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Chris Arnold

If you're looking to sell your home and avoid people tromping through your living room at open houses, there's a new option that's becoming popular in many parts of the country. Companies called iBuyers, or instant buyers, use computer algorithms to make you an offer, often within a day.

With rising home prices, many young people think they can't afford homes. But there are alternatives to the traditional 20% down payment, giving more people the opportunity of homeownership.

Listen to the full story on finding the right mortgage from Life Kit here.

Financial firms may be discriminating against people based on where they went to college, a watchdog group says. In particular, the group found that a lender named Upstart appears to be charging higher interest rates on student loans to graduates of historically black or predominantly Hispanic colleges.

A lot more people are getting loans these days from a new breed of lenders known as fintechs, or financial technology firms. And some of these lenders factor in where loan applicants went to college.

It has been more than two years since the nation's most powerful financial watchdog examined the companies that manage about $1.5 trillion of federal student loans owed by 43 million borrowers.

On Thursday, two members of the Senate Banking Committee said they're exasperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's continuing failure to pursue mounting problems with the way student loans are handled.

Your credit score can determine whether you can buy a car, get certain jobs or rent an apartment. It's a big deal. And so is this: Credit scores for many Americans are about to change — even if they don't do anything.

The changes will be extensive. About 40 million Americans are likely to see their credit scores drop by 20 points or more, and an equal number should go up by as much, according to Joanne Gaskin, vice president of scores and analytics at FICO, the company at the heart of the credit scoring system.

Updated at 1:26 p.m. ET Friday

If Jeff Bezos can't keep his phone safe, how can the rest of us hope to?

Sure, Bezos, Amazon's CEO and the owner of The Washington Post, is smart and presumably has good security people helping him, says Matthew Green, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University. But, Green says, "the bad thing about being Jeff Bezos is that there are a lot of people with huge amounts of money who want to hack you."

A few years ago, Lauren had a big problem. The Queens, N.Y., resident had graduated from college with an art degree as the Great Recession had hit. She had private student loans with high interest rates. For work, all she could find were retail jobs. And by 2016, her loans had ballooned to about $200,000.

" 'I can't afford to actually pay my bills and eat and pay my rent,' " she remembers thinking. "I was financially handicapped. I mean, my student loan payments were higher than my rent was."

Mike Calhoun is a man on a mission. He's flying around the country, warning state lawmakers and prosecutors, sounding the alarm at conferences and with members of Congress.

Updated at 12:26 p.m. ET

A nonprofit student loan group is suing the nation's most powerful consumer watchdog agency. The lawsuit, first obtained by NPR, alleges that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has abandoned its obligation to oversee companies that manage student loans, in particular a troubled loan forgiveness program.

Presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders want to tear up your student loans and set you financially free. That's popular among voters – especially those struggling to pay off this debt.

Other Democratic candidates have more modest plans. But economists say the dramatic proposals from Sanders and Warren to free millions of Americans from the burden of student debt could boost the economy in significant ways and help combat income inequality.

Updated at 12:23 p.m. ET

A few years ago, money was very tight for Chasity Wohlford. The Houston resident, who was working a low-wage job, needed to fly to Colorado for a family emergency. She says a friend told her, "Oh, just go to this payday lender. It's super easy." But Wohlford ended up over her head in debt after taking out that loan.

A couple of years ago, Laura Hart had been through a divorce, her car was 11 years old, and she wanted a new vehicle. "Almost, 'I earned it,' really" is how Hart says she felt at the time.

She'd been through a tough experience "while maintaining a full-time job and raising two kids and things like that, so when I got to the point where I felt comfortable to take on a car loan again, I was fairly proud and ready to do that."

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Twenty-three U.S. senators are calling on the nation's top consumer protection agency to investigate a loan servicer for its role in a troubled student loan forgiveness program. The program is designed to help public service workers like teachers and police officers.

The loan servicer, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, better known as FedLoan and PHEAA, is one of the entities that handles the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET

Four U.S. senators told the head of the nation's top consumer protection agency Thursday that they want her to launch examinations into serious problems with a program designed to offer loan forgiveness to public service workers.

Starting early last year, the nation's most powerful consumer protection agency sent examiners into companies that run student loan call centers to try to fix a troubled loan forgiveness program. But the Department of Education blocked the bureau from getting the information it needed, NPR has learned.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is designed to help firefighters, military service members, nonprofit workers and others. But thousands of people say they were treated unfairly and rejected.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and leaders of the country's indigenous peoples have reached a deal to cancel a disputed austerity package. The move follows nearly two weeks of violent, widespread protests.

