Student Loan Truth

Student Loan Truth: Jessica’s Art Institute Story

Jessica is a plaintiff in the lawsuit Sweet v DeVos, in which she and six other former for-profit college students are suing the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos, seeking to force the agency to follow the law and issue the debt relief to which the former students are entitled. The plaintiffs are suing on behalf of more than 158,000 former students who have filed applications for borrower defense to repayment because their schools cheated them.

How did you hear about New England Institute of Art (NEIA)?

After getting my associates degree at Mount Wachusett Community College, I really wanted to continue my education. I was the only person in my immediate family to go to college and it was important for me to keep going. At Mt. Wachusett, I relied on my advisors all the time, so I was expecting a similar experience at NEIA. I trusted Art Institute advisors to help me make the right decisions for my education.

What made you decide to attend NEIA?

I really wanted to be visual effects video editor. When I contacted NEIA, I was told their Media Arts and Animation program would prepare me for a career in visual effects, even though they advertised the program as focused solely on gaming and animation. The advisors told me their program was difficult to get into, but that graduates were highly sought after in their fields. They created a lot of pressure and a sense of urgency for me to apply right away. I didn’t find out until much later that none of this was true.

What did the school tell you about getting a job after the program?

During the whole process, NEIA consistently claimed they had the connections I would need to get a job in the industry. They said the name of the school carried weight in the visual effects industry and it would be easy to find a job. I went on a tour and they made a big deal about having a high tech green screen that students would be able to use. Later on, as a student, I learned that we weren’t actually allowed to use the green screen. Instead, they had us tape green paper to the wall to film our projects.

What was your experience like once you started attending New England Institute of Art?

Everything I was promised was a lie, just like the green screen. I was told that I’d be using state-of-the-art technology in class, but instead, we were either given old and obsolete equipment or we had to make our own. The classes were a joke.

Did your experience at this school help you obtain a job in the field you studied?

Part of their pitch to get me to go to NEIA was how great their connections to the industry were. However, the reality when I got there was the exact opposite of what I had been told. When I reached out to the Career Services Office about getting an internship in visual effects, I was either given no response or a link to Craigslist with a document entitled “Tips for Applying to a Job from Craigslist”. I never found a permanent job in the field. People wouldn’t hire me because of my degree. I’m currently working on my own small business.

Did going to New England Institute of Art make your life better or worse?

It made my life significantly worse. My credit is destroyed, I can’t get a car or a house. My mental health has suffered. I refuse to get married because I’m afraid of associating my partner with my debt. I debated not having kids at all. My life has been placed on hold. It’s devastating.

How long have you been waiting for an answer on your Borrower Defense application?

I filed for Borrower Defense to Repayment in 2015. Four years later, I still don’t have an answer. Just radio silence. The debt is bad enough, and then adding even more uncertainty from not getting an answer is devastating. I can’t plan for my future.

Some policy-makers doubt that for-profit colleges are a problem – what would you say to them?

I would tell them that despite putting in the time and effort at school, the degree that NEIA gave me is useless. I can’t get a job because companies don’t trust the school. I can’t go back to school because other schools don’t recognize my NEIA degree. A bank wouldn’t give me a loan to further my education if I asked.

The Department of Education has refused to cancel the loans of thousands of former students of for-profit colleges. They ignore the many thousands of students who filed for borrower defense. What would you say to them about the need to cancel these loans?

It’s their job to do the right thing. I’m beyond disappointed about the fact that the government isn’t doing anything to stop these schools from defrauding students in the first place. Students should be able to trust their schools and advisors. The fact that there is no protection for a vulnerable 21 year old signing a loan for the first time and being taken advantage of isn’t fair or responsible. You shouldn’t need a lawyer to be able to go to colle

My Student Loan Truth: Kristina’s Virginia College Story

In our Student Loan Truth blog series, our clients share what they really got from their for-profit college and how the debt affected them. Their experiences demand a public reckoning on student debt and an end to the predatory practices of for-profit colleges.

This is Kristina’s student loan truth.Virginia College Student

“I was focused. I had goals.”

When Kristina Jefferson enrolled in the cosmetology program at Virginia College last year, she thought she would have been proudly walking across the stage at her graduation with her cosmetology certificate this month, and prepared to take her cosmetology licensure examination, but the school failed her. Virginia College’s abrupt shutdown last year was just one of many instances where the school failed her and the rest of its students.

Thousands of students like Kristina have been left with no school, no education, and tens of thousands of dollars in debt by Virginia College and other schools owned by its parent company, Education Corporation of America.

If you were a student at Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, or New England College of Business, click on this link to find out more information about the status of the schools and how you may be able to file a claim for a refund if the school has any assets left.

 

How did you hear about Virginia College?

