About the Project
The Project on Predatory Student Lending is the leading legal organization representing students against the predatory for-profit college industry and the government policies that enable the industry to exploit the promise of higher education to cheat student borrowers and taxpayers. It has been helping students fight for justice since 2012.
The Project represents hundreds of thousands of former students across the country and has won landmark cases to protect borrower rights, recover money owed, and cancel fraudulent debt. Its ongoing cases hold predatory colleges accountable and force the Department of Education to act on behalf of students and stop protecting this insidious industry.
The Project is part of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, a community law office and clinical teaching site of the law school. Clinical students join the Project’s staff to litigate cases on behalf of clients, in partnership with community-based and advocacy organizations.
A Predatory Industry
For decades, the predatory for-profit college industry has exploited the promise of higher education, at the expense of students who are trying to build a better life. The industry specifically targets low-income students, people of color, single parents, and veterans.
The industry recruits students with lies and false promises of well-paying jobs and meaningful careers. One school told prospective students it placed 70 to 99 percent of students in jobs, when the reality was only 20 to 30 percent of students got jobs.
Instead of providing the quality programs promised, these companies invest almost no money into meaningful career training. In one study, less than 25% of for-profit colleges’ revenue went to expenses related to education. The majority goes to marketing and advertising, executive compensation, and shareholder profit.
As a result, students are left with mountains of debt and without the means to pay for it. For-profit colleges account for 13% of the student population, but 33% of federal loan defaults. And 98% of all student loan cancellation applications sent to the federal government in 2016 and 2017 were due to fraudulent for-profit colleges.
Government funding and policies intended to help people improve their lives are instead enabling this industry to cheat students. The for-profit college industry is among the most heavily tax subsidized of any private sector, taking more than $30 billion in taxpayer money each year in the form of federal student aid.
The Department of Education alone has the power and authority to stop the flow of federal money to these schools, but it has not. The industry and the interests it serves are powerful, and gets its way in Washington.
The Department of Education has repeatedly sided with the industry, and against students and taxpayers. It continues to broker student loans for these companies and collect fraudulent student loans, while delaying and rewriting borrower defense rules that stop schools from using forced arbitration.
The Project’s landmark cases help students defend their rights and stop this predatory industry from cheating students and taxpayers.
Kate Manning Kennedy
Attorney and Fellow
Join Our Team
The Project on Predatory Student Lending looks for talented professionals to join our team of passionate advocates. We also seek outstanding candidates for summer internships and fellowships.
The Project on Predatory Student Lending Advisory Board supports the Project team, helping us navigate opportunities and challenges. With these partnerships, we believe that a future without predatory student loan debt is possible and we will work together to meet the challenges ahead.