Gazette editorial: Stop delaying loan help for defrauded students

AP file photo
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Not all colleges are created equal.

Many are stalwarts of their community and churn out thousands of qualified graduates yearly. Others are on much shakier ground and end up crashing and burning, dragging lots of young people down with them.

Of these for-profit ventures, Corinthian Colleges is a prime example. Corinthian operated one of its Everest Institute locations in Cross Lanes. It closed when Corinthian entered bankruptcy in 2015. Corinthian was later found by a California judge to have misled students through shady advertising claims.

Thousands of students, saddled with federal student debt, were left with nothing to show for their time and money. The Obama administration responded by approving more than 28,000 claims — worth about $558 million — for loan forgiveness.

But more than 65,000 claims remain, most from Corinthian students, but also a large number from former students of ITT Technical Institute, which closed last year amid close scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education.

Turns out, the current administration hasn’t approved a single one of those claims since Donald Trump took office. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., released education department records recently showing the inaction. He criticized the department for a June decision to delay and rewrite the Obama administration rules that would have made it easier for these students to have their federal loans forgiven, The Associated Press reported.

“This response shows that while the Department of Education has illegally delayed the new borrower-defense rule, it has also stopped processing federal student loan relief under current regulations for tens of thousands of defrauded borrowers,” Durbin said in a statement. “The department cannot ignore these borrowers any longer.”

Why is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sitting on this? Surely, it’s not because her boss, President Trump, is still sulking over the $25 million settlement deal reached in March between Trump University and 6,000 students who paid thousands of dollars for courses they called worthless.

In early July, 18 states and Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit in federal court over the delay of the borrower-defense rule. DeVos assured that “promises made to students under the current rule will be promises kept.”

Student loan debt is a very real problem in this country. The average debt amount for a 2015 college graduate in West Virginia is $27,713, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Concern over debt can make young people shy away from post-secondary education, setting their lives potentially on a much different course than their college-graduate peers. West Virginia consistently ranks low in the amount of residents with college degrees. Aspiring students don’t need yet another reason — wariness over the very institution that is paid to impart knowledge — to pass up the opportunity for a degree.

And those students defrauded and dumped by their institutions need assistance, not delays, so they can continue with their education.

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