Student Debt Strikers Take On Corinthian College

strikedebteverest[1]— by Cathy O’Neil

Fifteen students have refused to pay back their student debt to Everest College, owned by the now disgraced for-profit company Corinthian College. They call themselves “the Corinthian 15″.

Good for them. Corinthian College is a predatory and fraudulent company which was in the business of gaming the federal loan system while making false promises to its students. Those students are victims of fraud and should not be the ones paying back the government money for an education they never got. Instead, Corinthian should pay back the money.

I’ve talked before about the industry of for-profit colleges which exists largely to game the federal student loan program. They survive almost entirely on federal student loans of their students, while delivering terrible services and worthless credentials.

Well, good news: one of the worst of the bunch is closing its doors. Corinthian College, Inc (CCI) got caught lying about job placement of its graduates (in some cases, they said 100% when the truth was closer to 0%). They were also caught advertising programs they didn’t actually have.

But here’s what interests me the most, which I will excerpt from the California Office of the Attorney General:

CCI’s predatory marketing efforts specifically target vulnerable, low-income job seekers and single parents who have annual incomes near the federal poverty line. In internal company documents obtained by the Department of Justice, CCI describes its target demographic as “isolated,” “impatient,” individuals with “low self-esteem,” who have “few people in their lives who care about them” and who are “stuck” and “unable to see and plan well for future.”

For example, check out their recent marketing job postings.

There are articles about this in the New Yorker, Newsweek, and The Guardian, and there’s a letter of support for the strikers signed by Naomi Klein and Barbara Ehrenreich, among others, which contains the following:

By declaring a strike, the Corinthian 15 are taking debt relief for themselves and challenging the Department of Education to look out for students instead of protecting rich and powerful creditors. By declaring a strike, they are taking a stand for all student debtors, by reminding us that for-profits schools are just an extreme version of our increasingly untenable system of debt-financed higher education. By declaring a strike, the Corinthian 15 are asking why the U.S. lags so far behind other industrialized societies in denying its citizenry the right to free college enrollment.

At the same time, there’s a new Rolling Jubilee initiative that just freed $13 million dollars worth of student debt, which was covered by Democracy Now. Right on.

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