Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst focusing on higher education at the nonpartisan think tank Demos, is also critical of the Department of Education: “The problem that we’ve seen over the past year and a half is that the effort to ensure that Corinthian’s fall wasn’t a total catastrophe is not being met by the effort to make sure that the students who were defrauded — and we know now that they were defrauded — have a very easy, simple, expedited process for debt relief.” Forprofit colleges, he notes, make most of their money from the federal government either through student loans or GI Bill benefits, but face very little oversight. “The ability to participate in student aid programs or veterans benefit programs is an explicit stamp of approval by the Department of Education that this a worthwhile path to upward mobility.”
For now, the only option for students is to file individual defense-to-repayment claims; the Debt Collective created an app to expedite that process, and they say that more than 5000 students have used it to file claims, but that, too, is a drop in the 125,000-student bucket. Huelsman calls the DOE’s outreach to defrauded students “substandard,” and notes that the Massachusetts attorney general’s office has helped more students apply for relief than the federal government. While the government ensures that every dollar of debt relief goes to students who “deserve it,” he says, the DOE was happy to keep sending money to institutions that certainly did not.