The majority of students who were defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges that inflated their job placement rates and coerced students into taking out student loans are still saddled with thousands of dollars in debt. A group of those students who attended Corinthian Colleges, ITT Technical Institutes, and Art Institutes are making a last-ditch effort to appeal to the Obama Administration to cancel their debt before president-elect Donald Trump takes office.
One woman, Pam Hunt, racked up student loans for a "worthless" degree in criminal justice at Corinthian College. She says the debt, coupled with the fact that she had no choice but to take a low-paying job as a caretaker after graduating, cost her her home. When the house she was renting went into foreclosure, the amount she owed on her student loans precluded her from qualifying for a mortgage to purchase it from the current owner.
"The debt-to-income ratio was not good," she said in a video released by the Debt Collective, an organization working with the former students. "I'm not going to apologize for being [a caretaker], but I went to college for a degree in criminal justice," Hunt continued. "I cannot get employment in that field because my degree is worthless… I will never be able to afford this educational debt and pay a mortgage. But if my debt was forgiven that wouldn't be an issue."
On top of being diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after being forced to leave her home, she says the debt, housing insecurity, and taking care of her family is a lot to deal with. In a Debt Collective press release, Hunt made a direct plea to President Obama. "For years, the Department of Education has failed to do its job and cancel the debt of defrauded students like me," she said. "Now a man who owned his own scam school is going to be President. I'm pleading with President Obama to cancel the debts of all defrauded borrowers before he leaves office."
…Don't leave us at the mercy of President Trump.
The Department of Education laid out their final plans to expedite debt relief to the thousands of former Corinthian College students in October, but so far only 19 percent of students have had their loans discharged. One of the main concerns is that the Department has yet to grant blanket relief to fraud victims who filed borrower defense to repayment claims, a program that allows students to be absolved of their federal loans if the school they attended deceived them. The Secretary of Education, or whoever they appoint, approves these claims individually, and it's unclear what position Trump's Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, will take with regard to these claims. With Trump's $25 million fraud settlement for Trump University in mind, the former students are worried that the entire program could be in jeopardy under Trump's administration.
Latonya Suggs also attended Corinthian College and is waiting for her borrower defense to repayment claim to be processed. "President Obama, don't leave us at the mercy of President Trump," she said.
When asked for comment, Dorie Nolt, the press secretary for the Department of Education, sent a statement via email. "President Obama and Secretary King remain committed to using each of their remaining days in office to deliver on the President's agenda for the American people. They are also committed to ensuring a smooth transition and providing the necessary information and resources to ensure that president-elect Trump can take over the office seamlessly on January 20, 2017," she said. "We are not going to speculate on what sort of policies president-elect Trump may choose to prioritize or pursue."