Protect Students Against Predatory Colleges
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The Department of Education continues to create additional hurdles for student borrowers seeking a fair shot at a quality education and economic opportunity. In recent months, the Department has engaged in negotiating rulemaking, which is a process used to create or change a federal regulation. The Department selects a committee of negotiators who represent various groups with a stake in the issue at hand to negotiate a new rule.
The current rule being negotiated is Borrower Defense, a federal regulation that provides student loan forgiveness to students who have been misled or deceived by schools. Most of the documented deceptions have been at for-profit schools owned by Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, EDMC, Kaplan, Bridgepoint, and other predatory companies.
In 2016, a Borrower Defense rule was established under the Obama Administration that was not perfect but was largely fair to students. Now, under the Trump Administration and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education has completely dismissed that rule, which was supposed to have been implemented in 2017, and is trying to create a new rule that makes relief almost impossible for deceived borrowers to get relief from their student loans.
Though there are 36 negotiators, only two are student representatives. Students are greatly outnumbered by for-profit school advocates and representatives of other institutions at the table. This stacks the deck against students. Our experiences and motives are being misrepresented.
After two sessions of negotiations in November 2017 and January 2018, the Department of Education has shown numerous times that it does not intend to protect students and is instead siding with schools that have deceived thousands of students and destroyed many of their lives. The language drafted by the Department of Education makes it nearly impossible for students to gain loan relief and does not take into consideration the other harms and sacrifices students and their loved ones experienced. For example, a student’s “inconvenience, aggravation, emotional distress, pain and suffering, punitive damages, or opportunity costs” are not considered relevant harm in the new proposed language.
The Department of Education has ignored the voices and concerns of student advocates. Negotiators who represent for-profits and other institutions have framed students as trying to rig the system, who aren’t worthy of student loan relief, or as privileged individuals who can easily afford attorneys and other resources to bring cases against well-resourced schools. This false representation of students and their motivations is toxic. The interests of institutions have been placed above students’ well being. The playing field is NOT leveled between students and schools.
The DeVos Department’s proposal imposes a heavy burden of proof on students to get debt forgiveness, forcing them to prove that the school intended to deceive them. A student’s claim can be denied if a representative of an institution acted contrary to official policy, denying student loan relief to decieved students. Additionally, the Department wants to calculate partial relief to students, which in some cases forgives as little as 10% of a student’s valid borrower defense claims. The proposal also allows schools to deny students the right to sue in court for their injuries, forcing students into secret arbitration proceedings and banning students from filing class action lawsuits against schools.
This is happening in Washington, D.C. RIGHT NOW underneath our noses, in a room that is not accessible to most but one that is hosting a conversation that will impact thousands! Education is a right, not a privilege. The barriers being imposed to students are shameful, and it will also significantly impact students from low income, black and brown communities. No one should be punished for acting in good faith and believing promises by schools that claim to deliver a great education and opportunities to obtain employment in their field of study after graduation. Students who are misled not only lose years of their life sacrificed for a useless education, but they may lose their car, house, and their ability to pursue an education that will enrich their lives. Deceived students need to be protected and reimbursed for the fraud they’ve experienced.
By signing this petition, you are demanding that negotiators at the Borrower Defense table and the Department of Education protect students and create a Borrower Defense rule that prioritizes the borrower and student.
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