaged had an opportunity to go to a proxy fight and have the shareholders replace three incumbent directors, including the CEO, with new directors. While this would not have given Engaged or the new board the power to overrule anything Meyer and his incumbent directors wanted, it would have sent a strong message to them that the shareholders expected change. Instead, Engaged settled for one director who was not even one of the three they proposed and a second to be agreed upon, which also will not likely be one of the three the firm proposed.
    This is a definite victory for the company as there is very little one director could do on a board like this. It allows Engaged to claim a win, but the firm is still reliant on Meyer’s decisions, and it lost a valuable opportunity to send a message to management. This effectively changes nothing and gives Engaged no more power to institute the changes it so astutely identified to create shareholder value. Identifying the problems is one thing and having a path to fix them is entirely different. The path here is completely controlled by management.
    Ken Squire is the founder and president of 13D Monitor, an institutional research service on shareholder activism, and the founder and portfolio manager of the 13D Activist Fund, a mutual fund that invests in a portfolio of activist 13D investments. More

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    Are lower-income Americans paying for wealthy consumers’ credit card rewards? Some economists say they are

    Have you ever gotten a free flight because of your Delta SkyMiles card? Or maybe you get the advantage of walking through the quick TSA PreCheck line at the airport instead of waiting on the typically very long general security line because of your Capital One Venture Rewards Card.
    About 90% of all credit card spending is on rewards cards. If you play the game right and maximize your rewards, you could save at least a few hundred dollars every year.

    “We have created an ecosystem where we have kind of essentially been giving a drug to the consumer, which is these rewards cards,” said Sumit Agarwal, a finance professor at the National University of Singapore. “And the reason we keep giving this drug is we know it’s highly profitable and we know the consumer is addicted to it.”
    More from Personal Finance:5 ways to start paying down credit card debtDoes America’s credit habit make a recession inevitable?What to do as credit card rates keep climbing
    In 2019, in return for all the spending on these types of credit cards, the largest U.S. banks paid out nearly $35 billion in rewards. But where’s that money coming from?
    In that same year, banks reported more than $140 billion in revenue from all credit cards. That is from three main revenue sources: $9.9 billion in fee income, $89.7 billion in interest income and $41.3 billion from interchange, or swipe, fees. More than half of that revenue comes from rewards credit cards, according to Agarwal.
    Agarwal and other economists, in a study, concluded the rewards credit card system creates an estimated annual redistribution of more than $15 billion from less to more educated, poorer to richer, and high- to low-minority areas — widening existing disparities. That means there’s $15 billion that could be distributed in a different way to achieve greater equality. 

    “Low FICO [credit score] customers are essentially spending so much more on these reward cards to get access to the rewards, which is only 2% or 3% of the total value of the spending, that they accumulate debt and that debt accumulation causes … this huge interest payment that is going to the bank,” Agarwal said.
    “It’s also going to the high FICO score customers, because these high FICO score customers are only using these rewards but not accumulating any debt,” Agarwal said.
    “So they are being cross-subsidized in the process of using their reward cards,” he added.
    But Andy Navarrete, executive vice president and head of external affairs at Capital One, said there is no cross-subsidization and that rewards cards at the bank are designed to be independently profitable.

    We have created an ecosystem where we have kind of essentially been giving a drug to the consumer.

    Sumit Agarwal
    finance professor at the National University of Singapore

    “While there are certainly customers who choose to borrow on their credit cards, that is not typically the revenue streams that are funding rewards cards,” Navarrete said.
    “The flawed premise behind this study was that those who are carrying balances and therefore paying interest are actually cross-subsidizing or, you know, contributing to the profitability of rewards programs overall,” Navarrete added.
    “That is actually not the case,” he said.
    Watch the video above to learn more. More

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    How the student loan payment pause has made it easier for public servants to get forgiveness

    Student borrowers pursuing public service loan forgiveness haven’t had to make a payment on their debt in years, while they’ve moved closer to getting relief.
    As a result, the pandemic-era policy likely saved many public servants thousands of dollars.

    Skynesher | E+ | Getty Images

    The pandemic-era policy suspending federal student loan payments has been an especially big win for public servants.
    Most borrowers have benefited from the payment pause, which has lasted more than three years and spanned two presidencies. But for those pursuing the popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the policy has allowed them to get closer to debt cancellation while not making any payments on their debt.

    “We can safely say that borrowers in PSLF have saved thousands of dollars,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.
    The PSLF program was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush in 2007 and allows qualifying nonprofit and government employees to have their federal student loans canceled after 10 years, or 120 payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that one-quarter of American workers could be eligible.
    Here’s what the payment pause has meant for those who are pursuing the relief.

    Months of the pause count toward loan forgiveness

    Each month during the pause should count toward a borrowers’ timeline on PSLF, whether or not they made a payment. Because of that, experts have recommended that public servants avoid making payments on their debt during this period.
    The pause on federal student loan bills has been extended eight times since it was first announced in March 2020 and has been in effect for more than 36 months now, meaning nearly a third of borrowers’ required payments to get PSLF may be covered by the relief policy.

