Student Loan Truth: For-Profit Borrowers Keep the Pressure on During NegReg | Blog

November 15, 2021

The Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking committee concluded its second week of sessions on November 5, 2021, digging deeper into topics including the borrower defense process.

This followed the first session, held the first week of October, which saw for-profit college borrowers come out in force— flooding the public comment sessions and fiercely demanding that their experiences and voices be reflected in this process. It was a powerful display of what is at stake and how the broken borrower defense process has devastated so many lives.

But if anyone thought these borrowers had said their part and were done speaking out, they’d be wrong.

One month later, as the committee kicked off a second week of rulemaking, borrowers continued to show up and demand accountability on borrower defense. This time, a common theme emerged: even for those who were finally promised relief by the Biden administration months ago, confusion and delay remain the status quo when it comes to borrower defense.

Nearly eight months ago, Secretary Cardona announced that the Department would end former Secretary DeVos’ illegal partial relief policy and that borrowers who had received partial relief decisions would be made whole — great news for thousands of borrowers who have been waiting years for a fair decision. (The Project on Predatory Student Lending challenged the partial relief rule in our case Pratt v Cardona.)

Yet, several months later, not only have these borrowers not seen the relief they were promised, they can’t seem to get any straight answers from the Department on whether they will actually get it — never mind when.

“March 18th, 2021, I thought that my 6 year student debt nightmare was finally over,” said Trisha Pipchinski. “I had waited over 5 years to only receive 10% discharge. But even since March, it’s been extremely stressful. Every time I call the Department of Education for information, I would receive a different answer or no answers at all. I was told it would be discharged since it was a partial, then the next time I called, I was told that I would not be receiving anything more than the 10%. It’s a vicious cycle which needs to be changed so people who are cheated and rely on borrowers defense have a clear process and clear cut answers, not a cycle of I don’t know responses from the Department of Education.”

Trisha isn’t alone in her frustration.

“It’s been a grueling process,” Andrea Smith told the committee. “I applied for borrower defense 3 years ago and received almost no communication for a long time. April of this year I was told I was approved for 100% discharge and that the tax refunds that were taken from me would be returned. That still hasn’t happened. Then I was told October. Still hasn’t happened. When I call the borrower defense line, they tell me to call my loan servicer. Then the loan servicer tells me to call back to borrower defense. I’m a mom of five. I work full time as an administrator. Now this frustration has turned into another full time job just working to get information.”

Myrna Figueroa, a disabled veteran, called out the Department for failing to hold scammers accountable.

“Walden lied to me, took advantage of me, left me with nothing, and the Department of Education – instead of stopping scams – are forcing taxpayers to pay for it. The worst part has been the humiliation. I am a single mom, I wanted to be able to rely on myself and support my son. How do I explain that I was lied to and scammed to a little kid – it was embarrassing for me. There is no way to get my time, my hard work, my hope and my pride back. This was robbed of me by Walden University and unfortunately even a loan discharge doesn’t make it right.”

If borrowers have made one thing clear during this process, it’s that the Department of Education has a lot of work to do to truly fix borrower defense and the devastation it has caused. And student borrowers will not back down from holding them accountable.