Showing posts with label misrepresentation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label misrepresentation. Show all posts

Monday, July 3, 2017

Department of Education Punts on Borrower Defense to Repayment Rules. Essay by Steve Rhode



I’m still waiting to be pleasantly surprised by the Trump Department of Education (ED) under Secretary DeVos. It has not happened yet.

From the recent actions to remove critical information from consumer notices to wanting to get a single loan servicer to handle all federal loans, the current incarnation of ED seems to be moving in a direction that provides less support and help for debtors.

On October 2016, the then ED announced new regulations to go into force on July 1, 2017. “The U.S. Department of Education today announced final regulations to protect student borrowers against misleading and predatory practices by postsecondary institutions and clarify a process for loan forgiveness in cases of institutional misconduct. These final regulations further cement the Obama Administration’s strong record and steadfast commitment to protecting student loan borrowers, deterring harmful practices by institutions, safeguarding taxpayer dollars and holding institutions accountable for their actions.” – Source

The Betsy DeVos ED is delaying the implementation of the Borrower Defense to Repayment rules. The ED announced today “Postsecondary institutions of all types have raised concerns about the BDR regulations since they were published on Nov. 1, 2016. Colleges and universities are especially concerned about the excessively broad definitions of substantial misrepresentation and breach of contract, the lack of meaningful due process protections for institutions and “financial triggers” under the new rules.” – Source

So the current ED is going to start over again and says, “The Department plans to publish its Notice of Intent to Conduct Negotiated Rulemaking on BDR and GE in the Federal Register on June 16, 2017. The Department will conduct public hearings on BDR and GE on July 10, 2017, in Washington, D.C. and July 12, 2017, in Dallas, Texas.” Goodness knows how long this new process if going to take and what opportunities student loan debtors will have to actually have their loans discharged due to misrepresentation by colleges and schools who received federal student loans.
For example, the ED previously said, “Many of these claims are from borrowers who attended programs that the Department found had been publicized with misleading job placement rates.” – Source

What do you think, should schools who misrepresented the success of their programs or actual employment rates to induce students to enroll, get a free pass and eliminated from the new rules? Let me know what you think by posting your comment below.
Even under the old administration the Borrower Defense to Repayment processing was less than optimal. There are students that have been waiting years for a conclusion to their claims and the next changes will only serve to slow down the entire process of assisting harmed student loan debtors.

As an example, ED previously said they had ” received a total of approximately 82,000 claims.” And while a previous report on the status of the program said 16,000 had been processed and approved, the current ED press release says, “Nearly 16,000 borrower defense claims are currently being processed by the Department, and, as I have said all along, promises made to students under the current rule will be promises kept,” said Secretary DeVos. So where are the rest of the claims?

Steve Rhode

Get Out of Debt Guy – TwitterG+Facebook
This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Loan forgiveness for college students defrauded by for-profit colleges: Why not simply allow defrauded students to take bankruptcy?

The Department of Education is revising the regulations for handling student-debtor requests for debt relief. Under present regulations, student-loan borrowers  are eligible for debt relief if they can show they were victims of misrepresentation by the institution they attended.

But the old regulations are cumbersome, and DOE has been swamped by debt relief requests after Corinthian Colleges closed last year. Corinthian had 350,000 students or former students.

Apparently, the Department of Education is proposing some sort of hearing process where students who claims to be fraud victim can confront the colleges that lured them into enrolling and taking out student loans.

But how will that work? All the for-profit colleges have teams of lawyers, and the defrauded students who confront them at hearings will likely  have no lawyer at all.  That's a crumby idea.

Second, DOE is contemplating some kind of statute of limitation that would bar a student's fraud claim if not filed by some yet-to-be-defined time limit. Another crumby idea. Student-loan creditors can pursue student-loan defaulters any time they want--30 years after a loan was incurred if they choose. That's because there is no statute of limitation on debt collection of a student loan. So why should students be restricted by a time limit to file misrepresentation claims?

Third, the proposed regulations are cumbersome legalese that many students won't understand. Here is a sample of proposal's text:
For loans first disbursed prior to July 1, 2007, the borrower may assert as a defense to repayment, any act or omission of the school attended by the student that relates to the making of the loan or the provision of educational services that would give rise to a cause of action against the school under applicable State law.
Got that?

If the Department of Education were willing to face facts, it would admit that millions of students who enrolled at for-profit colleges have valid misrepresentation claims.  The for-profit industry as a whole has a 5-year default rate of 47 percent--strong evidence that many of the programs the colleges offered did not lead to well-paying jobs.

Rather than construct an elaborate, expensive, and unworkable administrative process for sorting out student fraud claims, the Department of Education should simply allow all students who attended a for-profit college and who are now broke to discharge their student-loan debts in bankruptcy without having to meet the "undue hardship" standard that currently applies to student-loan debtors in the bankruptcy courts. In other words, an insolvent student-loan debtor who attended a for-profit college should be able to discharge student-loan debt in bankruptcy like any other nonsecured debt.