The unrest began after Moreno ended government subsidies that have helped keep fuel prices low in Ecuador for some 40 years. The move was part of a broader austerity plan related to $4.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund to prop up Ecuador's government and economy.

A different sort of American dream is under construction outside Denver. More than 130 homes are being framed and nail-gunned together. But there won't be any real estate agents staging open houses. Instead of homeownership, this development is all about home-rentership.

"We got started in around 2010 after the housing crash and people were losing their homes," says Josh Hartmann, the CEO of NexMetro Communities, the company building these homes.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has reached an agreement in principle to settle a lawsuit that alleged that MIT, one of the nation's most prestigious universities, hurt workers in its retirement plan by engaging in an improper relationship with the financial firm Fidelity Investments.

At its heart, the new Trump administration plan for the home loan market aims to change the rules for the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The two companies are the bedrock foundation for home mortgages in the U.S.

The government created them decades ago to provide a federally backed guarantee on loans to ensure that money would always be available for responsible, qualified homebuyers to get mortgages. They later became largely private companies but have been under government control since the financial crisis.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the nation's most prestigious universities, stands accused of hurting workers in the company's retirement plan by engaging in an improper relationship with the financial firm Fidelity.

A lawsuit headed to trial in September alleges that MIT ignored the advice of its own consultants and allowed Fidelity to pack the university's retirement plan with high-fee investment funds that ended up costing employees tens of millions of dollars. In return, the lawsuit said, MIT leveraged millions of dollars in donations from Fidelity.

Updated at 6:56 p.m. ET

Stocks plunged Wednesday on deepening worries over a slowdown in the global economy.

The Dow closed down 800 points, or about 3%. Investors have been whipsawed in recent days by mixed signals emerging from the Trump administration about tariffs and the escalating trade war with China.

The jitters were exacerbated amid worrisome economic data from two big countries. Germany posted negative growth in the latest quarter, and China's growth in industrial output fell to a 17-year low.

The Trump administration is moving to weaken the civil rights-era Fair Housing Act — making it much harder to bring lawsuits alleging discrimination in housing, according to housing advocates. But conservative groups applaud the move and say it would stop frivolous lawsuits.

Updated at 11:25 a.m. ET

Equifax will pay up to $700 million in fines and monetary relief to consumers over a 2017 data breach at the credit reporting bureau that affected nearly 150 million people.

Updated at 1:09 p.m. ET

Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

For 10 years, Baker, who was a public school teacher in Tulsa, Okla., checked in with loan servicing companies and was told she was on track.

The director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says the Trump administration's Education Department is getting in the way of efforts to police the student loan industry. The revelation, in a letter obtained by NPR, comes at the same time that lawsuits allege that widespread wrongdoing by student loan companies is costing some borrowers thousands of dollars.

Nearly 2,300 teachers have just had a mountain of student loan debt lifted off their backs, according to previously unreleased figures from the U.S. Department of Education. The move follows reporting by NPR that exposed a nightmare for public school teachers across the country.

Updated at 9:47 a.m. ET Thursday

Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard who made investing and retirement affordable for millions, died Wednesday at the age of 89, the company said.

Bogle transformed the way people invest their money when he created the first index mutual fund for individual investors in 1975.

For public school teacher Kaitlyn McCollum, even simple acts like washing dishes or taking a shower can fill her with dread.

"It will just hit me like a ton of bricks," McCollum says. " 'Oh my God, I owe all of that money.' And it's, like, a knee-buckling moment of panic all over again."

She and her family recently moved to a much smaller, older house. One big reason for the downsizing: a $24,000 loan that McCollum has been unfairly saddled with because of a paperwork debacle at the U.S. Department of Education.

Even in a strong economy, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Forty percent don't have $400 to cover an emergency expense, such as a car repair. And many working-class people turn to payday loans or other costly ways to borrow money. But more companies are stepping in to help their workers with a much cheaper way to get some emergency cash.

Startup companies that offer better options for workers are partnering with all kinds of businesses — from giants like Walmart to little fried chicken restaurants.

The Trump administration is taking aim at a law designed to protect military service members from getting cheated by shady lending practices.

NPR has obtained documents that show the White House is proposing changes that critics say would leave service members vulnerable to getting ripped off when they buy cars. Separately, the administration is taking broader steps to roll back enforcement of the Military Lending Act.

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