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Eileen Connor

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    Project on Predatory Student Lending commemorates five years fighting the for-profit college industry

    August 12, 2021

    Since 2016, the Project on Predatory Student Lending has represented more than a one million borrowers and brought about the cancellation of over $2.5 billion in fraudulent debts.

  • A DeVos System Allowed 12 Minutes to Decide Student Loan Forgiveness

    March 25, 2021

    Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made no secret of her disdain for a program intended to forgive the federal student loans of borrowers who were ripped off by schools that defrauded their students...Nearly 95 percent of the borrowers in the case whose claims were decided were rejected, according to court filings. Most — if not all — of the claims that were approved involved applications that the agency was compelled to grant because of precedents created before Ms. DeVos took office... Reviewers were under significant pressure to quickly process claims, the new documents show. To clear its backlog, the agency hired dozens of employees and contract lawyers. Their assigned goal was to review at least five cases per hour. Those who did more could earn extra cash and time off. Those who did less were placed on “heightened monitoring” by their managers and subject to remedial action, including termination. Officially, that system remains in place, said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation for the Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represents the borrowers in the class-action case. Applicants will have no hope of prevailing until the department dismantles its assembly-line approach and gives applications the consideration they deserve, she said. “There was this whole infrastructure set up to process claims without really contending with them,” Ms. Connor said.

  • Biden wants to go big on the economy but go small on student-debt reform

    February 18, 2021

    President Joe Biden has a $1.9 trillion plan and a $1.7 trillion problem. He wants to go big on the former, but, unlike several prominent Democrats, more conservative on the latter. The $1.9 trillion, of course, is the stimulus plan that Biden was touting in last night's CNN town hall in Wisconsin. But when asked about proposals to cut into the $1.7 trillion in outstanding student-loan debt (as of the third quarter of 2020), the president expressed caution. Democratic lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called on Biden to use his executive power to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person...In addition, a letter to Warren from from the legal director Eileen Connor of Harvard Law School's Legal Services Center, as well as attorney Deanne Loonin, and Toby Merrill, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, says the secretary of Education has full authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt. In fact, Biden used the Act to extend the pause on student loan payments, and Democrats in the Senate and House, such as Ocasio-Cortez, are pushing for him to do the same with student debt cancelation.

  • Student Loan Cancellation Sets Up Clash Between Biden and the Left

    December 11, 2020

    President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is facing pressure from congressional Democrats to cancel student loan debt on a vast scale, quickly and by executive action, a campaign that will be one of the first tests of his relationship with the liberal wing of his party. Mr. Biden has endorsed canceling $10,000 in federal student debt per borrower through legislation, and insisted that chipping away at the $1.7 trillion in loan debt held by more than 43 million borrowers is integral to his economic plan. But Democratic leaders, backed by the party’s left flank, are pressing for up to $50,000 of debt relief per borrower, executed on Day 1 of his presidency...The “benefit of outright cancellation is simplicity,” said Eileen Connor, the legal director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, which represents thousands of students defrauded by their colleges and mired in legal fights with the Education Department over loan forgiveness. “We are facing an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, and we need to use every tool readily available to keep families and the economy afloat,” Ms. Connor said.

  • ‘This Feels Like the Closest We’ve Ever Been.’ Why Growing Demands for Student Debt Forgiveness Could Be Joe Biden’s First Presidential Test

    November 30, 2020

    Roughly two months out from Inauguration Day, Joe Biden is already facing a brewing political storm among his ideologically-diverse base of supporters, who disagree over the issue of student loan forgiveness. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge—while federal economic protections for student loans, evictions, and expanded unemployment expire in December—a powerful coalition of Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is pushing Biden to use executive action to cancel $50,000 of student loan debt per person as a form of economic stimulus. Meanwhile, some Democratic voters, joined by moderate Republicans who helped Biden win in key swing states, are looking on in horror. They argue that offering significant relief to people with existing student debt relief is deeply regressive: it excludes a population of blue-collar workers who never earned a college degree but are bearing the brunt of this economic downturn...Eileen Connor, Legal Director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending out of Harvard Law School, which has supported Warren in advocating for the policy fix, says the power to cancel debt is clear. “The language in the HEA is broad, has been there from the beginning, and has not been narrowed,” she says, “even as Congress has put other cancellation authority into the HEA and limited the compromise authority of other agencies in different ways.”

