We Deserve More Than 10% Justice – Sammia’s Student Loan Truth | Blog

June 10, 2020

Twenty years ago, Sammia Pratt enrolled at Florida Metropolitan University, which later became the Corinthian-owned Everest University. Sammia was interested in the flexibility offered by their new online courses. The school assured her that she could get an associate degree and transfer back to University of Central Florida, where she had already started her education. But it was all a lie. Decades after being scammed by the for-profit school, Sammia is still fighting to get full loan cancellation. Her borrower defense application was recently granted, but the Department of Education discharged only 10 percent of her loan. She represents thousands of others in her situation as the lead plaintiff in Pratt v. DeVos. 

This is her story.

 

What made you decide to attend FMU/Everest?

 I needed something flexible. I was a working student with a couple of jobs at a time, also trying to balance out schoolwork. While I was enrolled at University of Central Florida, there were certain classes that weren’t available at the times I could be there. FMU offered similar credits at better times and online options, so I enrolled in a couple of their classes, with the intention of transferring back to UCF. I thought it was going to be a good option for me to juggle my schoolwork and a job.

 

What was your experience like at FMU/Everest? How did you go from a couple classes to getting an associate degree?

When I enrolled in the program, an administrator told me that transferring my credits would be easy and that accreditation was forthcoming. They suggested I work on getting an associate degree, and transfer that degree as a whole to UCF instead of just certain credits.

The problem was when I tried to transfer the credits back to UCF, they wouldn’t take them. They didn’t care about the associate degree I had gotten. Everything I had worked on was completely worthless.

 

What was the process of finding a job with this degree like?

The recruiter had told me that in their career development programs, students would work alongside major companies in the area. We’d be going to class, and building our resumes, and we’d have our pick of available opportunities with these companies. They made us think that they had actual career development programs and that we were positioned to get a good job, when in reality none of that actually existed.

Once I graduated, I realized how big of a scam this school really was. No one would take me seriously. It was embarrassing because I spent all this time trying to get a degree and now, I was spending my time trying to justify this degree just to get any job.

 

How did you overcome such a major setback?  

Luckily, I knew that I was someone who was motivated enough to succeed despite my experience. I grew up poor and I knew the only way to get out of the cycle was to get a degree and get a job. That’s what I was always focused on. So, I started working at every major temp agency around Orlando and just started working 2-3 jobs at a time, regardless of whether they related to my degree or not. I was just trying to get any experience I could.

 

What would you want people to learn from your experience with a for-profit college?

When you’re that young, you don’t know what you don’t know. I was the first in my family to go to college. There’s so little information out there about how these schools work and what their priorities are. People should know that there are other options for an affordable education. And the government should be doing more to hold these schools accountable. They are ruining people’s lives with their lies.

 

Based on the Department of Education’s new partial relief formula, they recently said you will get just 10% of your Everest debts cancelled. How did that make you feel?

It’s insulting. The government acknowledged that I was defrauded and that I was scammed and yet I only got 10% relief. I had to go through extraordinary measures to get myself through this experience and it didn’t have to be this way. I was lied to at every turn about the classes and credits, the opportunities, the financial aid. Students deserve better. We deserve more than 10% justice. Especially when that percent is based on a ridiculous formula that makes no logical sense.

 

Finally, what motivated you to speak out and become a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Department of Education, challenging its partial relief formula?

I’ve spent years advocating on my own behalf. When I came out of school I had all this debt, but I couldn’t just stop paying and go into a deeper hole financially. I had to fight. Stopping is not an option for me. Giving up is not an option for me. So, this lawsuit gives me an opportunity to share my story and continue to fight for justice for myself and for everyone else who might be in a similar situation.