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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DOE discharges an additional $1.5 billion in student loans

Federal Issues Department of Education Student Lending Consumer Finance Discharge

Federal Issues

On August 30, the Department of Education announced $1.5 billion in debt relief for 79,000 borrowers who enrolled in a college accused of “routinely [misleading] prospective students by grossly misrepresenting that its credentials would benefit their career prospects and earning potential.” According to a Department investigation aided by significant evidence from the Colorado and Illinois attorneys general, the college engaged in widespread misrepresentations “in order to profit off student debt that burdened borrowers long after [the college] closed.” Borrowers’ student loans will be discharged regardless of whether an individual has applied for a discharge under the borrower defense to repayment program, and without requiring any additional action on behalf of the borrowers. The announcement builds on the previous approval of $130 million in borrower defense discharges for approximately 4,000 borrowers who had attended the college.

The Department also announced that it plans to engage in future rulemaking “to hold career programs accountable for leaving their graduates with mountains of unaffordable debt and poor job prospects,” and said it is planning “new actions to hold accountable institutions that have contributed to the student debt crisis including publishing lists of the worst actors.” With this recent announcement, the Department of Education “has now approved $14.5 billion in discharges for nearly 1.1 million borrowers whose colleges took advantage of them.”