  • Judge slams DeVos for rejecting 94% of loan relief claims

    October 22, 2020

    Months after vowing to process a backlog of 160,000 requests for loan forgiveness from students who say they were defrauded by their schools, the U.S. Education Department has rejected 94% of claims it has reviewed, according to a federal judge who is demanding justification for the “blistering pace” of denials. In a biting decision issued Monday in California, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the department has been denying claims using template letters that are “alarmingly curt." Alsup threatened to suspend the agency from rejecting further requests, saying its approach “hangs borrowers out to dry.” He said that although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blamed the backlog on the hard work that goes into processing claims, she has now “charged out of the gate, issuing perfunctory denial notices utterly devoid of meaningful explanation at a blistering pace.” The Education Department said it is studying the ruling...Rejections were delivered through standardized letters that included information on how to appeal the decision, but Alsup said the letters fail to explain the decision. It leaves borrowers in a “disturbingly Kafkaesque" situation, he wrote. Alsup said he is considering whether to forbid the department from issuing any further rejections until the case is decided. He has asked both sides to submit arguments around the question. Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represents borrowers in the suit, said it looks forward to deposing agency officials to get an explanation for their actions. “The class members in this case have suffered harm at every turn, but in this court order they are finally seeing a change in the tides after years of waiting for justice,” said Eileen Connor, the group's legal director.

  • Federal Judge Considers Stopping Rejection of Borrower-Defense Claims

    October 21, 2020

    In a strongly worded order, a federal judge in California is signaling that he may put a stop to the Education Department’s nearly universal denials of requests by those who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges to have their student debts canceled. Attorneys representing more than 200,000 borrowers sued the U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last year, saying that the department stopped processing the claims between June 2018 and December 2019, leaving some in limbo for as long as four years. The sides seemed to reach an agreement in May, when the department agreed to process the remaining claims within a year and a half. But since then, attorneys representing the borrowers said, the department has denied 89 percent of the claims as of last August, sending borrowers a curt form letter with no explanation of why it was issuing a denial. In comparison, the department under the Obama administration had granted 99.2 percent of the requests, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup noted. Saying the borrowers had likely not intended for the department to process the waiting claims by denying them, Alsup on Monday denied approval of the May settlement. Instead, he ordered attorneys representing the borrowers to depose department officials to learn to what extent it has been denying the claims of those defrauded by for-profits found by the department to have acted improperly and whether the form denials are different from how the Obama administration handled rejections...Eileen Connor, legal director at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which is representing the borrowers, took heart in the order. “The class members in this case have suffered harm at every turn, but in this court order they are finally seeing a change in the tides after years of waiting for justice,” she said in a statement.

  • 35,000 former ITT Tech students could see $330 million in private loans erased with new settlement

    September 16, 2020

    A new settlement related to the now-defunct for-profit school ITT Technical Institute would erase $330 million in privately-held student loan debt owed by around 35,000 former ITT students. The nationwide settlement, announced on Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general from 47 states and the District of Columbia, hopes to erase debt owed by former ITT students to a Deutsche Bank-funded program called “PEAKS Trust.” ITT Technical Institute filed for bankruptcy and shut down all campuses in 2016, affecting 149 locations and roughly 40,000 students, amid lawsuits and investigations over alleged predatory lending practices. “This settlement brings long-awaited justice to former ITT students who were pushed into predatory student loans that ITT and its collaborators predicted they would never be able to repay,” Eileen Connor, legal director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center, which represents some ITT former students, told Yahoo Finance in a statement. “All debt from ITT should be cancelled, including federal student loans,” Connor added. The settlement stated that PEAKS will not only discharge the loans but also stop collecting on them and will ask credit reporting agencies to “delete information relating to PEAKS loans.” Borrowers will also get a notice that their debt has been discharged.

  • Attacking the Concept of Debt

    September 10, 2020

    Only a few years ago, Douglas Jones, who worked night shifts as a security guard at a nursing home in Roxbury, was hesitant to spend even $10 more than his typical budget allowed. Payments on his student loan debt were being withdrawn directly from his bank account. If the balance was short—for instance, if Jones hadn’t managed to get 40 hours at his job that week—the bank charged an overdraft fee...Along with millions of other Americans, Jones had fallen prey to the for-profit college industry, which is in essence a two-pronged system—federal loans at one end and for-profit schools designed to access those loans at the other...In 2016, Jones stumbled across an advertisement for the Project on Predatory Student Lending (PPSL) at Harvard Law School (HLS), and lawyers there helped him cancel his debt on the grounds that the Everest Institute had violated federal guidelines...Since its inception in 2012, PPSL has helped eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars of student-loan debt. HLS lecturer Toby Merrill, J.D. ’11, founded the project after seeing similarities between predatory-lending practices in subprime mortgages and for-profit colleges. She hoped tactics like those that lawyers used against the subprime mortgage industry—“litigating on behalf of individuals against underlying bad actors”—could be used against for-profit schools. PPSL does individual casework, but also pursues more systemic change: its “mission is to make it so that these schools can’t exist, that they can’t continue to perpetuate these predatory practices on students,” says Victoria Roytenberg, a senior attorney at PPSL. “We do that first and foremost with litigation; we do that in our work with policymakers and elected officials.” ...The for-profit college industry, explains Eileen Connor, PPSL’s legal director, preys on low-income and minority individuals, as well as single parents and veterans, for many of whom higher education seems like a distant dream. It is a relationship ripe for abuse, she says. When meeting with a for-profit college recruiter, few people realize they are dealing with a salesperson working on commission and thus are likely being taken advantage of, “because they’ve been conditioned over their entire lives to think education is something good and public-minded.”

