Thousands of scammed student-loan borrowers filed claims for debt relief — the feds haven’t approved any in over a year

That’s according to data from the agency obtained by Democratic Senator Patty Murray’s office

The Department of Education, led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, hasn’t approved a claim for debt relief in more than a year.

Over the past year, the Department of Education has received tens of thousands of applications of student-debt relief from borrowers who say they’ve been scammed by their schools.

The agency hasn’t approved any.

That’s according to data obtained from the Department and released Wednesday by the office of Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee, which oversees the Department.

Between June 30, 2018 and March 31, 2019 more than 74,000 applications for debt relief have poured into the agency.
As of March 31, 2019, the Department had received 239,937 applications for debt relief from these borrowers with 179,377 applications pending. As of that date, the agency had approved 47,942, a number that hasn’t budged since June 30, 2018. The number of denials also hasn’t increased since the end of June 2018.

But the number of applications received by the Department during that time has continued to climb. Between June 30, 2018 and March 31, 2019 more than 74,000 applications for debt relief have poured into the agency.

Murray derided the Department’s inaction on the claims as “shameful,” in a statement. “There’s nothing stopping Secretary DeVos from approving claims immediately except her apparent disregard for borrowers, and I’m going to keep pushing her to provide students who were cheated or defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges the relief they are entitled to.”

Trump administration critics have derided the Department’s approach to the borrower defense process and say its part of a larger pattern of the DeVos-era agency favoring the interests of for-profit colleges over borrowers. Earlier this year, the agency repealed a rule developed by the Obama administration that aimed to ensure graduates of career training programs — which are mostly at for-profit colleges — were earning enough to pay back their loans.

The data is the latest development in a battle over the fate of borrowers who were scammed by their schools.
The fight over the future of for-profit colleges even made it to the Democratic debate stage in Detroit Tuesday night. In response to a question about why he doesn’t support Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to cancel all student debt, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said if he were to wipe away debt he would “start with the for-profit colleges that took advantage of people, especially veterans.”

“Under President Obama, they were held accountable for whether they delivered results,” he said. “President Trump, under a Secretary of Education who regrettably is from this state, did away with those rules,” he said. “There’s no accountability.”

The data released by Senator Patty Murray exclusively to MarketWatch is the latest development in a years long battle over the fate of borrowers who were scammed by their schools into taking on debt. Under a law, known as defense to repayment, these borrowers the right to have their federal student debt discharged.

But the law, which has been on the books since the 1990s, wasn’t widely used until 2015 when former students of the now-defunct, for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges, organized by activists, began clamoring for relief under the law. That pressure helped to convince the Obama administration to create a more formal process borrowers could use to file claims for relief.

The Department of Education under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has tried unsuccessfully to rewrite the rules. The agency and DeVos are also facing a class-action lawsuit from borrowers, accusing officials of illegally stalling their decision on their claims.

Borrowers describe how their debt has prevented them from buying homes, and even delayed marriage or children.
In nearly 900 affidavits submitted as part of the suit earlier this month, borrowers describe how their debt has prevented them from buying homes or cars and delayed major life events, like marriage or children. They allege that for-profit colleges lured them into attending and taking on debt to pay for it with promises of a brighter future. In reality, many say they’re worse off than before they attended.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Department, wrote in an emailed statement that pending litigation has kept the agency from adjudicating the claims. The agency was sued last year over a plan to use a formula to determine whether some borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges and filed borrower defense claims might be eligible for a partial discharge of their loans instead of a full discharge.

A federal district court judge ruled last year that the Department’s approach violated the Privacy Act and ordered the agency to stop collections on former Corinthian students while the legal issues are sorted out. The government has appealed that ruling, Hill noted. But with the Department’s process for determining a borrower’s level of harm “held up in court,” Hill wrote, the agency can’t move forward with assessing the claims.

“The Department has a duty to protect students from fraud while also safeguarding taxpayer dollars,” she wrote.

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Nancy Pelosi Slams Jared Kushner As A Baltimore ‘Slumlord’

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The House speaker says Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser knows all about the rodent infestations in Baltimore that the president has griped about.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday bashed senior White House adviser Jared Kushner as a Baltimore “slumlord.” It was the latest parry against President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks, widely denounced as racist, on popular Rep. Elijah Cummings and his Baltimore district.

Trump has ripped the Maryland Democrat’s district as a “rodent infested mess” where “no human being” would “want to live.” Yet apartments owned by Kushner and his family in Baltimore County were hit with hundreds of building code violations, including for rodent infestation, and have been the target of tenant lawsuits. One tenant described in a court case a leaking ceiling, maggots in the living room carpeting and “raw sewage” spewing from the kitchen sink.

“The president — this comes as no surprise — really doesn’t know what he’s talking about” regarding Baltimore, Pelosi told journalists, Politico reported.  “Maybe you could ask his son-in-law, who’s a slumlord there, if he wants to talk about rodent infestations.”

Kushner’s Baltimore-area complexes were the target of a scathing investigation in ProPublica, which was co-published by The New York Times in 2017, headlined “The Beleaguered Tenants of Kushnerville.” When the apartments were cited for violations, Baltimore County issued a statement at the time noting: “We expect all landlords to comply with the code requirements that protect the health and safety of their tenants — even if the landlord’s father-in-law is President of the United States.” 

Complaints about mice and rat infestations in the Kushner apartments are ongoing.

Residents argued in lawsuits that rents in the buildings were padded with mysteriously added fees or late fees as part of a ruse to evict them when the money wasn’t paid. Kushner Cos. opted to switch the suit late last year to state court after a federal judge ordered the company to reveal the identities of unnamed company investors. The cases are pending.

Pelosi, who was born in Baltimore and whose father and brother served as mayors there, hailed Cummings, a 13-term congressman, as “a pride” of the city. 

To “see the president demean a great leader like Elijah Cummings shows his own insecurity and his own lack of understanding about what progress really is,” Pelosi said. “You really have to consider the source.” 

There was no immediate reaction from Kushner or Trump. Kushner Cos. issued a statement earlier this week responding to complaints about the buildings, saying that the company is “proud to own thousands of apartments in the Baltimore area.” The statement referred to the apartments as a “high quality residential experience.”

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Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump

As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?

The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the President of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political spectrum. On one side, African American leaders have led the way in rightfully expressing outrage. On the other, those aligned with the President seek to downplay the racial overtones of his attacks, or remain silent.

As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?

As Americans, we have had such moments before, and as a people we have acted. Events of the last week call to mind a similarly dark period in our history:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

That was U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch on June 9, 1954, when he confronted Senator Joseph McCarthy before a live television audience, effectively ending McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation. Until then, under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.

In retrospect, it’s clear that Welch’s question was directed less toward McCarthy and more to the nation as a whole. Had Americans had enough? Where was our sense of decency?

We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.

This week, President Trump crossed another threshold. Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons; not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here?

Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.

These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.

When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.

As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. We are compelled to take every opportunity to oppose the indecency and dehumanization that is racism, whether it comes to us through words or actions.

There is another moment in our history worth recalling. On January 21, 2017, Washington National Cathedral hosted an interfaith national prayer service, a sacred tradition to honor the peaceful transfer of political power. We prayed for the President and his young Administration to have “wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties that they may serve all people of this nation, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person.”

That remains our prayer today for us all.

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral
The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian of Washington National Cathedral

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