Virginia College had a lot of commercials with people explaining their life struggles and how the school helped them. There was one commercial with a Black woman riding the bus that stuck out to me. She was homeless, and she had two children. She decided to go to school for Medical Assisting, and it bettered her life. After attending Virginia College, she got a job, her life improved, and she had more stability. She didn’t have to ride the bus anymore. I understood her struggle because I relied heavily on the bus for transportation, and I, too, wanted to better my life.

That was in 2014; I decided to go to Virginia College for Medical Assisting because I wanted to care for people. I know how it feels to be sick. I am a good listener. I wanted to help lift people’s spirits.

They never helped me get a job in the medical field. But I had taught myself how to do hair and had been doing it for years, so in 2018 I decided I wanted to hone my skills and get licensed. I had seen a lot of online advertisements on Facebook and I took it as a sign that I should do the cosmetology program, so I enrolled last year.

 

What did they tell you about the programs and getting a job when you started?

Both times they said we were guaranteed to get a job after we finished the program. It was not true, and all they did was send links of jobs from Indeed. I was living with my mother and was not financially independent. I had to take the bus which required me to wake up at 4am to get to school on time; I even had to walk on the highway. The school promised me that they would help me get a job and help me get an easier commute, but they did nothing.

 

Describe the educational experience at Virginia College.

We had to teach ourselves. The instructors didn’t want to help us understand or answer questions. For the cosmetology program, they only taught by showing us videos. The instructors also didn’t teach us certain skills they said they would. We were supposed to learn how to do makeup, but instead, the instructor gave us a paper printout with a face and we used colored pencils, our own makeup, or the school’s outdated makeup to color in the face.

They promised we would get jobs, help with our resumes, they would teach us, and that our credits were transferable. They didn’t keep any of those promises. They didn’t even keep the school open!

 

How did you get your student loans?

When enrolling I met with the financial aid people, but they didn’t explain anything to me. I didn’t know the amount of loans the school was borrowing on my account. They told me everything would be covered by student loans, but toward the end of my time at Virginia College, I was told I had a balance and wouldn’t be able to receive my certificate if I didn’t pay the balance. That’s on top of the more than $30,000 in federal loans I have because of them.

 

What impact has Virginia College and this debt had on your life?

They really ruined my life, and it’s not right. I had goals. The school closing just made it harder for me. I have to start all over now. I was told that my credits were transferable, but it’s not true. Basically, my transcript is worthless. It’s just a bunch of words. It’s not right.

 

Some policy-makers doubt that for-profit colleges are a problem – what would you say to them?

It is a problem when they are just trying to make money and don’t care about the students. Virginia College closed down and people are suffering. It is not right. They took our money and then closed and left the students to try to fix what they caused.

 

The Department of Education has refused to cancel the loans of thousands of former students of for-profit colleges. What would you say to the Department about the need to cancel these loans?

They need to be more understanding of situations like this and protect the students. It’s not right.

 

Sound familiar? Do you have a similar story to Kristina’s at Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, or New England College of Business? Click on this link to find out more information about the status of the schools and how you may be able to file a claim for a refund if the school has any assets left.

My Student Loan Truth: Rick’s WyoTech Story

In our Student Loan Truth blog series, our clients share what they really got from their for-profit college and how the debt affected them. Their experiences demand a public reckoning on student debt and an end to the predatory practices of for-profit colleges.

 

This month we interviewed Rick Dobashi, who attended Corinthian-owned WyoTech in San Jose, California from 2011-2013. Rick is part of our class action case Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos, which represents students who were cheated by Corinthian Colleges (WyoTech, Heald, and Everest).  Even though a judge ordered the Department of Education to stop collecting on the fraudulent loans of certain Corinthian students in May, the Department continues to fight back with its latest appeal this month.

This is Rick’s #StudentLoanTruth

 

What made you decide to attend WyoTech?

I went to WyoTech because I saw all these great opportunities advertised – high pay, advanced training, how many jobs are out there, things like that. I wanted to work on something I’m passionate about, so I enrolled in a program for working on high performance cars.

What was the education like at WyoTech?

Once I really got into the program, I started to realize that they weren’t telling us the truth. The few times we actually got to work on cars, they weren’t even up to date, never mind high performance – all built in the 70s and 80s. They also cancelled a lot of the car classes and basically forced us into other, unrelated programs.

It was pretty clear WyoTech just wanted to just us in the door and get our money. They didn’t care about the students or our education.

How did WyoTech affect your employment prospects?

After I finished the program, I went to start looking for jobs and found that those high paying jobs they promised us didn’t exist. They sent us job listings for washing cars – that is if they even had anything to with cars at all.

