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The [Wednesday] Papers

"Federal and state officials said Tuesday they want to close loopholes that allow families to get need-based financial aid they would not otherwise receive by giving up guardianship of their college-bound children," ProPublica Illinois reports.

"The move, they said, could end 'potential student aid fraud' when parents turn over guardianship of their children in hopes of obtaining a tuition break.

"A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General said the office has recommended modifying the language on federal financial aid forms following disclosure of the tactic, first reported by ProPublica Illinois on Monday. The Wall Street Journal also published a story late Monday about the issue."

I wonder how the Wall Street Journal came to work on the same story as ProPublica Illinois at the same time - or vice versa.

Assignment Desk, activate!

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The Journal clearly wasn't just following up on ProPublica's story; they put in work. To wit:

"The Journal's review of more than 1,000 probate court cases filed in 2018 in Lake County, Ill., turned up 38 cases in which a judge granted the transfer of guardianship to a teenager in his or her junior or senior year of high school. Most of the families live in homes valued at around $500,000. Several of those homes were valued at more than $1 million, according to property sites including Zillow.

"In court documents, a petitioner is asked why he or she should become a guardian. Nearly all of the 38 cases use some version of this language: 'The guardian can provide educational and financial support and opportunities to the minor that her parents could not otherwise provide.'"

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Meanwhile . . .

"Lora Georgieva, the owner of a college consulting company based in Lincolnshire, was mentioned in news reports as having worked with at least one family who changed custody arrangements," the Tribune reports.

In an interview Tuesday Georgieva acknowledged she had researched federal student aid regulations and consulted with lawyers, and found that changing guardianship could be a way for students to file a FAFSA as an independent.

Georgieva said she shared that alternative with some clients but said she was not involved in any legal proceedings for guardianship, nor was it a scheme for wealthy clients to circumvent the requirements.

"If they don't have other options, I share with them the rules for independent status for FAFSA," Georgieva said. "I just thought this might be a way - not to fully fund college, not to make the rich people richer - but to help primarily the middle class who are working so hard and cannot send their kids to college."

Georgieva also said she feels providing this type of information is necessary because of the rising cost of college.

"I really believe it is time for change, and I believe I am representing the voice of the middle-class people who are screaming for help to be able to send their kids to college," she said.

Georgieva, who came to America in 2003 from Bulgaria "with one suitcase and many dreams," is the founder of Destination College.

From the DC website:

"We are a Chicago based firm, working with families to make college affordable for their children. Our team of tax, financial and academic planning experts specializes in creating a customized guide, making sure the students are matched to the major and school of their interests, and the parents can comfortably afford it."

In January, Georgieva predicted that a student loan bubble will burst in three to five years - and that she can save families up to $40,000 a year while offering a money-back guarantee:

This interview also includes a video with a testimonial from former Chicago Bear Desmond Clark.

She also says she started a non-profit to help homeless kids and single-moms go to college.

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From the original ProPublica article:

Georgieva runs a Lincolnshire-based college consulting company, Destination College, which offers "strategies to lower tuition expenses." The company's logo is a graduation cap with dollar bills spilling out of it. In video testimonials, clients praise the company for saving them money.

She is tied to at least several of the families, as well as to Rogers, the attorney, who is also featured in the video.

The description for the company's "premier" services includes a "College Financial Plan, Using Income and Asset Shifting Strategies to Increase Your Financial and Merit Aid and Lower Out of Pocket Tuition Expenses."

Reached Monday morning, Georgieva said she was "in the middle of something" and would call later. She then contacted an attorney, Phillip Zisook, who called ProPublica Illinois on her behalf to say she was worried about being depicted in a false light.

Zisook said he would relay ProPublica Illinois' questions to Georgieva. As of publication time, she had not responded.

From the Wall Street Journal:

"The owner of the company, Lora Georgieva, didn't respond to requests for comment. Other people who said they are clients of the firm and spoke to the Journal said they were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement to not disclose her strategy of transferring guardianship."

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Back to the Trib:

"Mari Berlin, an attorney at Kabbe Law Group, which handled some of the guardianship cases described in the ProPublica report, said Illinois law is broad and rests upon the 'best interests' of the minor. Guardianship can be transferred even in situations in which 'parents are willing and able to parent,' so long as the parents consent, Berlin said.

"'We help families obtain court orders appointing someone other than a parent - most often a grandparent or family member but occasionally a very close family friend - as guardian for the minor,' Berlin said in an e-mail. 'We do not assist them with, or counsel them on, the application process or qualifications for financial aid.'

"Berlin also pushed back on the characterization that this mechanism primarily is being used by wealthy families.

"'While we do not analyze our clients' finances to the extent that their college planner would, the majority of our clients would be considered middle class families,' Berlin said."

Of course, an e-mail statement is not the same as an interview. If Berlin wouldn't consent to talk to a reporter, the paper should have just put her down as a "no comment" instead of allowing her to make unquestioned assertions.

Ironically, Berlin graduated from the University of Illinois in 2000 with a journalism degree.

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From the Kabbe Law Group website:

"Mari works with clients in all of our practice areas: estate planning, probate, trust administration, guardianship of disabled adults, guardianship of minor children, Medicaid qualification, and VA benefits qualification."

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Adding:

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Dem Campaign Arm In 'Complete Chaos' Under Illinois' Cheri Bustos
A tenure fraught with controversy.

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Nevermore Park
Coming to Pilsen this fall.

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ChicagoReddit

So Uh, Is This Normal? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

TV Report | Madonna, Blond Ambition Tour in Chicago 1990

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TweetWood
A sampling.

Read. This. Thread.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Slice and dice.



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Posted on July 31, 2019


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