Students and graduates of Corinthian Colleges are fighting back after the school announced that it was closing all of its U.S. campuses, leaving thousands of students and graduates out in the cold. Corinthian’s move came after the Department of Education sued the for-profit colleges for lying to students about job placement and graduation rates. Unfortunately, Corinthian students were left with only two options: either walk away and lose thousands of dollars or have their transcripts sent to another college, like the one they attended, and finish their degrees. Graduates were in an even worse position with worthless degrees and thousands of dollars in debt.
When LaTonya Suggs was 26 she decided to go back to school so that she could make a better life for herself and her son. She enrolled at Everest Orlando South campus, a Corinthian College, to obtain a degree in criminal justice. She took online classes for two years and finally graduated, but that’s when she said her nightmare began:
Since I graduated three years ago, I have been living a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. My degree is worthless. The quality of my education was low; no one accepts my credits, and employers don’t think my diploma has any value. I’m $30,000 in debt, and I wasted all those months that I can never get back. [Source]
Suggs joined a group, Debt Collective, to fight back against the school and the Department of Education. She was one of the original 15 Corinthian ‘debt strikers’ who refused to pay back their student loans and is asking the government to forgive their debt because they believe the loans were fraudulent. Suggs says the Department of Education allowed predatory, for-profit colleges to prey upon low-income students who just wanted to make their lives better:
I know there are risks involved in taking this step, but I am ready for the consequences. My credit is already poor, and my tax refund has been already garnished. There is not much left for creditors to take. Fighting for a better future means holding the government accountable. The Department of Education supported Corinthian’s predatory scheme for years. Now that the last of the campuses have been forced to close in California, the school from which I graduated no longer exists. But, my loans have not been canceled yet.
Nine states have sided with the students and agree that they were ripped off. However, even though the Department of Education sued Corinthian and forced the corporation (let’s stop calling it a college) to close its doors, they have not forgiven the student loan debt.
I, too, attended a for-profit college for two years. I owe $43 thousand dollars for a degree that would have cost half that at a public school and I have never used it. This year the Department of Education garnished my tax return, as they did to LaTonya and like the debt strikers, my degree while not from a Corinthian College, is pretty worthless. It’s incredibly discouraging when you work your ass off in school, graduate with a 4.0 GPA and have nothing to show for it but thousands of dollars in debt. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to have a friend who ran one of the biggest websites in the country and he taught me how to earn a living writing, but not everyone has the same opportunities.
In 2012, Senator Tom Harkin (D) found that , taxpayers spent $32 billion in 2011 on companies that operate for-profit colleges. Students at for-profit colleges make up 13 percent of the nation’s college enrollment, but account for about 47 percent of the defaults on loans.
In 2014, The Institute for College Access and Success found that students at a for-profit college are three times more likely to default on their loans than students at public universities and community colleges. It’s not because these students are less intelligent or are not hard workers, it’s because the diplomas we received are not worth the paper they were printed on.
There are millions students around the country, just like LaTonya and myself, who attended one of these schools and were completely taken advantage of. The Department of Education has allowed corporations calling themselves schools to take our money and give us a nightmare in return for our hard work. It’s time for the government to right this wrong.
If you would like to join the fight, go to The Debt Collective website and find out how.
Featured image via debtcollective.org