Showing posts with label bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

UC's Janet Napolitano and Harvard's Drew Faust are silly, little people: Doing nothing to ease the suffering of college-loan debtors

In the scene at the water well in Lawrence of Arabia, Sherif Ali (played by Omar Sharif) gallops across the shimmering desert on a camel and shoots an Arab from a rival tribe for the petty offense of drinking from Sherif Ali's well.

T.E. Lawrence, a British officer played by Peter O'Toole, is outraged and rails against Sherif Ali's senseless violence against a fellow Arab. "So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe," Lawrence tells Sherif Ali, "so long will they be a little people, a silly people--greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are."

Today it seems that Americans are dividing into warring tribes--left against right, red against blue, progressives against conservatives. And this tribal warfare is causing us to descend to being little and silly people.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at our elite universities, where academic leaders engage in political posturing over petty issues while saying nothing about the suffering experienced by millions of student-loan debtors.

Here is an example. Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, recently pledged $302,000 to expand food pantries at 10 UC campuses to help in the fight against "food insecurity" among college students.

I fully support food pantries for anyone who needs food. But Napolitano's gift, stretched over two years, is a pittance.  In fact, it amounts to only 5 percent of Napolitano's personal compensation over a two-year period.

Has Napolitano said anything about the suffering experienced by student-loan debtors in California? Has she tried to lower tuition costs at UC? Has she spoken out in favor of bankruptcy relief for student debtors who have been dragged down by massive debt they can never repay? Has she publicly criticized the for-profit colleges that have exploited so many low SES and minority students in the Sunshine State?

I don't think so. In fact, Napolitano once referred to student complaints about UC tuition hikes as "this crap."

How about Drew Faust, who pulled down nearly $1.5 million in total compensation while president of Harvard and who pocketed another $200,000 in cash and stock for serving on the Board of Directors of Staples? She sanctioned single-sex social clubs at Harvard--clubs that Harvard does not even recognize. But who gives a damn about privileged college boys and their private clubs?

Has Faust said or done anything to help solve the student-loan crisis?  No, she has not.

In fact, I don't think any president of an elite American university has uttered a peep about the for-profit colleges, insane tuition prices, or the total disregard for college students who have borrowed themselves out of the middle-class in order to obtain wildly overvalued college degrees.

I don't think any of these pompous academics have directed their institutions' lobbyists to put pressure on Congress to reform the bankruptcy laws so that insolvent college borrowers can shed their student loans in bankruptcy court and get a fresh start in life.

I could be wrong about Napolitano and Faust. Maybe they've done a hell of a lot to ease the suffering of student-loan debtors. If I judged them unfairly, I will apologize; and I will send them both a $20 gift card for a meal at the Waffle House. Who knows? They might meet one of their former graduates working as a Waffle House fry cook.


Nanette Asimov. Many college students going hungry, need donated food groceries and food stamps. San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 217.

Isabelle Geczy. Napolitano--"This Crap" Pays Your $570,000 base salary. The Bottom Line, April 1, 2015.

John S. Rosenberg. Harvard Discloses Leaders' Compensation, Harvard Magazine, May 12, 1027.

John S. Rosenberg. Harvard Imposes Single-Gender Social Club Sanctions. Harvard Magazine, December 5, 2017.






Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Department of Education's fumbling efforts to aid students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges: No relief for the Walking Dead

David Goldman wrote a  highly informative article for Bloomberg yesterday about the Department of Education's fumbling efforts to process Borrower Defense claims filed by people who claim they were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. I am grateful to Steve Rhode for calling my attention to Goldman's article.

Essentially, here's the story. Corinthian Colleges filed for bankruptcy last year under a cloud of fraud allegations. In fact, the the State of California got a $1.1 billion judgment against Corinthian for its wrongdoing in that state. At the time it filed bankruptcy, Corinthian had 335,000 former students.

DOE has an administrative process whereby it will forgive the student loans taken out by students who were defrauded by for-profit institutions. So far, 82,000 former Corinthian students have filed those claims.  But DOE's process for reviewing those claims is slow. Goldman reported that so far only about 15,000 students have gotten debt relief through the Borrower Defense process.

DOE won't grant blanket forgiveness to all of Corinthian's former students, arguing that not all of them were defrauded.  But in fact, a high percentage were defrauded. As Goldman reported, "Department officials concluded that Corinthian engaged in 'widesperead placement rate fraud' for almost 800 programs at nearly every one of its more than 100 U.S. campuses."

 David Vladek, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection division, said this about Corinthian's former students: "These kids by and large have been scammed, and the Department of Education in some sense is continuing the harm by making them jump through hoops to get the relief to which they are entitled."

But it gets worse. Not only is DOE not processing loan-forgiveness claims quickly, it is actually employing debt collectors to hound Corinthian's former students, even though most of these students are entitled to have their loans forgiven.  Although DOE states on its web site that it will stop all loan collection efforts on Corinthian borrowers, that statement is not true.

Indeed, DOE's debt collection activities are a hell of a lot more efficient than their loan forgiveness process. As Maggie Robb, a consumer-rights attorney, observed, " When the Department of Education wants to collect money, it doesn't stop."

Goldman's story focused solely on Corinthian Colleges' former students, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who took out loans to attend for-profit colleges who have been scammed. I know one woman with a documented claim for fraud against DeVry University who filed a Borrower Defense claim with DOE last August and still hasn't gotten a response from DOE.

In short, people who have been defrauded by the for-profit college industry are the real life representations of the Walking Dead. Fraud victims have debt hanging over their heads, which DOE has not discharged; and if they default on their loans they are subject to abusive debt collection tactics, wage garnishment, income-tax offsets, and ruined credit. Many are continuing to make loan payments on debt they don't really owe; and most did not get fair value for their for-profit college experiences.