  • For-Profit Colleges, Long Troubled, See Surge Amid Pandemic

    June 18, 2020

    In March, as colleges and universities shuttered campuses under a nationwide lockdown, Strayer University updated its website with a simple message: “Great things can happen at home.” Capella University, owned by the same company as Strayer, has run ads promoting its flexibility in “uncertain times” and promising would-be transfer students that they can earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as a year. Online for-profit colleges like these have seen an opportunity to increase enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic. Their flexible programs may be newly attractive to the many workers who have lost their jobs, to college students whose campuses are closed, and to those now seeking to change careers. The colleges’ parent companies often have substantial cash reserves that they can pump into tuition discounts and marketing at a time when public universities and nonprofit colleges are seeing their budgets disintegrate...Eileen Connor, the legal director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, said she was worried by the prospect of a resurgence for online, for-profit schools. “In times of economic downturn, that’s when the for-profit colleges start to thrive,” she said. Online colleges “have a running start, especially now, when there’s an economic downturn keeping people in their homes,” she added. “That is a perfect storm for the thing that they’re trying to do.” These schools often attract low-income, nontraditional college students who tend to have lower completion rates than those who enroll straight from high school and attend full time. Many have family pressures that interfere with study.

  • Muddied Picture for Defrauded Borrowers

    January 22, 2020

    Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives were able to pass a measure last week expressing opposition to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s borrower-defense rule. But because of politics and both ongoing and upcoming legal battles, the vote did little to clear up what will happen to students who are asking for their loans to be discharged because they were defrauded by colleges. Hardly clear are two questions: how to deal with the backlog of more than 200,000 borrowers, most of whom attended for-profit institutions, who’ve been waiting for the Education Department to process their requests for debt forgiveness. Also uncertain is how cases will be handled in the future. A new rule proposed by DeVos that would make it harder for borrowers to get relief is set to go into effect in July, but it will likely be challenged in the courts before then...Eileen Connor, legal director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, told The New York Times when the new proposal was announced that it would file a legal challenge. Meanwhile, a previous attempt by the Trump administration, in December 2017, to begin giving only partial relief was temporarily blocked in 2019 by a federal court, which ruled that the borrowers' privacy rights were violated because the department used their federal earnings data from the Social Security Administration. That case is still continuing, however.

  • Canceling student debt is easier than it sounds

    January 15, 2020

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has pledged to cancel up to $50,000 of debt for 95% of student loan borrowers if she is elected president. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has proposed an even more generous plan if he's elected. Both are bold, controversial pitches that would have a hard time making it through a divided Congress. But on Tuesday, Warren announced she would use a little-known shortcut, and wouldn't need Congress. As president, she says, she could cancel the debts of tens of millions of student borrowers all on her own. It turns out, she's probably right...43 million student borrowers owe the U.S. government $1.5 trillion, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And until now, the department has only offered student loan forgiveness or cancellation to borrowers who meet certain criteria. "Maybe it's because they've been working in a public service position or because they become disabled or because they're saying that their school fundamentally cheated them," says Eileen Connor, legal director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. "Those pathways exist. And I think what Sen. Warren's proposal is pointing out is that there's also this freestanding power that the secretary of education has to cancel debts, not for those reasons, but really for any reason at all."

  • DeVos Tries Again to Cut Debt Relief for Students Who Were Misled

    December 11, 2019

    Thousands of students who took out federal loans to attend schools that lured them with fraudulent claims will still have to repay a portion of their debts, the Education Department said Tuesday — a new attempt to water down a loan-forgiveness program that the department’s leader has long deplored. The change creates a complicated sliding scale on which defrauded students’ relief is calculated using group earnings data. Debts will be fully forgiven only if students in a particular program earned far less than those from similar programs at other schools...An advocacy group that has represented borrowers in lawsuits against the Education Department said it would fight the new policy in court. “Under law, cheated students have the right to have their loans fully canceled,” said Eileen Connor, the legal director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.

