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What Is the Cost-Benefit of Pricey Colleges?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Student debt may be at a record high, but in many cases, a college degree will improve your chance of getting a good job.  

A new survey by Money magazine looked at the cost-benefit analysis of colleges, and found that number one was Babson College in Massachusetts, a school that specializes in entrepreneurship and business.

While the school is expensive, within five years graduates are on average reporting earnings of about $60,000.

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One in Three Americans Have Debts Reported to Collection Agencies

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  More than 35 percent of Americans are facing debt collectors.

A study by the Urban Institute suggests that more than one in three Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, as consumers fall behind on payments including credit cards, hospital bills, mortages, and student debt.

Even past-due gym membership fees or cell phone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects.

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Modeling Shoot Brings Fast Cash, Then Decade of Aggravation

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Victoria Bond once received a call from her husband's parents asking if she knew she had been featured in their local Midwestern penny saver as the face of Dulcolax, a laxative for women. She did not.

Bond spent one day in 2003 modeling for a stock photo company and her photos continue to pop up in the most unexpected ways.

"They keep popping up in random places," Bond, a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice told ABC News.

Bond said she had been working her way through graduate school when she landed the gig, receiving a flat rate of $2,500 for a full day of modeling for random photos.

With a studio set-up she recalled as being reminiscent of an Ikea store, Bond jumped from room set-up to room set-up, posing in all different scenarios: a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, and even with a fake husband and children in different shots.

"I've seen myself in a bank, happy at home at a computer, as a happy mom in a Walmart, and even as a happy mom to a completely different set of kids," said Bond, who reported having bumped into different versions of herself at least 15 times over the years.

"They just don't stop," Bond said, "and it's weird because you have no memory of that stuff."

Though Bond only modeled for the company for one day, she estimated 500-600 photos, possibly more, were taken of her and continue to be sold for various ads and campaigns. Bond signed a release form, giving away all rights to the photos, the only stipulation being that the snaps could not be used in HIV or STD medication ads. Besides those two exceptions, Bond says companies not only have permission to use the photos, but also to edit them, which she believes is how the box of Dulcolax was shown in her hands.

Though she signed the proper releases, Bond said she was too young to really understand what she was signing up for.

"You don't realize that your image is going to be sold and you're not going to receive any money for it," said Bond.

Bond, who said she lived above a travel agency for three years before recognizing herself as the woman in the background of the travel billboard near her apartment, said the experience of continuously seeing herself in the ads is "shocking and annoying."

"It's very disorienting," said Bond. "It alienates you from yourself. It makes it hard to recognize yourself."

Bond said she frequently is sent photos of herself in random ads by friends and family, whether it be her and her happy fake family in Walmart or a shot of her in a doctor's office, informing the public about how important it is to prevent diabetes.

As a professor, Bond will also get sent photos by her students. Though the pictures have popped up in strange places, Bond has taken it all in stride, though she fears what the future might hold for the shots taken so long ago.

“My worst fear would have to be showing up on some sort of skeevy dating site or phone sex promotion,” said Bond, “but I guess you never know."

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Housing Prices Up More than Nine Percent

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Home prices are going up, but not as fast as they were rising last year.

According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released Tuesday, house prices rose by just over 1% in May from the month before, and are selling more than 9% higher than this time last year.

Both the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index and the 10-city index showed slowing price growth in May with price increases of 1.1%, but declines of 0.3% after seasonal adjustments.

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Wall Street: Dow, Nasdaq and S&P All Close Down

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets moved lower on Tuesday as investors  wait for a batch of key economic reports later this week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 70.48 points, closing at 16,912.11. The Nasdaq fell 2.21 points to 4,442.70, and the S&P 500 lost 8.96 points, ending the day at 1,969.95.

The government's latest gross domestic product figures will be released on Wednesday and the July employment numbers will be released on Friday.

