JULY 2014

Volume 9

NO.  7 $100K win is another victory for the Comeback City  


The Last Straw: Finally Enforcing the National Do Not Call Registry  



Who Will "Pay it Forward"?

The Rise of Student Debt and One Possible Solution

















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_____________________ $100K win is another victory for the Comeback City


Michiganders have heard it all lately when it comes to the city of Detroit and the city's comeback. The work of Mayor Mike Duggan and the many CEOs who have committed to help rebuild Detroit is nothing short of a blessing for those who have seen the city crumble for years. But there is one aspect that was missing from the picture until recently, the little guy.


What about the small businesses, the start-up companies? Well, as of June 17, one start-up company,, is seeing the boost it needs to fit alongside the larger Detroit companies. In the Rise of the Rest competition, AOL co-founder Steve Case seeks to find start-up companies with promise, and awards these companies with a $100,000 prize. His tour also includes stops in Pittsburgh, PA, Cincinnati, OH, and Nashville, TN. According to Case, "start-ups can help save the American dream." was launched in 2010 by Harvard graduates Nathan Labenz and Jay Gierak and currently employs around 20 individuals. Their goal is to use Facebook to connect people with professionals or goods that their friends recommend. They also knew Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg while in school. Since both Labenz and Gierak are originally from Detroit, it only made sense for them to move their company from San Francisco about a year and a half ago. The founders plan to use the $100K prize to hire developers, as well as sales and marketing personnel.


In the competition for the $100K prize were nine other contestants that included AdAdapted, Birdhouse for Autism, Locqus, Cribspot, Wiseley Inc., SkySpecs, Gridpar, Spincard and Detroit Aircraft Corp. All contestants put on eight-minute presentations, five minutes for demonstrations and three minutes for questioning by high-level entrepreneurs regarding price-points and market growth.


The victory in Case's Rise of the Rest tour shows the people of Detroit that in the middle of bankruptcy negotiations and grandiose gestures from the big companies, there is still hope for the underdog. Hopefully the victory encourages the future establishment of more small businesses and start-up companies downtown. From this point forward, we can be sure that Detroit is on the rebound.


Larry Eiler


The Last Straw: Finally Enforcing the National Do Not Call Registry


It's been two years in the making, but consumers finally have a victory over pesky companies who chose to ignore the National Do Not Call Registry. Governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the registry takes only a few seconds to sign up for, and is designed to prevent telemarketers from calling any number submitted. Most of the time, it works. However, some companies such as VMS have chosen to ignore this list.


An investigation began in 2012 after the FTC received a flood of complaints against VMS. FTC official Robert Anguizola tell Today News that VMS called over one million consumers. One woman, Diana Mey of West Virginia, sued VMS. When they called yet again, she recorded the call.


Mey: "I have a class action lawsuit pending against your company for these unwanted calls because my number's on the National Do Not Call Registry. Can you explain that to me?"


Telemarketer: "I'm not exactly sure how that works."


Now, in 2014, a report from the Inquisitr reveals that VMS has agreed to pay the $3.4 million fine that the FTC mandated.


The VMS investigation highlights a problem that has been essentially ignored for years. According to Today News, there were 1.6 million complaints against companies for Do Not Call Registry violations, 2.2 million in 2011, and 3.7 in 2013. Considering that there are 223 million numbers on the list, the figures are shocking. Although it took two years, the FTC's crackdown on VMS shows consumers that numbers on the registry will be taken much more seriously in the future, with harsh penalties for companies that do not comply.


If you're fed up with inconsiderate telemarketing calls and want to give the National Do Not Call Registry a try. It only takes 30 here



Haley Garner



Who Will "Pay it Forward"?

The Rise of Student Debt and One Possible Solution


There is one topic not far from most people's minds during these harsh economic times: is the rising cost of higher education and increases in student debt. As we reported in last month's Special Edition, most Michiganders feel that education funding is an urgent priority. A 2012 report by PBS shows that across the country, Americans have about $700 billion in car loans, $800 billion in credit card debt, and a whopping $1 trillion in student debt. Whether conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, Michigan citizens and Americans in general can agree that something must be done.


So what's the solution? No matter how you look at it, with the national debt and unemployment rates rising, school systems are receiving less funding when we desperately need more of it. According to USA Today, Governor Rick Snyder cut Michigan's higher education funding by 15% in 2011. The situation is similar in other states as well.


When it comes to post-graduation student debt, The Institute for College Access & Success published some astounding figures in December 2013.

  • The average loan debt for a graduating senior in the United States is $29,400
  • 7 in 10 students are graduating with loan debt
  • 18.3% of young graduates are working fewer hours than desired, or are not able to find work
  • High-debt states are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest
  • Michigan is number 10 on the list of high-debt states with an average student debt of $28,840


USA Today reveals one solution that has been trickling through the Michigan legislature for some time. That is the implementation of an alternative loan program under the Supporting Michigan and Retaining Talent Act. This new program, called Pay it Forward, would send Michigan students to college for "free" now, provided that they pay the state back later. David Knezek, Democratic State Representative and proponent of the bill, tells us that students would pay back a fixed percentage of their income, 2% for community college graduates and 4% for university graduates, beginning two years after graduation. They would do this at a rate of five years for every single year of schooling. For example, the typical graduate of a four-year university would be paying the 4% of their income for twenty years. This money would go to help future students, and the cycle continues.


To get Pay it Forward running, Knezek states that the pilot program would require $2 million in startup costs. It would then be reviewed every 5 years. The first participants of Pay it Forward in Michigan would be 200 low income and middle-class students.


Although there are many proponents of this new, stress-free loan program for students, many people have their doubts. Susan Dynarski, public policy professor at the University of Michigan tells the Huffington Post "a graduate who does extremely well in the labor market will end up repaying many times over the cost of her education, while one who does poorly will pay much less." Others worry about who will be paying the money back. Since payments are a fixed percentage of income, they are put on hold if the debtor loses a job or is unable to find one to begin with. Some, such as Audrey Spalding of the Mackinac Center of Public Policy, are worried that the program doesn't consider students lying about future income and that graduates will find loopholes.


There are many issues to consider as this bill makes way through the legislature. Taxpayers would have to pay $2 million to start the program, but this could leave future generations with fewer burdens when it comes to student debt. And while there are other expenses that we must worry about such as living expenses, transportation, and textbooks for students, the tuition loan should be enough to get the ball rolling when it comes to fighting for a better Michigan economy.


Haley Garner


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