Optimism and Hope: “Fail State” Forum and Panel Look Ahead | Blog

November 13, 2020

Last month, the Project on Predatory Student Lending partnered with several organizations to stream a free, on-demand screening of Fail State — a documentary film dedicated to exposing the for-profit college industry’s devastating impact on students. More than 200 people attended the virtual screening, with a Town Hall and panel discussion afterwards.

The panel, moderated by Aarthi Swaminathan, a student debt reporter at Yahoo! Finance, reflected on the impact of this predatory industry on students, and a sense of hope as a new administration prepares to take over the Department of Education.

When asked about how for-profit colleges target students, Project on Predatory Student Lending Director Toby Merrill, said:

“I don’t think that anyone who was targeted by a for-profit school, that it’s their fault or that anyone should have known better. These schools spend millions and millions of dollars, and are truly experts in appearing legitimate and in making a really strong sales pitch… And so, I don’t think it should be up to individuals to be able to exempt themselves somehow from multimillion-dollar marketing and lobby machines.”

Ramond Curtis, from Veterans Education Success, elaborated on how these predatory schools go after veterans:

“The 90/10 loophole puts bullseye on the backs of student veterans and they become this golden goose who is providing a padding for this 10%. They use aggressive recruiting tactics and even commit fraud to convince veterans to enroll.

Quality institutions who care about your education and care about what you’re going to do with it don’t want students who are going to start a program that ends up not being for them. They want you to succeed. Institutions that don’t care whether or not you succeed, they just want you to enroll now.”

One of the big questions asked was “What would a Biden administration mean to you?”

Sanders Fabares, of the Debt Collective, summed it up with the word: hope.

“Five years ago, the very idea of student debt cancellation was laughed at and now it’s part of the policy platform for a presidential candidate. There have been huge changes over the last few years. So, to me, a new administration really represents hope for change.”

Alex Shebanow, creator and producer of the Fail State film, said: optimism.

“In one word, it’s optimism. I think for people who watch the film — President Trump had a for-profit college and that is indicative of the lack of regulation and oversight under his administration. I think if there is a new administration, I don’t want them dragging their feet. We have a five-alarm fire here. They need to come out guns-blazing.”

There’s no doubt that student borrowers, advocates and partners will continue to speak out and fight for justice.

Thank you to our Fail State screening partners, American Federation Teacher, Veteran’s Education Success, the Legal Aid Foundation, the National Consumer Law Center, Student Borrower Protection Center, the Debt Collectiveand the Fail State Movie team, for presenting this special event and for standing with student borrowers every day.