Twitter's second quarter numbers, reported after the bell on Tuesday, were better than expected.  The company reported revenues of $312 million, up 124% from the same quarter a year ago.


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Airlines Report Strong Second Quarter Earnings

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The airline industry is making more money after several difficult years during the recession. United Airlines, Delta and American Airlines all reported record second quarter profits, thanks to increased fares and fees.

“It is hard to believe that less than eight months ago, American [Airlines] was in bankruptcy yet today we are reporting record profits, prepaying debt, making additional pension contributions and declaring dividends to shareholders,” said the company’s CEO Doug Parker in a message to employees.

Major mergers could mean less competition on many routes, potentially leading to more fare increases as the economy improves.

A number of other U.S. carriers also posted strong second quarter earnings.

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Gas Prices Continue Decline Through Summer Driving Season

iStock/Thinsktock(WASHINGTON) -- For many Americans, a long distance car trip is a cheaper option than flying as gas prices are falling quickly across the country.

The U.S. Energy Department says the average price of regular gas fell 5 cents a gallon last week to a nationwide average of $3.54.

For Midwesterners, prices are down 8 cents, while Californians, for the first time in months, are paying less than $4 a gallon for regular unleaded gas.

One expert says these late season low prices are rare.

“You know it’s something that’s relatively rare to see a price decline go this late into the summer months,” says senior GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan.

But DeHaan adds that the U.S. is producing more oil and getting it from other sources.

He says this is good news "as long as we don't see a hurricane enter the Gulf."

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What Happened When 3 Politicians Tried a Minimum Wage Budget?

McDonald's press photo(WASHINGTON) -- Have you ever seen a congressman snacking on a measly tin of sardines? Or maybe a governor ordering a McChicken off the Dollar Menu?

In Washington this week, that scene was reality for three Democratic politicians who are taking the "Live the Wage" challenge.

Reps. Tim Ryan and Jan Schakowsky joined former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in taking the challenge and are each living on a budget of $77 for the week -- the same amount that a minimum wage worker typically has to spend on food, transportation, and day-to-day expenses, after factoring out major costs such as rent and utilities.

"I basically had a couple bags of peanuts in the cloakroom -- and there was a little fruit in the office that I ate yesterday," Rep. Ryan told ABC News. "I spent about seven bucks last night on a couple cans of sardines and a bag of crackers from the convenience store up the street."

The congressman began the Live the Wage challenge last week with hopes of bringing attention to the hardships facing minimum wage workers around the nation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky also began the challenge Thursday telling ABC News, "It totally changes your perspective. Even the shopping experience -- I make a shopping list when I go to the store usually. I think about what I need -- what I want -- and I put it in the cart. I truthfully rarely think about how much it costs."

"I'll walk down the aisle and I'll see something you know, that would be great and I throw it in the cart. There's just none of that when you're on that kind of budget. There's no spontaneity whatsoever," Schakowsky added.

Strickland even took a trip to McDonald's to try out the fast food chain's dollar menu. Strickland posted a photograph of his $2.20 meal on Twitter noting that the workers at McDonald's -- a company known for paying the legal minimum -- "deserve a raise."

In a Politico op-ed, Strickland explained that he was unable to complete the week-long challenge with a budget of just $77. One particularly difficult aspect the governor discussed was eating a healthy diet while living on a $7.25 hourly wage.

"Because fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find at a price within a minimum wage budget, I turned to bread, peanut butter, bananas and bologna more than anything else. That was what I could find when I took this budget to the grocery story last Sunday. And that's why I ate lunch from the McDonald's dollar menu."

and Ryan have also taken to social media in recent days to share their message about the challenges facing minimum wage workers.

"There are a lot of people out there who do this for extended periods of time -- years -- so the idea is to get the message out and raise awareness about some of the difficulties that can happen to you," Ryan told ABC News. "We realize it's not going to be exactly like the challenges that a minimum wage family faces, but the country is talking about the minimum wage right now. And I think that's exactly what we want to do."

