Two alumni of the Project on Predatory Student Lending testified to the Department of Education in support of the rights of borrowers treated unfairly by for-profit colleges to a fair, effective, and efficient process to get their federal student loans discharged. Over the past two weeks the Department held hearings in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to allow the public to comment on its upcoming rulemaking, and to propose new topics to add to the agenda.
Megumi Tsutsui was a student in the clinic in 2013, after working with the Project as a volunteer in 2012. She is currently an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) in Oakland, California, where she works to eliminate barriers to affordable credit. Megumi shared the story of a borrower deceived and ripped off by one of the Corinthian schools campuses in California, and urged the Department to create “a clear and transparent process that is easily accessible for students eligible to receive a discharge of their loans under defense to repayment.” She also highlighted the need for automatic relief for groups of borrowers who are affected by widespread misconduct within a given program, school, or group of schools, and encouraged the Department to investigate when it sees signs of widespread misconduct and to identify students who have been affected and are eligible for discharge.
Mike Firestone, a student in the clinic in 2012-13 and current Director of Strategic Initiatives and Assistant Attorney General in the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, delivered powerful testimony urging the Department “to establish simple processes for impacted students to seek the relief to which they are entitled by law and by contracts,” and asking the Department to “rely on conclusions and investigative findings reached by state Attorneys General regarding state law violations and provide discharges without requiring individual students to make a submission to the Department.” He described some of the impressive efforts that Attorney General Healey’s office has pursued to help borrowers harmed by for-profit schools, including lawsuits against several schools, as well as hundreds of hours of outreach to borrowers. He said, “Relief must not be limited just to those who can hire a lawyer, or those who know the magic words about placement rates to communicate in an attestation. . . . These students are counting on us to enforce the law and fight for them.”
We are incredibly proud of their advocacy on behalf of low-income people who have been harmed by widespread lawless, unfair, and deceptive conduct by for-profit schools, and gratified that they continue to work on behalf of their clinical clients’ interests years after each of them left the clinic.