Years after Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as California’s attorney general, successfully sued Corinthian Colleges on behalf of defrauded students, the Biden administration canceled the student loan debt for those who attended its umbrella for-profit institutions, including Everest University and Heald College.
In early June, Biden administration officials made the announcement, noting that a total of $6 billion had been canceled in its latest move. Over the last few months, as voters continue to demand across-the-board debt cancellation, the Biden administration has canceled a total of $25 million in debt for specific groups of borrowers.
Rohini Kosoglu, the vice president’s domestic policy advisor, said the administration’s recent overtures have benefited students of color.
“Corinthian Colleges engaged in predatory practices, predominantly [against] single mothers and fathers, veterans and people at or below the poverty line,” Kosoglu said.
“Internal documents showed that they were looking for isolated people,” she added. “This shows the deception and outcome of what students get [like] the promises about getting a good job. Many times the colleges went after people of color.”
Data from the Student Loan Debt Crisis Center found that two-out-of-three Americans and more than 500 civil rights, labor, consumers rights, and education groups support student loan debt cancellation. Those organizations recently called on President Joe Biden (D) to take action in securing student loan debt cancellation for all borrowers.
Besides those who’ve been defrauded by their college, beneficiaries of the Biden administration’s student loan debt relief executive orders include borrowers who qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and people with disabilities. The Biden administration has also set out to upgrade the federal Income-Driven Repayment program.
The latest White House student loan debt relief plan cancels $10,000 in debt, an amount advocates called paltry. Meanwhile, House Republicans will soon introduce a bill blocking Biden’s endeavor. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn., 4th District) said student loan debt relief shifts the burden and discourages students and graduates from working hard.
However, some borrowers, like Jerome Biggins, beg to differ.
Biggins, a Navy veteran and former Heald College student, counted among those who benefitted from the Biden administration’s latest loan forgiveness initiative. In the early 2000s, Biggins enrolled in Heald with the understanding that he would receive a job upon graduating and his GI benefits would cover tuition.
While in college, admissions officers took out loans on Biggins behalf. By the time he acquired his associates degree in information technology, he had accumulated $50,000 in student loan debt, which he struggled to pay during a period of unemployment and underemployment.
He said his situation worsened to the point where he faced wage garnishment and his loans went into forbearance.
After Heald College shuttered in 2015, Biggins contacted Veterans Education for Success, an organization that helped him pursue debt relief as a borrower misled by an institution of higher learning. Though he credits Heald with equipping him with the skills needed to advance in his field, Biggins said the school failed to address gaps in his career development, like networking, preparing a resume and interviewing for a job.
For Biggins, that situation and his overall efforts to advance educationally in the decades after graduating high school, influenced his outlook on the notion of attending college.
“There are hungry recruiters selling young people on [the idea of] college and not telling them that they will have to pay back student loans,” said Biggins, 46, from Waco, Texas.
“They need to emphasize other routes. As an African-American man, I grew up when other options weren’t presented to improve our situation. I would love to see people not take advantage of young people.”