Schakowsky said, "I'm not going to pretend that now I understand what it's like to live on the minimum wage. I think it's a taste of it. But for anyone who thinks it's a gimmick, my suggestion would be try it."

Ryan and Schakowsky were co-sponsors of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. Their goal is to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. The push to increase the national minimum has steadily intensified in the past year as the minimum wage has remained unchanged since 2009.

Last week marked the five-year anniversary since Congress last passed an increase to the national minimum, while the wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum wage doesn't get you very far: "On average, a single-parent household (one parent, at least one child under 18) will spend $5,457 per year on food, or about $105 per week."

That's $28 above what a minimum wage worker has to live on for a week.

When asked about plans for reintroducing minimum wage legislation, Schakowsky was optimistic, but expressed concerns over whether Speaker of the House John Boehner would bring the bill to a vote.

"We're hoping that we're going to see another vote on it in the Senate and that there will be more pressure," Schakowsky said.

"I fully believe that if Speaker Boehner were to call an increase on the minimum wage that it would pass. It's a matter of making sure that we just get more Republicans over this recess to ask the speaker to just call the bill."

Ryan, however, was not as optimistic about the bill's prospects before the midterm elections.

"I doubt it. The speaker's holding the line on this. And I hope it's a rallying call for the 65,000 minimum wage workers in my district and the million and a half across the country," Ryan said.

"Let's increase the minimum wage and get people to work and make sure work pays. That’s ultimately the conversation we want to have."

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FAA: Southwest Didn't Comply with Safety Regulations During Plane Repair

Southwest media / Stephen M. Keller (NEW YORK) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting that Southwest failed to comply with federal safety regulations while making repairs to its Boeing 737's.

Starting in 2006, Southwest gave 44 of its planes what the FAA calls "extreme makeovers" to eliminate the potential for cracking on the aluminum skin.

But according to the FAA, a contractor did not follow proper procedures, and Southwest flew the planes despite knowing they were not in compliance.  

The FAA wants to fine Southwest Airlines $12 million. 

Southwest says it has since resolved the repair issues and will respond to the FAA allegations in accordance with procedures.

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OkCupid Experimented on Users, Then Blogged About It

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of Facebook's recent admission of toying with users' emotions, another site revealed Monday that it, too, likes to "experiment on human beings" -- and lie to them.

OkCupid founder Christian Rudder published a blog on Monday detailing three recent experiments the online dating site performed that manipulated users' perceptions, including telling a "small sample" of couples that they were highly compatible when they actually were not.

"The ultimate question at OkCupid is, does this thing even work?" wrote Rudder, referring to its algorithm for accurately calculating match percentage. "In the back of our minds, there's always been the possibility: maybe it works just because we tell people it does. Maybe people just like each other because they think they’re supposed to?"

To test the theory, Rudder and colleagues "took pairs of bad matches (actual 30 percent match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90 percent match.)" As hypothesized, the couples initiated contact with one another because they believed what the site told them.

But it didn't end there. The experiment also determined that users were more inclined to actually like each other when told to, exchanging four or more messages, even if they wouldn't normally.

"The four-message threshold is our internal measure for a real conversation," wrote Rudder. "And though the data is noisier, this same 'higher display means more success' pattern seems to hold when you look at contact information exchanges, too."

Rudder did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the size of the sample tested, how long the experiment lasted and whether any couples notified of it had reacted positively or negatively.

But readers were quick to respond to the blog post, comparing it to Facebook and drawing their own conclusions.

"Facebook secretly manipulated the users of the site, attempting to alter their emotions ... quite possibly at the behest of creepy interests sponsoring this experiment," commented one user identified as SteveRestless. "All I can see here is honest curiosity and a desire to improve the site."

Others were not as forgiving.

"I hope you didn't cause me to miss out on a relationship while playing around with the data," wrote another. "It is hard enough for me as it is. Also, people trusting your match percent is what you want, so don’t lie to them about it."