What I’m doing right now has nothing to do with WyoTech or cars. I’m self-employed and own my own retail tobacco business. I managed to do that despite WyoTech, not because of them.

How has this experience affected your life?

I walked out of there with a $20,000 bill and nothing to show for it. It caused a lot of credit problems for me. Even back when the housing market was somewhat affordable, I couldn’t buy anything because my debt to income ratio was too high. It’s been a difficult rebuilding process for a long time, trying to make ends meet.

You had friends who went to WyoTech at the same time as you, yet they had their loans cancelled and you haven’t received anything. How does that feel?

I feel robbed. If you buy something and it’s defective, you’re supposed to be able to return it. Instead, I’m being punished for trying to get an education and expected to pay over $20,000 for something I never received. We all went to the same school, had the same experience of being lied to. I don’t understand how the government can cancel these loans for some people, but not for others who were in the exact same situation. They should be cancelling all of the loans for these schools.

Some policy-makers doubt that for-profit colleges are a problem – what would you say to them?

This isn’t what education is supposed to be about. If you go to a school and are lied to and don’t get what you’re promised, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Why should we be punished for trying to get an education, while these schools can just get away with lying and cheating?

 

Rick is one of many thousands of former Corinthian students who are still waiting for the debt cancellation they are owed, as the Department of Education continues to delay doing the right thing. The Project on Predatory Student Lending, along with advocates and elected officials across the country are urging the Department to Cancel Corinthian debts immediately.

What Really Happened at ITT: Jorge Villalba in His Own Words

In our new blog series, our clients share what they really got from their for-profit college and how the debt affected them. Their experiences demand a public reckoning on student debt and an end to the predatory practices of for-profit colleges.

 

This month we interviewed Jorge Villalba, a former ITT Tech student and named plaintiff in the Project’s ITT case.  After being cheated by ITT and struggling with massive debt from the school for years, Jorge finally had his loans discharged – a year and a half after filing a borrower defense application. Below, Jorge shares his story and what this debt, and its cancellation, has meant for him and his family.

 

How did you decide to attend ITT?

I found out about ITT from one of the many commercials they were running on radio and TV. After calling them to find out more information about their programs, I decided to pay them a visit and check out the campus and the equipment they were using. I was told many great things about the programs they offered, how ITT was very reputable, and that big companies were in constant contact with the school looking for students from the programs I was looking into. Because of the statistics they showed me, I was convinced ITT was the school that could help me get my dream job.

 

How did ITT affect your employment prospects?

I was once told, in an interview after graduating with a degree from ITT, that the company would not hire anyone from ITT because the students they got from that school were not capable of doing the minimum job requirements. For an almost six month period I would apply to about 15 jobs a day and I got zero responses. The school was just not respected, and I believe that is why I never got any responses.

 

How did ITT affect your life?

I was in school when the country went into the recession of 2007. I lost my job and I was only surviving because at the time, my wife was working full time and I was getting a paycheck from the unemployment office. When I graduated in 2010 I was working in my field, but was only making $8 an hour. My student loans were due and my wife had just given birth. The financial stress this put on my marriage was too much. The school never came through with any job offers. I was left alone to struggle and survive and in the meantime, I had to decide to buy food for my baby or pay the student loans. Going to ITT made my life a nightmare. All the promises and all the prospects I was offered before I joined the school were a lie.

 

What was it like to borrow student loans at ITT?

It felt like they were trying to get me in no matter what. If I didn’t qualify for loans, they told me not to worry, to ask friends, family, co-workers, or anyone I knew with good credit to be a cosigner. Once I got approved, the process would repeat every so often. Every time I had to sign contracts it was during school hours and while I was attending a class. So in order not to miss anything from that class, I would just go and sign things really quick so I could get back to my class. My mom and my wife co-signed my loans many times because my credit was not enough. My mom did not have a job and she still got approved. At one point, after I graduated, one of my loan service providers told me I put down that I was living on campus when the school had no dorms. They did this to get more money out of my loans.

 

Your federal student loan debt was recently canceled. How did you find out?

I had submitted a borrower defense claim explaining ITTs fraud. While I was waiting to hear back, I was contacted by Victoria at the Project on Predatory Student Lending, who helped me by providing all the information I needed to be able to get these loans discharged. I got an email about a year and a half after I applied, stating that my loans would be discharged. It was because of the Project that this actually happened.

 

How has having this debt canceled improved your life, and the lives of your family?

Having this debt canceled has improved my life greatly. My credit score has improved tremendously and I can finally apply to get other types of credit and better rates on my current debt. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted in my life, my mood is better, and I’m not so stressed out like I was before. I no longer have to live with the worry that I will never be able to pay this debt. I can move on with my life and plan my future.

 

Some policy-makers doubt that for-profit colleges are a problem – what would you say to them?

