Showing posts with label closed school discharge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label closed school discharge. Show all posts

Monday, November 27, 2017

Representative Alma Adams urges limited loan forgiveness for Charlotte Law School Students: Adams' plea does not go far enough

Representative Alma Adams, Democratic congresswoman from North Carolina, wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, urging DeVos to forgive student loans held by students who attended Charlotte School of Law (CSL) from December 2016 until the school was shut down last August.

Representatives G.K. Butterfield and David Price, also from North Carolina, joined Adams in the letter.  The three laid out a seething indictment of CSL, which has been in trouble for a couple of years. The American Bar Association put CSL on probation in October 2016 for misrepresenting the law school's accreditation status and bar passage rates. And the Department of Education yanked the school's eligibility for federal student aid a few months later. Finally, in August 2017, the North Carolina Board of Governors pulled CSL's license to operate--dealing a death blow to the school.

 Without question, CSL was a train wreck. The troubled school had high dropout rates and abominable bar passage rates. Only about a third (35 percent) of CSL graduates passed the North Carolina bar exam in February 2016, compared to 51 percent statewide.  According to Adams and her colleagues, this passage rate would have been even lower if the law school had not paid CSL students not to take the exam. Moreover, the North Carolina legislators alleged, CSL students racked up an average of $200,000 in student-loan debt. Those who were enrolled when the school closed have little hope of having their credits accepted at another law school.

Under current Department of Education regulations, students are eligible for student-loan forgiveness if they were enrolled at a school at the time it closed or up to 120 days prior to closure. The regulations give the Education Secretary the authority to extend the 120-day enrollment requirement if circumstances warrant; and Adams and her colleagues asked DeVos to grant loan forgiveness to all students were enrolled at CSL from December 2016 until the day it closed.

Representatives Adams, Butterfield and Price are to be commended for seeking relief for recent CSL students, but their petition does not go far enough. In my view, every student who attended CSL from the day it opened until the day it closed should be granted student-loan forgiveness--without exception.

Before it shut down, CSL was one of the worst law schools in the United States by almost any measure. Based on metrics developed by Law School Transparency, a public interest law-school monitoring organization, 50 percent of CSL's 2014 entering class ran an "extreme" risk of failing the bar exam, and additional 25 percent ran a "very high" risk of failing the exam.

And it fact, less than half of CSL's 2015 graduating class passed the bar. Moreover, less than 25 percent of its 2016 graduates obtained full-time law jobs; and the law school's underemployment rate for that class was 58.8 percent.

Without question, a lot of former CSL students believe they were defrauded by their law school. According to an Inside Higher Ed story, more than 500 former students filed "borrower defense" claims based on allegations of fraud, and several class-action suits have been filed against the school.

Based on CSL's abysmal record, the only fair thing DeVos can do is wipe out all student-loan debt for every individual who took out student loans to attend CSL. And then DOE needs to take a close look at the other for-profit law schools that are still operating. All law schools with bar pass rates below 50 percent should be closed.

Rep. Alma Adams (in hat). Photo credit: Scott Applewhite AP


William Douglas. N.C. Democrats urge Charlotte Law School student loan forgivenessThe News & Observer, November 6, 2017.

Andrew Kreighbaum, Department Lays Out of Options for Charlotte StudentsInside Higher ED, August 25, 2017.

Andrew Kreighbaum, The Slow Death of a For-Profit Law SchoolInside Higher Ed, August 16, 2017.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Senator Elizabeth Warren grills Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. But hey, Liz: What have you done to help solve the student-loan crisis?

Senator Elizabeth Warren made headlines this week when she grilled Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know Wells Fargo employees were caught scamming customers by creating 2 million fake bank accounts without their customers' knowledge or approval.

In the wake of this scandal, Wells Fargo fired 5,000 low-level employees and refunded some money, but the company did not terminate the senior executive who supervised the unit where the fraud occurred. Wells Fargo's CEO John Stumpf made millions of dollars from these misdeeds because the scheme caused his stock to go up. But Stumpf isn't giving back any of his ill-gained profits.

