Burdening student loan debt affects the lives of millions of current and former college students across the country. The Biden-Harris Administration has made loan forgiveness and other financial relief a top priority, but many aren’t clear on if such a proposal is legally feasible. Thankfully, a new development is showing that not only is it feasible— it’s happening! HBCU Buzz spoke to Rohini Kosoglu, who serves as Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris, to learn more.
Just this week, Harris announced that the Biden-Harris Administration secured federal loan forgiveness for former students of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges. The move alleviated debt for over 500,000 people. The schools, which were based in California but operated nationwide, closed in 2015 after access to federal funds were severed by the Education Department. “I first became involved, as many of you know, in the fight to stop Corinthian nearly a decade ago,” said Harris in a White House press briefing. “As Attorney General of California, I led the California Department of Justice, and we sued Corinthian. And we won because our investigation discovered that Corinthian had engaged in false and deceptive advertising.”
As more details have been released, the extent to which Corinthian Colleges exploited students has been appalling for many. “What we know is that Corinthian Colleges used deceptive and fraudulent practices,” Kosoglu shared. “They targeted demographics, where they went after single mothers, single fathers, veterans, those who were living at or below the poverty line. We also saw in their internal documents phrases that they were looking for people that were ‘isolated’ and people that were having ‘low self esteem.’ So those are the kinds of behaviors that we’re talking about.”
Additionally, the institutions promised debt-riddled students jobs that never came to fruition. “Their ads falsely promised students that if they attended certain programs, they would be guaranteed a job after graduation, raising the hopes of people who worked so hard for the bit of money they had to pay to get in these programs,” said Harris. In some instances not a single student was able to secure a job. In others, the job placement rates were inflated. “For example, in 2011, they paid a temporary employment agency to hire graduates for short-term jobs. Some students told us they were placed in jobs that only lasted for two days. Two days. That, of course, is not gainful employment, but Corinthian counted it as a successful job placement. Fraud.”
As a result of the single largest loan discharge made by the Department of Education, borrowers with debt from Corinthian Colleges will not have to take any additional actions regarding their federal loans. The historic legal decision widens the likelihood that borrowers of HBCUs and other accredited colleges and universities may be granted some relief as well. “There’s no question that we know that the cost of college and higher education is certainly something that we have to tackle,” Kosoglu reassured. “The President and Vice President have been focused on making sure that they will continue to keep fighting for help as it pertains to Pell Grants, and making sure students have what they need to attend colleges. The President’s budget increases the amount of funding to give help for places like HBCUs, colleges around the country, additional funding for teachers, and Title I schools.” Together, the President and Vice President have ongoing plans to work with Congress and continue to secure additional funding.
Americans who may be affected by other financial woes may receive targeted relief as well. “Just this spring the Vice President announced a series of actions around medical debt, which is one of the largest forms of debt that families hold today,” said Kosoglu. “That involved medical debt relief for veterans, that also involved calling on the credit scoring companies to make it easier for people that have medical debt in place.” Additionally, Harris is even attacking the race barrier that communities of color are experiencing in real estate valuation. “When they’re trying to sell their home on the market, people of color have been having issues getting those homes appraised at a fair rate as compared to white homeowners. So this is the kind of work that the Vice President has been engaging in to ensure that justice is being served.”