    Advocates say that public servants deserved such a benefit after the problems that have plagued the loan forgiveness program. Borrowers were often under the impression they were paying their way to loan cancellation only to discover at some point in the process that they don’t qualify, usually for confusing and technical reasons. Advocates and regulators have also blamed lenders for misleading borrowers and botching their timelines.
    More from Personal Finance:98% of workers support pay transparencyCompanies are slashing parental leave benefitsHere are the ‘most employable’ college degrees
    Kantrowitz said borrowers can visit to check the number of qualifying payments they’ve racked up.
    The Biden administration is also working to make adjustments to people’s accounts, to make sure their payments have been counted correctly, Kantrowitz said.

    Many PSLF requirements still in place

    While borrowers pursuing PSLF will get credit for payments during the pause, they still need to be employed with the government or a qualifying nonprofit to be heading toward loan forgiveness, Kantrowitz said.
    “The Biden administration did not waive the requirement that the borrower be employed full-time in a public service job for a paused payment to count toward PSLF,” he said.

    The best way to find out if your job qualifies as public service is to fill out the employer certification form. Try to do this paperwork at least once a year, Kantrowitz said, and keep records of your confirmed qualifying payments to avoid errors or missed credit.
    Borrowers should also make sure their loans are in the Direct Loan program and that they are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, which are other mandates of the policy. Those with other types of federal loans have until the end of 2023 to consolidate into the Direct Loan program to receive credit for qualifying payments, a spokesperson for the Education Department said.
    When the payment pause on federal student loans ends, likely in September, borrowers will have to resume payments to get credit for PSLF.

    Sweeping forgiveness will have less of an impact

    The fate of the Biden administration’s sweeping student loan forgiveness is currently in the hands of the Supreme Court.
    If the justices allow the program to proceed, the impact on borrowers pursuing PSLF may not be too significant, experts say. For some, the $10,000 or $20,000 in relief would wipe away their debt, and they would not have to make any more monthly payments.
    Yet if they still have a balance remaining, their monthly bill would probably not change after the relief, since their payment is usually calculated as a share of their income rather than total debt. More

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    Many companies are adding, expanding tuition assistance so workers can go back to college

    Tuition assistance may be the most valuable incentive companies are using to attract and keep workers.
    For employees, tuition assistance can be a game changer.
    Big corporate names including Walmart, McDonald’s, T-Mobile and Amazon have programs that help cover the cost of going back to school.

    As a growing number of Americans feel priced out of a college education, tuition assistance may be the most valuable incentive companies are using to attract and keep workers.
    In the last few years, more businesses have added or expanded benefit offerings of free college programs. Not only does free or discounted higher education improve recruitment and retention, it also cuts down on student debt while advancing the long-term well-being of employees, experts say.

    Big corporate names including Walmart, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Amazon, Home Depot, Target, UPS, FedEx, Chipotle and Starbucks have programs that help cover the cost of going back to school. Waste Management will not only pay for college degrees and professional certificates for employees, but also offers this same benefit to their spouses and children.
    More from Personal Finance:98% of workers support pay transparencyCompanies are slashing parental leave benefitsHere are the ‘most employable’ college degrees
    Of course, employers paying for their employees to get a degree is not new. For decades, businesses have picked up the tab for white-collar workers’ graduate studies and MBAs.
    However, many companies are now extending this benefit to front-line workers, such as drivers, cashiers and hourly employees, as well as heavily promoting the offering more than they have before.
    Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, these types of benefits play a big part in the competition for workers and more companies are now offering opportunities to develop new skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2022 employee benefits survey. 

    To that point, 48% of employers said they offer undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance as a benefit, according to the SHRM survey. A separate survey from Willis Towers Watson in 2021 found 80% of large employers offer tuition reimbursement.

    Programs can open ‘career paths to higher-paying roles’

    “I thought about college, but I didn’t think I had the resources to work full time and go to school,” said Tara Sims, 39, an associate at a Walmart store in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

    Walmart associate Tara Sims with her daughter Brylie.
    Source: Tara Sims

    Sims is now almost a year into a bachelor’s degree in business administration through Walmart’s Live Better U education program. Sims, who will be the first person in her family to complete college, said she was motivated by her 12-year-old daughter, Brylie.
    “I actually made the honor roll last fall and sharing that email with her was really exciting for me,” Sims said.
    Five years ago, Walmart unveiled an ambitious educational assistance plan for its workers. Then, in 2021, the country’s largest employer said it would make the program entirely free for all full- and part-time associates, covering 100% of college tuition and book costs.

    “Our higher education system is in trouble right now,” said Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart. “We just keep doubling down on the programs that are going to unlock those career paths to higher-paying roles.”
    Over the last five years, the company has helped employees save nearly half a billion dollars in what otherwise would have been student debt, she estimated.
    About 104,000 associates of Walmart and its Sam’s Club subsidiary have participated in the Live Better U education program so far, the company announced Thursday.
    Those employees are two times more likely to be promoted and four times less likely to leave the company, according to Rachel Romer, CEO of Guild Education, Walmart’s partner for the program.
    “Our goal is to create career mobility,” Romer said, and “Walmart has also inspired other companies to get in the game.”
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