Newly released data shows Department of Education has not processed more than 105,000 borrower defense claims
Students who were cheated or defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges are entitled to relief under the law
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statements today on data showing that Department of Education has approved less than one-third of borrower defense claims and over 105,000 students are still waiting for relief.
Additionally, the data shows the Department tried to award “partial relief” to more than 30 percent of cheated and defrauded students that did hear back on their claims—a scheme by Secretary DeVos that was later blocked by a federal court. The data shows that the Department saddled these students with more than $67 million in remaining debt.
“Secretary DeVos has spent the last eighteen months in office denying and delaying relief for cheated and defrauded students, and undermining the very protections meant to stop predatory for-profit colleges from misleading students in the first place,” said Senator Murray. “So while this data is not surprising, it confirms to the students desperately begging her for help that Secretary DeVos has little interest in doing anything more than providing a cover for predatory corporations to continue to take advantage of students. These students need relief, and Secretary DeVos needs to start doing her job and provide it to them.”
“It took an Act of Congress, but we finally have regular public reporting of the Department of Education’s processing of borrower defense claims again,” said Senator Durbin. “It’s no surprise the Department didn’t want to do this. The numbers show that the Trump Administration continues to ignore tens of thousands of struggling student borrowers defrauded by their schools or is shortchanging them with partial relief.”
Following the collapse of for-profit giants Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, thousands of students were left with a useless education and massive amounts of debt, leading many to apply to the federal government for relief from their student loans. Under the Borrower Defense to Repayment provision of the Higher Education Act, the Department of Education has the legal authority to provide cheated and defrauded students with complete, immediate, and automatic relief from their federal student loans.
With the support of Ranking Member Murray, Senator Durbin secured language in the FY18 Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to require the Department of Education to begin providing quarterly reports on the processing of borrower defense claims. Upon taking office, the Trump Administration ended the Obama Administration’s practice of publicly reporting on these claims.
This data is further proof in a long pattern of Secretary DeVos putting for-profit colleges ahead of students. After reportedly halting the processing the tens of thousands of borrower defense applications, Secretary DeVos repeatedly delayed the Obama Administration-era “borrower defense” rule from going into effect, and abandoned the rule altogether for a proposal that would effectively end debt relief to cheated and defrauded students. In June, the Department of Education’s independent watchdog found that under Secretary DeVos, the Department of Education has taken a number of steps to avoid providing students with the relief they are owed under the law.