After all, the bankruptcy courts have the expertise and the resources to sort out valid bankruptcy claims from invalid ones.  But DOE won't expedite the loan forgiveness process because it knows that millions of people took out student loans for worthless college experiences. If every student who was huckstered by a for-profit college obtained student-loan debt relief, the cost of loan forgiveness would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.

References

Michael Stratford. Obama Crackdown on College Fraud. Inside Higher Ed, February 9, 2016. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/education-department-creates-new-office-crack-down-fraud-colleges?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=8bca58981a-DNU20160209&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-8bca58981a-198565653

Michael Stratford. New Criteria For Debt Relief. Inside Higher Ed, February 17, 2016. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/17/us-plan-would-cancel-federal-loans-borrowers-misled-their-colleges?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=60a80c3a41-DNU20160217&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-60a80c3a41-198565653

Kelly Field, "U.S. Has Forgiven Loans of More Than 3,000 Ex-Corinthian Students, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://chronicle.com/article/US-Has-Forgiven-Loans-of/232855/?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en

Tamar Lewin, "Government to Forgive Student Loans at Corinthian Colleges," New York Times, June 8, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/education/us-to-forgive-federal-loans-of-corinthian-college-students.html?_r=0

Adam Looney & Constantine Yannelis, A crisis in student loans? How changes in the characteristics of borrowers and in the institutions they attended contributed to rising default rates. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution (2015). Accessible at: http://www.brookings.edu/about/projects/bpea/papers/2015/looney-yannelis-student-loan-defaults


Thursday, December 3, 2015

The percentage of low-income students going to college went down while Pell Grant spending went up: What's going on?

According to the American Council on Education, the percentage of low-income students enrolling in college has gone down. What's going on?

ACE reports that the percentage of recently-graduated low-income students who enrolled in college dropped from 55.9% in 2008 to 45.5% in 2013.  College enrollments also dropped for other income groups, but not by nearly as much.

Can the drop be attributed to insufficient federal student aid? Probably not. The Department of Education reported that federal student aid increased by 29% from 2009 to 2012--rising from $129 billion in FY 2009 to $166.9 billion in FY 2012.

And Pell Grant funding (grants to low-income college students) actually tripled from 2007 to 2011, going from $13.6 billion in FY 2007 to  $41.6 billion.

Perceived cost of higher education. ACE speculated that the perceived cost of higher education may have discourage low-income students from going to college, and this makes sense. Low-income young people may not be aware that many private colleges actually discount their tuition by more than 40 percent for incoming freshmen. In other words, potential students from poor families may not know that the sticker price is only the sucker price and that most first-year students get the benefit of deep discounts.

Going to work rather than going to college. ACE suggested another explanation for the percentage drop in low-income college students: many low-income students are simply skipping the college experience and going to work. This explanation also makes senses.

In my own family, I have a nephew who dropped out of college and got a job as a pipe fitter working in the shipbuilding industry. He's making good money and he found a girl friend who is also making good money as a pipe fitter. In fact, my nephew is making more money in his present job than he would make if he got a college degree and got a job as a school teacher. Is he likely to go back to college? I don't think so.

Low-income families have gotten wise to the for-profit college industry. I think there is a third possible explanation for the drop in low-income students going to college: low-income families may have gotten wise to the for-profit college industry.

All over the country, state attorney generals are investigating the for-profit colleges based on allegations that these colleges have engaged in misrepresentations and fraud.  Some for-profits have been fined. Corinthian Colleges filed for bankruptcy and several for-profits have closed.

It could be that low-income and minority students--who have been the target of the for-profit colleges--have figured out that many of these joints charge too much and don't deliver on their promises.

Conclusion

Low-income individuals are going to college in smaller numbers, and this may not be bad. If they can get good jobs without going to college then they can avoid the huge opportunity costs of being a college student--forgone wages and student loans.

And if young people from low-income families are becoming more appreciative of the risk of borrowing money to attend a for-profit college, that is certainly good news. Although the Obama administration hasn't been as aggressive as I think it should be toward the for-profit college industry, it has taken some steps to rein in abuses.  And state officials have taken action against abusive for-profits colleges as well. This is good news.

References

American Council on Education. ACE Fact Sheet on Higher Education. Pell Grant Funding History (1976 to 2010). Accessible at: http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/FactSheet-Pell-Grant-Funding-History-1976-2010.pdf

Misty Baily. Attorney Generals Expand Probe into For Profit Colleges. Education News, January 14, 2014. Accessible at:  /www.educationnews.org/higher-education/attorney-generals-expand-probe-into-for-profit-colleges/#sthash.pKZVeW5V.dpuf

Kelly Field. Attorneys General Take Aim at For-Profit Colleges Institutional Loan Programs, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 20, 2012. Accessible at: http://chronicle.com/article/Attorneys-General-Take-Aim-at/131254/

Scott Jaschik. The Missing Low Income Students: Study finds drop in percentage of low-income students enrolling in college. Inside Higher Education, November 25, 2015. Accessible at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/11/25/study-finds-drop-percentage-low-income-students-enrolling-college

U.S. Department of Education. Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Summary--February 14, 2011.  Accessible at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget12/summary/edlite-section2d.html

U.S. Department of Education. Pell Grant Funding Status. Accessible at:
http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/funding.html