So Stumpf was a sitting duck when Senator Warren began questioning him at the Senate Banking Committee hearing. "You should resign," Warren told Stumpf. "You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Stumpf, of course, is lawyered up. He went into his flak-catcher crouch, continually repeating his talking points and saying he was sorry for Wells Fargo's misdeeds.

All great theater. Who doesn't enjoy seeing a transnational financial executive publicly humiliated? But what will come of all this drama? Nothing. Stumpf won't face criminal charges, and the Wells Fargo senior executives who profited from the fake-account scheme won't give back a penny of their loot.

Elizabeth Warren enjoys a great reputation as the champion of consumer rights and the friend of the little guy. But what tangible thing has she done to help working-class Americans? And more particularly, what has she done to ease the suffering of millions of student-loan debtors?

I'll tell you what Warren has done--she's done nothing.  She's all blather. In fact, I don't think Warren even understands the student-loan crisis. She charged awhile back that the government is making "obscene" profits from the student-loan program, but that's not true. The government would be making a profit on the loan program if borrowers were paying back their loans, but they are not. As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, 40 percent of student-loan borrowers aren't making payments on their loans.

Here are some things Senator Warren could propose that would help relieve the suffering of distressed student-loan debtors.

Legislation banning the government from garnishing the Social Security checks of elderly student-loan debtors who defaulted on their loans. Around 155,000 Americans are having their Social Security checks dunned right now, causing real hardship for these people.

And how much money does our government collect from this disreputable practice? Probably less than the Secret Service spends guarding President Obama on just one of his Hawaiian vacations. Why doesn't Senator Warren use her bully pulpit to stop the government from going after elderly student-loan debtors who are living off their Social Security checks?

Wholesale relief for student-loan borrowers who were ripped off by the for-profit college industry. Senator Warren joined 22 other Democratic Senators in a letter to Secretary of Education John King asking the Department of Education to grant broader relief to the 35,000 students who were enrolled at one of ITT Tech campuses when ITT closed and filed for bankruptcy. But that letter is almost completely incoherent and doesn't  propose real relief.

DOE should forgive the loans of all the people who took out student loans to pay for ITT programs. Giving former students longer to file for loan forgiveness under DOE's "closed school" regulations (as the Democratic Senators proposed) does not go nearly far enough.

Amending the Bankruptcy Code to allow distressed student-loan debtors to discharge their federal student loans in bankruptcy like any other nonsecured debt. Senator Warren co-sponsored a bill to make private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, but private loans are only a small part of the overall student-debt crisis--only about 10 percent of total outstanding student-loan debt. The bill does nothing about reforming the Bankruptcy Code to allow distressed student-loan debtors to discharge their federal student loans in bankruptcy.

Conclusion; Senator Elizabeth Warren is a phony

Senator Elizabeth Warren is a phony. She hasn't accomplished anything significant to help solve the student-loan crisis. It is true she supports a bill to make private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, but such a law--if passed--is small potatoes.

Let's face it. Although Warren portrays herself as a progressive fighting for overburdened student-loan debtors, she will never do anything that would threaten the core interests of the higher education industry. After all, there are 114 colleges and universities in Warren's state of Massachusetts; and most of the professors and administrators who work at those colleges voted for her.

Those colleges and universities have to have federal student-aid money to survive. They are like crack addicts waiting for their next federal fix. Warren can talk all she wants about helping student-loan debtors, but she won't do anything that upsets the status quo. And real reform of the Bankruptcy Code to allow people to discharge their federal loans in bankruptcy would definitely upset the status quo.

