An analysis of Education Department data reveals that students who attended for-profit colleges filed more than 98 percent of the requests for student loan forgiveness alleging fraud by their schools. Century Foundation found nearly 100,000 loan forgiveness claims (known as borrower defense to repayment) have been received over the past two decades, which paints a troubling picture of the state of for-profit higher education in the United States.
The study found “a disproportionate concentration of predatory behavior among for-profit colleges” that raises “serious concerns about the federal government’s current approach to providing relief to students who have been defrauded and misled.”
For-profit colleges expanded rapidly over the past two decades, with enrollment rising from around 230,000 in the early 1990s to a record 2 million in 2010. These for-profit schools recruited aggressively, targeting more “non-traditional” students, usually older people who had jobs and could only study part time.
They also heavily targeted women, people of color and veterans. But after graduating, many students struggled to find jobs they were promised or had difficulty transferring credits to other schools. This lead to a massive increase in student loan defaults. A 2010 government study found that all of the 15 for-profit colleges evaluated by undercover agents made deceptive statements to prospective students and four of them encouraged fraudulent practices.
The report comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faces criticism for not moving forward with two Obama-era regulations that would have added protections for student borrowers. The rules, known as borrower defense to repayment, were developed after a series of high-profile collapses of for-profit chains such as Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute left thousands of students with worthless degrees and mountains of student loan debt. The regulations were scheduled to take effect on June 30.
However, the review of tens of thousands of claims has stalled and the AP reported last month that the department is considering abandoning the practice of full loan cancellation in favor of partial forgiveness. Student advocates are pointing to the Trump administration’s ties to the for-profit industry and accuse DeVos of putting industry over students.
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