Policy makers will never understand what the borrower goes through. These schools do not care about the students attending their schools and that will never change. They only care about making money. It is in their name – these schools are “for profit” and that is all they care about.

 

The Department of Education has refused to fully cancel the loans of thousands of for-profit students. What would you say to the Department about this?

These schools should be held to the highest standards of the law. It’s not fair that they are allowed to file for bankruptcy and close without warning and leave thousands of employees and students stranded without any type of repercussion. I went to school to learn, better my life, get a better job, and achieve what they call the America dream. Instead, what I got was less than half an education and debt that could have lasted me a lifetime to pay. While at the same time, the top of the ITT board was lining their pockets with six and seven figure yearly bonuses. I understand the Department of Education does not want to cancel the loans of thousands of struggling students, but the Department of Education should have done a better job at controlling these schools, and they should do a better job of protecting students.

 

Click here to learn more about the Project’s ITT case, in which Jorge is a named plaintiff.

My Future Was Stolen By A Corporation: An ITT Student Story

The author, Lorenzo Boyland, is a former student of the for-profit ITT Technical Institute campus in Cordova, TN and resides in Mississippi.

My future was stolen by a corporation. Now, I’m left waiting for justice.

There are thousands who could tell a similar story. This is mine.

When I graduated high school, I joined the military and served my country. I served a four-year tour, and then re-upped for four more years, finishing in Iraq.

When I returned home, it was time to find a job. I graduated from  high school near the top of my class. I was an honorably discharged veteran. But I knew I needed a college degree.

One of my best friends told me about ITT’s campus in Cordova, Tennessee, which was conveniently located close to my home. When I sat down with ITT’s recruitment person, it seemed like a perfect fit.

I wanted to pursue a career in computer science. The recruiter promised that if I graduated from ITT, I was guaranteed a job. They promised that if I maintained a 3.4 grade point average, I would receive a discount on my tuition. I made the school aware that I was a military veteran and that my G.I. Bill would help to cover the cost of tuition. They told me not to worry about taking out additional loans, because ITT would put me on track for a well-paying career.

I was excited about beginning my higher education, which ITT sold me as the beginning of the next stage of my life. Then I learned that ITT was all a fraud.

I cared about my education, and I worked hard for my degree. I graduated with that 3.4 and honors. ITT never delivered the promised tuition discount.

I went to the career placement office for help finding a job. They pointed me to the job board at the front of the room.  And they referred me to a retail job at Best Buy.

I thought – that’s what you’re recommending to me? I paid thousands of dollars to you and all you can recommend is Best Buy? I could have done that out of high school.

I went out to find a job on my own, but I did not have many connections. I was directly out of the military and had been away for eight years.  I learned very quickly that the ITT diploma was not worth anything to companies looking to hire, and employers frequently laughed at me when they learned I attended ITT. I studied and succeeded, but the computer science job I worked so hard for never materialized.

When I told ITT that I could not get a job in computer networking, they told me that it was because I only had an associate degree, and that I should enroll for a bachelor’s. ITT tried to prey on my inability to get a job due to their broken promises to convince me to further fund their scam. At that point I realized that I, like so many others, had been completely ripped off.

Since I could not get a job in computer networking, I began working as an overnight baker at Panera. That job allowed me to start making payments toward my $34,000 in federal loans from ITT.

Then I got a call that felt like a punch in the gut. It was Chase Bank asking about another $18,000 loan in my name. I had no earthly idea what they were talking about.

Turns out, ITT had signed me up for an additional private loan without my knowledge. And it was 1000 days past due! I was completely blindsided.

I am continuing to pay down my federal loan. But that private loan? I’ll probably get another call today asking me to pay. I don’t blame the people on the phone – they are just doing their job. But that loan is impossible to get caught up on.

My financial situation wears on me every day. I work hard to try to earn enough to live while paying off my loans. I should not have to pay a dime given the egregious lies ITT sold me.

I am not alone. ITT routinely lied to hundreds of thousands of other students. They targeted people who were eligible for federal loans and grants –including low-income people and veterans like me – and took advantage of our dreams and ambitions.

I work hard. I served my country. I went to college to build a better life. ITT profited off of my aspirations and left me nothing.  ITT’s actions were wrong and illegal. It perpetrated a fraud on hundreds of thousands of students. ITT put us all in a hole without a shovel to dig ourselves out.

ITT declared bankruptcy in September 2016, and even then, only stopped collecting money from students after students sued in the bankruptcy. This week, a judge has finally canceled some ITT debts based on that case.

However, like thousands of other former students, I am still paying federal student loans that funded a school that no longer exists.

We are still waiting for justice.

If you are a former student of ITT, click here to sign up for future updates.