Image result for elizabeth warren wells fargo


Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip. Clinton to propose 3-month hiatus for repayment of  student loansWashington Post, July 5, 2016. Accessible at

Ashlee Kieler, Senators Introduce Legislation to Make Private Student Loans Dischargeable in Bankruptcy. Consumerist, March 12, 2015.   Accessible at

Jena McGregor. 'You should resign': Elizabeth Warren excoriates Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. Washington Post, September 20, 2016. Accessible at

Josh Mitchell. More than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren't Making PaymentsWall Street Journal, April 7, 2016. Accessible at

Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. A Message from the Secretary of Education to ITT Students. Accessible at

Sen. Warren Questions lack of Private Student Loan Relief Options. Senator Warren Website, July 31, 2014. Accessible at

Letter to the Honorable John King, Secretary of Education, from 23 Democratic Senators, September 15, 2016. Accessible at

Dawn McCarty and Shahien Nasirpour. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After ShutdownBloomberg, September 16, 2016. Accessible at

Jena McGregor. 'You should resign': Elizabeth Warren excoriates Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, Washington Post, September 20, 2016. Accessible at

Reuters. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After Aid CrackdownInternational New York Times, September 17, 2016. Accessible at

Marian Wang. Q & A: Elizabeth Warren on Spiraling Student Debt  and What Should Be Done About ItPro Publica, May 20, 2014. Accessible at

Alia Wong. When Loan Forgiveness Isn't EnoughAtlantic Monthly, June 15, 2015. Accessible at

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ITT Tech files for bankruptcy, leaving more than 35,000 students in the lurch. 23 Democrat Senators ask the Department of Education to give ITT students special assistance

ITT Educational Services, a for-profit corporation operating more than 130 vocational and technical training schools, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. The Department of Education shut off student aid money to ITT in late August, and the corporation quickly collapsed.

ITT's bankruptcy left  about 35,000 students in the lurch.  Most of them took out federal student loans to pay ITT's extraordinarily high tuition, and none of them will be able to complete their studies. DOE Secretary John King sent a message to these students telling them they had just two options: transfer their credits to other institutions or file for loan forgiveness under DOE's "closed school"forgiveness regulations.

On September 15, 23 Democratic Senators sent Secretary King a letter asking DOE to grant ITT's former students special assistance. The letter is slightly incoherent, which is understandable given the fact that 23 politicians had to agree on the text. Nevertheless, the Senators articulated several specific requests for relief.

Extending the eligibility guidelines for total student-debt relief for ITT's former students. First, the Senators want DOE to loosen the eligibility requirements for ITT students who file for total loan forgiveness under DOE's "closed school" relief regulations.  Under current DOE guidelines, ITT's former students can apply for debt relief under DOE's "closed school" procedures if they were enrolled at ITT at the time it closed or withdrew from ITT up to 120 days prior to closure.

The Democrats asked Secretary King to expand the 120-day window to a little more than two years. If King grants this request, any student who withdrew from ITT on or after March 1, 2014 will qualify to have their ITT student loans forgiven under DOE's "closed school" discharge process.

Preservation of ITT's student records. The Senators also asked DOE to preserve all of ITT's documents and records that might be relevant to an ongoing investigation of ITT's  activities or that could be helpful to students seeking to get their loans discharged..

Explore legal authority to automatically discharge ITT students' federal loans.  Finally, the Senators urged DOE to determine its authority to automatically discharge student loans of ITT    students and to consider discharging loans of all students who don't transfer their ITT credits to another institution within three years and who are otherwise eligible for a "closed school" discharge.

All these recommendations are commendable but they are far too timid. After all, as the Senators attested in their letter, DOE shut off ITT's funding based on serious concerns about "ITT Tech's deceptive practices, dubious educational quality, and financial integrity."

As reported in Bloomberg News, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued ITT for fraud in 2015, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued the company in in 2014, "accusing it of overstating students' job prospects and potential salaries and then pushing them into high-cost private loans that were likely to default." Both suits are still pending.

ITT has enrolled thousands of students over the years. Many of these students--my guess is most of them--received little or no economic benefit for their ITT tuition dollars.

I'm sure ITT can point to some students who completed their ITT studies and found good paying jobs, but I think for every success story  there is surely one or more students who  got no economic benefit from their ITT studies and wound up heavily in debt.

One thing is certain. The for-profit college industry is imploding, and DOE needs a comprehensive process for assisting students who attended one of the collapsing for-profit schools.  Several years ago, Professor Robert C. Cloud and I proposed a change in the Bankruptcy Code that would allow anyone who accumulated student-loan debt from attending a for-profit college and who is insolvent to receive a bankruptcy discharge of student-loan debt without having to show "undue hardship."

In other words, we argued that student debt acquired to attend a for-profit college should be treated like any other unsecured debt, which would make it readily dischargeable in bankruptcy. In my view, this proposal makes more sense than for DOE to deal with each collapsing for-profit college on an ad hoc basis.

Let's see if our U.S. Senators have the courage to offer broader relief for for-profit college students than the tepid proposals contained in the Democratic Senators' recent letter.


Richard Fossey, Robert C. Cloud, R. (2011). From the cone of uncertainty to the dirty side of the storm: A proposal to provide student-loan debtors who attended for-profit colleges with reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts. Education Law Reporter, 272, 1-18.

Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. A Message from the Secretary of Education to ITT Students. Accessible at

Letter to the Honorable John King, Secretary of Education, from 23 Democratic Senators, September 15,2016.

Dawn McCarty and Shahien Nasirpour. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After Shutdown. Bloomberg, September 16, 2016. Accessible at

Reuters. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After Aid Crackdown. International New York Times, September 17, 2016. Accessible at

Thursday, September 15, 2016

ITT Tech's former students announce a strike against student loan payments: Who will notice?

Several years ago, U.S. Post Office workers threatened to strike, but the public didn't care. I recall a cartoon with two images: The first image depicted a sleeping Post Office employee covered with cobwebs and was labeled "Post Office Employee at Work." The second image, which depicted the same sleeping Post Office worker, was labeled "Post Office Worker on Strike."

The cartoon's message was clear. If Post Office employees went on strike and refused to deliver the mail, no one would notice.

I think ITT Technical Institute's former students will get a similar ho-hum reaction to their announcement that they are on strike and refusing to make their student-loan payments. Who will notice?

After all, almost 50 percent of students who took out student loans to attend a for-profit college default on those loans within five years of beginning repayment. Some former for-profit students are making loan payments under income-contingent repayment plans, but most of these borrowers are making payments so small that they aren't even paying off their loans' accruing interest.

So a student-loan strike, like a postal worker strike, is basically a non-event.

That is not to say that ITT Tech's former students don't have real grievances. ITT has more than 40,000 students on 130 campuses. When  it closes tomorrow, all of ITT's students will be left in the lurch. Who can blame them for refusing to make payments on their student loans?

Students who are enrolled at ITT at the time it closes are eligible for  a "closed school" discharge of their federal student loans. According to Inside Higher Ed, about a thousand ITT students have applied for a "closed school" discharge. But why should they be forced into an administrative process to get their loans forgiven? Why doesn't the Department of Education simply forgive the loans of everyone who was enrolled at ITT at the time of its closure or who withdrew from their ITT studies within the last six months?

And, as I've said before, why doesn't DOE admit that a high percentage of the people who enrolled at ITT over the years did not get good value for their tuition dollars and forgive the student loans of all ITT's former students?

That would be a fair thing to do but damned expensive. That's why most of ITT's former students will be on the hook for their student-loan obligations even if their ITT studies were a complete waste of their time.

Image result for student loan debt strike


Ashley Smith. ITT Tech Students Launch Debt Strike. Inside Higher Ed, September 15, 2016. Accessible at

Ashley Smith. The End for ITT Tech. Insider Higher Ed. September 7, 2016. Accessible at