In DOE's defense, the Department is simply overwhelmed by the implosion of the for-profit college industry. It does not have the resources to process claims by Corinthian students or to even notify those students that they may be entitled to debt relief. ITT's closure and bankruptcy will bring a deluge of new claims, and other for-profits are sure to follow over the next few months. (Globe University and Charlotte School of Law, for example, have been accused of misrepresentation and many of their students will be filing Borrower Defense claims.)

There is really only one sensible solution: DOE should allow all people who borrowed money to attend for-profit colleges and who are insolvent to file for bankruptcy relief in the federal bankruptcy courts. Whether or not a a particular student debtor can prove fraud should be irrelevant. If they took out loans to attend a for-profit college, the odds are better than even that they were scammed or did not get fair value for their money.

Image result for walking dead'
Students who were scammed by for-profit colleges are the Walking Dead.

Note: All quotations come from Mr. Goldman's article.


David Goldman. The U.S. Government Is Collecting Student Loans It Promised to Forgive, Bloomberg News, December 19, 2016.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Close, But No Cigar: Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush's Plan For Funding Higher Education Will Not Fix the Student Loan Crisis

"Close, but no cigar," a Google search tells me, means an attempt that is not quite successful. This should be our response to presidential candidate Jeb Bush's plan to fix the student loan crisis.

Briefly, here is Governor Jeb Bush's plan:
  • He proposes to scrap the present student-loan scheme and replace it with a new program whereby all high-school graduates will be given a $50,000 line of credit that they can draw on for postsecondary education.  Students will pay back the loan by paying 1 percent of their income for every $10,000 borrowed, to be paid back over 25 years. Borrowers would make their loan payments on their federal income tax forms.
  • Second, Mr.  Bush proposes to make it easier for students to discharge their private student loans in bankruptcy, although the details aren't specified. This idea has also been endorsed by President Obama and several scholarly commentators.
  • Third, Mr. Bush wants to improve information about higher education outcomes at colleges and universities, and he will encourage innovation and flexibility in postsecondary programs to help bring down tuition costs.
  • Finally, Bush's plan proposes to require colleges to pay back some of the loan money their students borrow if the students default.  He believes requiring colleges to have "some skin in the game," will make them operate more responsibly and give them an incentive for their students to be successful.
So what's not to like about Jeb Bush's plan? Several things.

 For-Profit Institutions Must Be Reined In. First, Governor Bush's plan does nothing to rein in the for-profit college sector, where the worst student-loan abuses are taking place. Indeed, Governor Bush's own state of Florida is notorious for allowing for-profit colleges to operate without proper regulation. Investigative reporters revealed that the Florida for-profit industry has gotten legislation passed to favor their interests by making strategic campaign contributions.  Dade Medical College, which recently closed, is one of the most notorious examples of a for-profit college industry gone wild.  Dade Medical College was run by a high school dropout with a criminal record and received more than 80 percent of its revenues from the federal student-aid program.

Bankruptcy Relief Must Be Made Available to All Student Debtors, Including Those Who Participated in the Federal Student Loan Program.  Mr. Bush's proposal to make it easier for private student-loan debtors to file bankruptcy is a good one, but federal-student-loan borrowers must also have reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts. Millions of people have defaulted on their federal student-loans, and those who took out student loans in good faith and fell on hard times are entitled to a fresh start through the bankruptcy process.

We've Got To Stop Garnishing Social Security Checks of Elderly Student-Loan Defaulters.  Currently, the federal government is garnishing Social Security checks of 155,000 elderly student-loan defaulters, which federal law empowers it to do.  No one who is totally dependent on Social Security should have his or her Social Security check garnished because of a defaulted student loan.

Let's say no to all long-term repayment plans. Personally, I believe the American people should say no to all proposals that require students to pay back their loans over 20 or 25 years.  These plans are designed to lower students' monthly loan payments but they require student-loan borrowers to make payments for the majority of their working lives. And I feel quite sure  that any long-term income-based repayment plan--whether it is crafted by President Obama or Governor Bush, will mean that a majority of student-loan debtors will never pay back the principal on their loans.

Close, but no cigar.

Governor Bush is to be commended for presenting a proposal to fix the student-loan crisis. At least he admits that the federal student-loan program needs fixing. But no proposal will get my approval that doesn't rein in the for-profit college sector, which has exploited low-income and unsophisticated students all over the United States, including Florida.  No proposal is adequate that does not provide reasonable bankruptcy relief for all categories of student debtors. No proposal passes muster for me that doesn't cease garnishing elderly people's Social Security checks,

Finally, the American people should vote no on any student-loan reform plan that pushes student-loan borrowers into long-term repayment plans.  Who would have believed just 20 years ago that our national leaders are so inept at managing the student-loan crisis that they think it is a good idea to push young Americans into plans that force them to pay on their student loans for 20 or 25 years.


Francisco Alvarado. Dade Medical College Has Powerful Friends but Struggling Students.  Broward/Palm Beach  New Times, August 29, 2013.  Accessible at:

Read more here:
Fred Grimm. Before his fall, Ernesto Perez bought himself lots of friends. Miami  Herald, November 4, 2015. Accessible at:

David Halperin. For-Profit Colleges Spend Big on Lobbyists to Fight Obama RegulationHuffington Post, April 28, 2015. Accessible at:

David Halperin. $33 Million Per Year of Your Tax Money to For-Profit College Whose CEO Hid Criminal Record. Huffington Post, October 21, 2013. Accessible at:

Jon Hartley. Jeb Bush's Plan To Fix The Student Loan Crisis., January 19,2016. Accessile at: