HUFFINGTON POST: Hold Shady Colleges Accountable? That’s Your Job
Career College Central Summary:
It's time to ask: When the Department of Education refuses to enforce its own laws, who pays the price? Right now, the answer is simple: hundreds of thousands of students around the country. It's time for that to change–but it won't if Secretary Duncan keeps blaming Congress for his own Department's failures.
According to Secretary Duncan's recent Politico editorial, Corinthian Colleges, once a mighty for-profit college empire using taxpayer money to prey on poor students just looking to get ahead, ran smack up against his heroic Department, which shut it down and put together a plan for defrauded students to get their money back. His staff would be able to do more, Secretary Duncan gripes, if only the Higher Education Act contained more robust enforcement mechanisms. Then it could shut down scam schools like Corinthian and force them to pay for the wrongs they committed against their students.
Two parts of this story are true: Corinthian and other institutions like it are preying on the dreams of those disenfranchised by the rest of our higher education system, and many members of Congress are all to happy to take for-profits' money to advocate for their interests. The rest is self-serving bunkum.
Until February of this year, when 15 former Corinthian students publicly refused to pay their student loans and, along with others, began submitting applications for debt relief, the Department had not given the least thought to how to provide them "every dime of relief". The Department itself admitted that it was a "building debt activism movement", which, in full disclosure, I was involved in organizing, created "a need for a clearer process for potential claimants."
Before students forced themselves into the conversation, the Department had been working to stuff Corinthian's wrongdoing under the rug: refusing to prosecute several whistleblower suits and arranging a sale of as many campuses as possible to the debt buyer Education Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), complete with a provision absolving ECMC of any liability for Corinthian's behavior. Meanwhile, its fellow regulators, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Securities Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and multiple states' attorneys general were busy investigating and suing Corinthian. Their powers were restricted to private student loans, but they did everything they could to convince an unbudging Department to do its part. Several Congresspeople — including those Secretary Duncan praises in his editorial — attempted to do the same.
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