My Journey to Sweet Relief: “Know Your Rights, and Never Stop Fighting for Them.” | Blog

June 23, 2022

As the named plaintiff in Sweet v. Cardona, Theresa Sweet has been in the fight for justice since the very beginning. Upon learning about our proposed settlement with the Department of Education — automatically approving the borrower defense applications of over 200,000 borrowers and canceling an estimated $6 BILLION — she had a lot to say. Read about Theresa’s journey to #sweetrelief. 

 

If you had asked me on the day I graduated from college how I felt about my future, I think that you would have been dismayed at the answer. Instead of feeling hopeful, instead of feeling proud to be the first person in my family to graduate from college, I felt a looming sense of dread. 

On that day, I never would have imagined that I would find myself locked in a nearly 20 year battle for justice against a for-profit education company that defrauded me, and against the federal government for not only failing to protect me from this fraud, but who also allowed openly hostile Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to repeatedly delay justice for myself and hundreds of thousands of other defrauded students. 

When I first reached out to Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) of Oakland, CA, I jumped at the chance to lobby with them in favor of legislation to help protect California students from predatory for-profit schools. Even if there was nothing I could do to change my situation, I was happy to do anything I could to help prevent it from happening to other students. 

Not long after, when HERA asked me if I would be willing to speak to The Project on Predatory Student Lending about being part of a lawsuit that would stop the illegal delay in fairly processing Borrower Defense applications, I knew I had to make another leap. 

Throughout this fight for justice, I have been fortunate to meet and correspond with thousands of students who found themselves in the same dire straits as me — those seeking a better life through education only to find themselves burdened by insurmountable debt, watching family relationships crumble under the pressure, and feeling their hopes for a stable future slip away. The sense of hopelessness was palpable.

Nothing about this fight has been easy. More than a quarter million defrauded students have been waiting far too long for justice that should have come without delay, but for which we instead had to fight tooth and nail. Sleepless nights, tears, anger, and disappointments have plagued the process through no fault of our own. 

To add insult to injury, we had to deal with bad faith bargaining and  illegal mass denials from Betsy DeVos and her for profit education cronies within our Department of Education. 

But we didn’t give up. Defrauded borrowers stepped up to the plate over and over to share their stories, speak to the court, and refuse to take any of this lying down. There have been incredible organizing efforts by defrauded students and advocacy groups throughout the country. 

The attorneys at The Project on Predatory Student Lending and HERA stood by us every step of the way, through endless hours of depositions, negotiations, and the often Kafkaesque highs and lows of a massive class action against our own government. Our attorneys believed in us when we didn’t have anything left to keep hope alive.

Now, when I look back at the day I graduated from college, I think of a lesson my school never taught me — know your rights, and never stop fighting for them.