Vara v. DeVos

Case Outcome

The students won this lawsuit: the judge ordered the Department of Education to cancel the student loans of all 7,200 former Corinthian Colleges students in Massachusetts. This is the first time a federal court has ordered a borrower defense discharge of federal student loans.

The victory came nearly two years after students won the related case Williams v. DeVos, and the judge ordered the Department of Education to stop using tax offset to collect borrowers’ loans that were covered by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s borrower defense application. The ruling is a clear and powerful statement of the rights of student borrowers, and a resounding rejection of the Department of Education’s ongoing and across-the-board refusal to recognize these rights and cancel fraudulent student loans.

Overview

Who is involved in this case?

The Project on Predatory Student Lending represents Ms. Vara and approximately 7,200 former Corinthian Colleges students in Massachusetts. against the Department of Education. Ms. Vara is a former students of Everest Institute in Massachusetts, a predatory for-profit college owned by Corinthian College.

 

What is this case about?

The lawsuit demands that the Department of Education grant the Massachusetts Attorney General’s borrower defense application and cancel the students’ fraudulent loans.

The lawsuit comes one year after the Department of Education was ordered to stop collecting on the borrowers’ loans because they were covered by a group borrower defense application that was filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General in 2015.

Not only did the Department of Education ignore the AG's group borrower defense and refuse to cancel these loans, it illegally seized Ms. Vara's federal tax refunds to pay her federal student loans from Everest Institute. Although the government has broad powers to collect defaulted federal student loans, it may not seize funds from borrowers when it knows that the defaulted student loan debts are not legally enforceable due to a school’s fraud.

 

Where and when was this case filed?

This case was filed in federal court in Massachusetts on October 22, 2019.

“We got cheated and are now struggling to repay tens of thousands of dollars of debt for a worthless degree. The Attorney General told the Department of Education four years ago that Everest ripped off students, but they obviously don't care because the Department has still been collecting on my debt and has even garnished my wages and taken my tax refunds. My life only got harder after Everest—the only upside is the strength of the other students I went to school with and that's why I'm standing up with them for what's right.”

- Diana Vara

“Even when presented with irrefutable evidence of fraud and deception by Corinthian, Secretary DeVos continues to side with her allies in the predatory for-profit school industry, rather than follow federal law and provide our students with the relief they need to rebuild their lives. Together with the Project on Predatory Student Lending, we are suing to force the Department to do its job and cancel these loans.” 

- Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

“The evidence of abuse is indisputable. The only possible action to take is complete loan cancellation for all former Corinthian students of Massachusetts. We will work with Attorney General Healey to force Betsy DeVos to follow the law and cancel the debts of 7,200 defrauded Corinthian students who were cheated and continue to suffer under the weight of these fraudulent debts. We thank Attorney General Healey for her commitment to holding Betsy DeVos accountable and for her dedication to standing up for students until these Corinthian loans are cancelled once and for all."

Project on Predatory Student Lending, Toby Merrill

Why This Case?

This case follows the October 2018 ruling in Williams v. DeVos, which acknowledged the Attorney General’s group borrower defense application as valid and laid the groundwork for Attorneys General across the country to apply for loan cancellation on behalf of students in their state who were cheated by predatory for-profit colleges. In the Williams decision, the judge not only found the Attorney General’s application to validly assert a borrower defense on behalf of all individuals who attended Corinthian’s Everest schools in Massachusetts, but also ordered the Department to consider the application, and to stop its aggressive collections by seizing borrowers’ tax refunds while the application was pending.

Case Updates

Judge Orders Secretary DeVos to Completely Cancel Student Loans of all 7,200 Defrauded Corinthian Colleges Students in MA | Press Release

Federal judge orders the Deptartment of Education to cancel the student loans of all 7,200 former Corinthian Colleges students in Massachusetts.

My Student Loan Truth: Amanda’s Everest Institute Story | Blog

“A lot of people worked hard, graduated at the top of their class, and were still left in this spot. We were cheated. It destroys your faith in the government and in our system of education and I think it’s important to stand up to that.”

Former MA Corinthian Students Sue Betsy DeVos for Refusing Attorney General’s Application to Cancel Their Loans | Press Release

Corinthian students file lawsuit to force the U.S. Department of Education to follow the law, grant the AG’s group discharge and stop illegal collections on fraudulent student loans

Case Documents

Judgment for Plaintiffs

Ruling that the AG's DTR application was a valid borrower defense application for every Corinthian student in Massachusetts, and ordering the Department to discharge their loans.

Motion for Class Certification

On November 13, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Class Certification.

Complaint

On October 22, 2019, Plaintiffs' filed a Complaint against the Department of Education.

Coverage

Federal Judge Orders DeVos To Cancel Student Loans For 7,200 Defrauded Students | Forbes

Yesterday, a federal judge ordered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to cancel the student loans for the 7,200 student borrowers in Massachusetts who attended the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applied for “borrower defense” on behalf of 7,200 former Corinithian College students as a group application. Borrower defense is the provision that helps defrauded students by giving the Secretary of Education the authority to discharge debt when schools lie and cheat their students.

Read More

DeVos Tries Everything to Force Deceived Students to Repay Loans | Republic Report

Betsy DeVos’s four-year immoral crusade to harm American education has included a thoroughly corrupt effort to protect predatory for-profit colleges and force students who were scammed by these schools to pay back their student loans anyway. Advocates for veterans, single mothers, immigrants, and others ripped off by these schools have been determined to fight back. There were numerous developments last week in this struggle, and they deserve our attention.

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‘Huge Win’: Court Orders DeVos to Cancel Loans for Mass. Students Defrauded by Corinthian Colleges | Common Dreams

Advocates for students joined Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in celebration Friday after a federal court in Boston ordered U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to cancel the loans of 7,200 people in the commonwealth who were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit education company that closed its U.S. campuses in 2015.

Read More