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Chicago suburbs, by flikr user Scorpions and Centaurs

American student loan debt totals nearly one trillion dollars. These loans break down to about $23,300 owed by each borrower. Changing Gears has been reporting on the effects of that debt and what it takes to pay it off.

We want to know how student debt affects big purchasing decisions. Are you ready to buy a house? And if so, can you get a mortgage?

Tell us how student debt affects your housing plans.


Budget cuts Illinois Governor Pat Quinn outlined plans yesterday to cut the state’s pension costs and Medicaid programs. Partner station WBEZ Chicago says Quinn also plans to close two prisons and consolidate dozens of state offices.

Teacher teacher The Wall Street Journal looks at a shakeup for poor performing schools in Chicago, and sees a trend. More Democratic mayors are challenging teacher unions.

Clean energy ballot push Partner station WCPN Ideastream Cleveland reports there’s a new ballot initiative underway that would let voters choose whether the state should borrow billions to invest in clean energy. Turns out, environmentalists have nothing to do with the ballot initiative.

Surprise! It sold A busy real estate market is surprising some sellers in Northeast Ohio. Home sales were up more than 25 percent for the region in January, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

UAW protest plans The conservative web site, The Daily Caller, says it’s found evidence that the UAW plans to train 100,000 people for “The 99% Spring” protest movement. The Detroit News has a story. Changing Gears has discussed the UAW’s connection to the movement before.

Going private Proposals in Michigan would open the door to privately-run prisons.

Windy city The city of Milwaukee’s wind turbine is officially up!


There is a mixed bag of news on the housing front in our region, which keeps a close eye on home developments as an indicator of the way car sales may go.

Foreclosures are down sharply across the Great Lakes states, as well as nation wide.

For sale signs have become a common stable of front lawns in the Great Recession. Photo by Sean Dreilinger via Flickr.

RealtyTrac, which follows real estate trends nationally, said foreclosures across the country fell more than 34 percent compared with same month a year ago. In Ohio, RealtyTrac said foreclosures fell 38 percent from July 2010, and they’re down nearly 50 percent in Illinois.

In Michigan, foreclosures in July fell 42 percent compared with a year ago, and they fell 47 percent in metropolitan Detroit, to a two-year low.

But RealtyTrac says the declines aren’t due to better business conditions, but to short term actions. In many cases, states are stepping in to stop foreclosures.

In Michigan, the larger decline in foreclosures compared with the national average seems to be tied in part to a court ruling that said financial institutions were violating Michigan’s regulations, according to the Detroit News.

An April ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals halted the foreclosure of 400 properties held by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lemar Wooley, a HUD spokesman, told the paper.

Meanwhile, home sales seem to be picking up in the Milwaukee area, as this story in the Journal-Sentinel explains. Realtors there say sales in July were up nearly 46 percent from a year ago.

But home sales fell in the nine-county Chicago area from April through June. Sales of houses and condos fell 16.6 percent in the second quarter compared with a year ago, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.

Automakers watch three key economic indicators: unemployment, housing, and consumer confidence, in gauging how cars and trucks will sell.