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Student Defense and Senator Dick Durbin Call on Department of Education to Provide Relief to Defrauded Student Loan Borrowers

WASHINGTON, DC – Student Defense and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin today called on the Department of Education to expand debt relief to more student loan borrowers, through the use of existing closed school discharge and borrower defense authorities. The statements came alongside the release of a new Student Defense paper, outlining how the Department of Education has failed to use its own evidence of wrongdoing by for-profit colleges in determining relief, and how a future Department could immediately help tens of thousands of borrowers who were harmed by their school’s misconduct or closure.

“The Trump-DeVos Department of Education has failed to provide the relief to which defrauded student borrowers and veterans are entitled under the law.  It is unconscionable that students who attended schools that lost Title IV eligibility for fraud and deception are still waiting for relief. We have to fix that,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).

“For years, Secretary DeVos has ignored evidence that supports substantial debt relief to borrowers harmed by predatory institutions,” said Student Defense Senior Counsel and Co-Founder Alex Elson. “She has no excuse. With regulatory authority on the books, the Department should use that evidence to provide immediate, automatic debt relief to borrowers who have waited all too long for justice.”

“Justice at Last: Pathways to Promptly Expanding Closed School and Borrower Defense Relief Using Existing Regulations” is available here.

The paper, by Student Defense Senior Counsel and Co-Founder Alex Elson, describes how the Department can use its existing authorities to promptly provide full, automatic student loan debt relief to two subsets of particularly harmed student loan borrowers. This is relief that would be provided separate from and in addition to any other forms of broad-based debt forgiveness.

First, the Department should provide immediate loan discharges to tens of thousands of borrowers harmed by school closures, by extending eligibility windows and then provide relief automatically without the borrower needing to apply. The memo provides examples of what this would look like for seven institutions, each with a long record of misconduct.

Second, the Department should promptly expand its existing borrower defense findings by looking to its own administrative findings of misrepresentations and other consumer harms. Remarkably, the Department has gone so far as to end Title IV participation for many institutions based on these findings, but, years later, has not made a single borrower defense finding or granted a single claim from borrowers attending such institutions. The Department should use this evidence—as well as evidence submitted by state attorneys general and others—to develop long-overdue borrower defense findings and provide automatic, full relief to eligible borrowers. Further, the Department should include borrower defense relief in the administrative review process from the outset.

The new paper is part of the 100 Day Docket initiative, designed to help a future Department of Education take immediate, decisive action to protect students. Student Defense is publishing a series of papers identifying opportunities for the Department of Education to exercise underused authorities in the Higher Education Act to promote equity and foster stronger protections and outcomes for students. Papers so far include how the Department can hold individual executives personally liable for their schools’ misconduct, how to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and how to deliver overdue loan relief to over 350,000 borrowers with disabilities.

More information about the project is available at www.100DayDocket.org

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