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Virgin America Files for IPO

Virgin America Press(NEW YORK) -- Virgin America is coming to Wall Street.

Virgin America has filed for an initial public offering of its shares.

The California-based airline flies to 22 airports in the United States and Mexico. Its fleet of 53 planes has perks including including live TV, movies, leather seats, and purple mood lighting.

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Stock Market Tries to Break Recent Losing Streak

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The stock market is trying to recover after last week's losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 21.77 points ending the day at 16,982.34 and the S&P 500 went up .55 to 1,978.89. Nasdaq fell 4.65 points on Monday, ending the day at 4,444.91.

Dollar Tree is buying rival discount store Family Dollar in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $8.5 billion, while real estate website Zillow is buying competitor Trulia in a $3.5 billion, all-stock deal.

Fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes in June, as the real estate market cooled off this summer. The National Association of Realtors says pending home sales slipped 1.1% last month. Realtors blame meager wage growth as well as rising home prices and mortgage rates.

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Zillow Plans to Buy Trulia

Zillow/Trulia(NEW YORK) -- Zillow says it plans to buy its online real estate rival, Trulia, for $3.5 billion in an all-stock deal.

“Consumers love using Zillow and Trulia to find vital information about homes and connect with the best local real estate professionals,” said Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. “Both companies have been enormously successful in creating compelling consumer brands and deep industry partnerships.”

The deal is expected to close in 2015.

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Dollar Tree Buying Family Dollar

Dollar Tree/Family Dollar | ABC News Illustration(NEW YORK) -- Dollar Tree is buying Family Dollar in a deal valued at approximately $8.5 billion.

The combined company would operate more than 13,000 discount stores.

Shares of Family Dollar jumped more than 20 percent after the merger was announced.

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Greyhound Bus Fleet Revamps, But Can a 100-Year-Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

Greyhound(NEW YORK) -- Riding the bus is cool. Or, at least, that's what Greyhound, the country's largest intercity bus transportation provider, is on a mission to prove.

Having celebrated its 100th birthday in May, the company has completely refurbished its fleet of approximately 1,200 vehicles, adding new leather seats, more legroom and digital offerings, such as power outlets and Wi-Fi, in a bid to appeal to a multi-tasking, mega-social millennial ridership.

"We’ve received a great deal of positive feedback, especially when it comes to the on-board amenities, convenience, frequency and environmental stewardship," said Greyhound CEO Dave Leach. "They understand the social impact of public transportation."

According to a study conducted by the American Public Transportation Association in 2012 and 2013, millennials travel often, using multiple modes of transportation and are motivated by affordable cost and convenience.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also prefer to socialize online or work remotely during their journey.

"Millennial customers enjoy the ability to keep in touch with friends on social media and they are now able to share their experience with friends and loved ones in real-time as they travel [on Greyhound]," he said. "Young professionals on a budget also love that they can be productive and work while they travel. They can get ahead on a company project or answer emails during their journey."

Greyhound isn't just seeking to connect riders with their online communities, however. It also wants to become a part of them.

"We are introducing technology that will allow us to have a more intimate relationship with our customers, providing services and features that are important to them, and better engagement with our brand," said Leach, alluding to an app currently in development that would offer service updates in real time similar to airlines and Amtrak trains.

Rider security has also been updated in recent years. Modern strategies include random passenger screenings, enhanced driver training, a surveillance system called DriveCam that captures video both inside and outside the bus, and an on-board GPS communications system that allows the company to remotely shut down a vehicle in an emergency.

"Safety is our core value at Greyhound, and it is ingrained throughout our business," said Leach, adding that there is now a zero-tolerance stance on aggressive behavior.

As the centennial celebrations continue throughout the year, vintage buses are on view and a mobile museum is making its way through 40 cities with various memorabilia.

"We’re excited to celebrate our 100th anniversary this year and be among an elite group of brands that have withstood the test of time," he said.

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