FIGHTING FOR-PROFITS When students took out loans to attend Corinthian Colleges, they believed the for-profit school’s claim that its postgraduation job placement rates were high. Expecting a great education and rewarding careers, what they got instead were substandard classes, no jobs and crippling debt. To protest, 100 Corinthian students launched a debt strike in February, refusing to pay back their student loans.
Among them was Michael Adorno-Miranda, the first in his family to go to college. “It was a good game they talked,” he says of recruiters at Everest College, a Corinthian affiliate. “That turned out to be false.” Computer training was obsolete, and now Adorno-Miranda has no job prospects to pay off his student loans.
Adorno-Miranda and the Corinthian 100 have requested loan forgiveness from the Department of Education, using a provision triggered when a school defrauds its students. At press time, that possibility was still on the table. Meanwhile, the department fined Corinthian $30 million.
Shortly after the fine was announced, Corinthian ceased operation, and all its remaining campuses are closing. “While we may rejoice that a bad actor can no longer hurt students, the victory is Pyrrhic for the thousands of students who were scammed by a false promise of higher education,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “The AFT lauds the organizers of the student debtor movement—most notably the ‘Corinthian 100’ debt strikers—for bringing this extreme abuse of students into the public view, and we urge Secretary Duncan to use his maximum authority to relieve Corinthian students’ crippling debt.”
FREE TUITION DREAM COMES TRUE The Community College of Philadelphia has taken the free community college conversation out of the realm of “good idea” and into the realm of reality this year, offering qualified high school graduates a free ride. The 50th Anniversary Scholars Program, named for the school’s milestone anniversary, will pay the balance on tuition for Pell Grant-eligible students, once federal and state aid is applied. Students must also be spring 2015 graduates, Philadelphia residents, and U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The program will cost the school from $450 to $500 per student per year. The college estimates 440 students will qualify the first year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
NO LOAN PAYMENT, NO LICENSE Twenty-one states have laws that could strip borrowers of their professional licenses if they default on their student loans, Jobs with Justice recently reported. The laws essentially strip attorneys, teachers, nurses and others who require licenses of their ability to work in their fields of expertise. Even barbers are affected in some cases. The idea is to emphasize that missing loan payments has very real consequences, but the result is to prevent the borrower from earning the money it takes to pay them back at all. In three states—Montana, Iowa and Oklahoma—debtors may also have their driver’s licenses revoked. And Jobs with Justice reports that in Tennessee, more than 40 nurses were forced to leave work, leaving their hospital seriously understaffed.
When nearly 70 percent of all students take out loans to pay for college, this trend affects thousands. States that currently punish borrowers are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, where nurses and healthcare professionals can lose their licenses if they default on student loans. And in Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, K–12 teachers cannot work until they begin paying back their loans.
CONCEALED CARRY ON CAMPUS
A bill to allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus has passed through committees in the Florida House of Representatives and is ready for discussion on the floor; an identical state Senate bill is still in committee. The idea has legs despite opposition from campus security: Police chiefs on all 12 of Florida’s public university campuses have agreed having weapons on campus is a bad idea.
“The Florida Board of Governors, University Police Chiefs and all 12 of Florida’s public universities are united in the belief that removing that long-standing protection is contrary to the values we embrace and could create new challenges in our ability to provide a safe and secure learning environment,” said Brittany A. Davis, communications director for the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors, in statement, according to USA Today.
Seven other states already allow concealed weapons on university campuses: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin. Other state legislatures are considering the issue.