2020: The Year Students Were Heard | Blog
December 31, 2020
2020 has been a year like no other.
Despite the pandemic, we’re closing out the year with significant wins for defrauded student borrowers and optimism for our clients under a new Biden-Harris administration.
Here’s a recap of our progress over the last year, as we look forward to 2021.
Student borrowers spoke out and judges listened.
- Students continue their battle for loan cancellation based on their borrower defense claims. In April, they entered into a proposed settlement in Sweet v DeVos that would have forced the Department to process all pending borrower defense claims. In a short time, we found that the Department was not acting in good faith and had sent thousands of class members blanket denials with complete disregard for the evidence in their claims. Students spoke out in an unprecedented 500-person court hearing held on Zoom and the judge was compelled by their “shared trauma.” He shut down the settlement and called the Department’s approach to these claims “disturbingly Kafkaesque,” ordering the Department to submit to discovery.
- In Vara v. DeVos a federal judge ordered Secretary DeVos to cancel the loans of all 7,200 former Corinthian students in Massachusetts; the first time a court has ever ordered a borrower defense discharge of federal student loans.
For-profit colleges continued their predatory and racist behaviors.
- For-profit colleges often target students based on race. Schools like Florida Career College systematically use predatory marketing and deceptive recruitment to target Black students. Students sued Florida Career College for targeting Black students with its high-priced, low-value product that is falsely sold as valuable higher education.
- In a new series with Republic Report, “COVID College Cons,” we took a deep dive into how the for-profit college industry has targeted students during the pandemic. We highlighted the industry’s pernicious history of preying on students during times of economic uncertainty.
Students sued to stop DeVos’ devastating policies limiting relief for cheated borrowers.
- In February, on behalf of NYLAG, we challenged Secretary DeVos’ new borrower defense rule that makes it nearly impossible for defrauded students to cancel debt. The rule is so bad, Congress rejected DeVos’ borrower defense rollback, but President Trump ultimately vetoed the bipartisan resolution. Our case is fully briefed, and Attorneys General have since filed a similar case.
- Secretary DeVos established a new “partial relief” methodology at the end of 2019 designed to deny loan cancellation to people with successful borrower defense claims. In June, we challenged it for what it is — another illegitimate attempt to deny students the relief they are owed.
A family sues Navient over private student loans.
- Our client Jorge Villalba and his mother Alicia filed a lawsuit against a private lender, Navient, for misleading them about their right to seek cancellation of Jorge’s private student loans from ITT. Jorge was one of the few whose borrower defense claim against ITT was granted, and his federal loans were therefore cancelled. Despite this, Navient continues to collect on Jorge’s private student loans.
The President has the power and authority to cancel student debt for our clients.
- The year started and ended with discussions about the President’s legal authority to cancel student debt. As our legal analysis makes clear: the President-elect can and must cancel our clients’ illegitimate debts on day one of the new administration. Borrowers who were cheated by predatory for-profit colleges have been fighting for too long to get the debt relief they are owed.
Students are not backing down.
We continue to hear from thousands of students who have been ripped off by for-profit colleges and left with insurmountable debt. They share their stories to help the public understand what happened to them and to call attention to the broken system that allows this to continue. Read the stories of Nicole, Sammia, and Shaun, who bravely shared their experiences in our Student Loan Truth series.
As our client Theresa Sweet recently told NBC News:
“If whoever the next DOE secretary is doesn’t come out swinging for borrower defense, I feel like we’re still going to have to fight. And I will keep fighting until this situation receives some measure of justice.”
We will too. Thanks to the partners fighting with us and the clients who inspire us to fight.
Check out some of the coverage of our cases and clients over the last year.
- CNN: Betsy DeVos stalled Obama’s student loan relief program. Borrowers hope Biden will fix it (Dec. 19, 2020)
- Washington Post: Judge Rejects Settlement Over Stalled Student Debt Relief Claims, Blames DeVos for Harming Borrowers (Oct. 20, 2020)
- MarketWatch: Scammed student sues Navient, asking for cancellation of debt he took on to attend for-profit college (Sept. 11, 2020)
- Harvard Magazine: Attacking the Concept of Debt (Sept. 9, 2020)
- New York Times: Defrauded Student Loan Borrowers Win, but Still Lose (July 10, 2020)
- Boston Globe: Federal Judge Orders Department of Education to Cancel Loans for 7,200 Students (June 26, 2020)
- Politico: New Lawsuit Over DeVos’ Partial Loan Forgiveness Policy (June 9, 2020)
- NPR: Students Call College That Got Millions In Coronavirus Relief ‘A Sham’ (May 8, 2020)
- Associated Press: DeVos reaches settlement in lawsuit over loan relief program (April 10, 2020)
- Yahoo! Finance: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faces another lawsuit for overturning an Obama-era rule (Feb. 19, 2020)