  • DeVos: Defrauded students may only get partial loan relief

    December 11, 2019

    Students who are cheated by their colleges will receive full loan forgiveness only if they end up earning far less than their peers, while others will receive relief between 25% and 75% of their debt under new rules unveiled Tuesday by the U.S. Education Department. The policy is a departure from the Obama administration, which provided full loan forgiveness in cases of fraud, and it marks the second time the Trump administration has attempted to provide only partial loan relief...The Project on Predatory Student Lending, a legal advocacy group based at Harvard University, said cheated students are entitled to full relief. “This partial denial scheme will force thousands of families to pay fraudulent debts that never should have existed in the first place. It shows that the Department of Education will stop at nothing to try to extract payments on invalid debts and deny students their rights under law,” said Eileen Connor, the group’s legal director.

  • Column: In Corinthian Colleges fiasco, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ actions define ‘contempt’

    November 1, 2019

    As is true of many legal concepts, “contempt of court” can be inexact in its definitions or implications. But that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department’s treatment of thousands of students defrauded by the for-profit company Corinthian Colleges. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim in San Francisco on Oct. 24 slapped DeVos and her agency with a $100,000 sanction for civil contempt. ... “The sector feels like they’ve never had a better friend in the federal government than Betsy DeVos,” says Eileen Connor of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, who represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the Corinthian settlement.

  • DeVos tightens rules for forgiving student loans

    September 3, 2019

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday finalized rules that make it more difficult for federal student loan borrowers to cancel their debt on the grounds that their college defrauded them, scaling back an Obama-era policy aimed at abuses by for-profit colleges. The rules, which the Trump administration weighed for more than a year, set a more stringent standard for when the Education Department will wipe out the debt of borrowers who claim they were misled or deceived by their respective colleges...Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending — whose successful lawsuit last year forced DeVos to implement the Obama-era rules — vowed on Friday to bring a new legal challenge “in the coming days” to stop the latest regulations from taking effect. “If Betsy DeVos won’t do her job and stand up for students, then we will fill that void,” the organization’s legal director, Eileen Connor, said in a statement. “That is why we will be filing a suit challenge these harmful new regulations that give a green light to for-profit colleges to continue scamming students.”

  • Ed Dept. Wants Pause In Student Loan Suit To Stay In Place

    August 5, 2019

    The Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos are urging a California federal court not to lift a stay in a proposed class action over collection of student loans from former students of Corinthian College, saying the court should wait for the Ninth Circuit to decide on the government's appeal of an injunction order in the case...Eileen M. Connor of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, representing the students, said they are not swayed by the department's arguments. "The filing confirms that the department has repeatedly violated the court's injunction by putting student accounts back into repayment," Connor told Law360 on Tuesday. "This causes significant confusion and distress for former Corinthian students, who were told years ago that they are entitled to have their loans fully canceled. We are interested in proceeding as quickly as possible to resolve their legal claims."

  • At the US Education Department, applications for loan forgiveness languish

    August 5, 2019

    A federal judge ruled last year that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ delays of an Obama-era regulation aimed at forgiving the student debt of defrauded students were illegal. Still, advocates say, the department continues to neglect the applications of those like Marler. More than 180,000 claims for student debt forgiveness remain “pending” and no borrower has had their request approved or denied in more than a year.“The Department of Education under Betsy DeVos is just ignoring the claims,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which is currently suing DeVos. “These people can’t plan for the future. “They’re losing faith in the government.” Nearly 900 former for-profit school students recently described the consequences of their education to the Project in written testimonies. Their stories make clear that a few years at a bad school can cast a shadow over the rest of someone’s life.

  • Student-loan borrowers demand justice from Betsy DeVos — ‘I don’t feel like I should pay for an education I never received’

    July 29, 2019

    After years working in “dead-end” jobs, Morgan Marler decided to pursue a degree that would help her start a career working with computers...Marler is one of the nearly 900 student-loan borrowers who say they were scammed by their schools and are awaiting an answer from the Department of Education as to whether they’ll have their federal student-loan debt wiped away. These borrowers have been waiting an average of 958 days for a response...Perhaps most “alarming,” according to Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, which is representing the borrowers: 96% of these borrowers say they’re lives are worse off now than before they attended a for-profit college. “It’s a wake up call for everyone about how we are managing the federal student-loan program,” Connor said. “It’s not what we like to think and what we tell people about how higher education will make your life better.”

  • Nearly 900 student-loan borrowers demand justice — ‘I don’t feel like I should pay for an education I never received’

    July 23, 2019

    After years working in “dead-end” jobs, Morgan Marler decided to pursue a degree that would help her start a career working with computers. In 2013, Marler enrolled at ITT Technical Institutes feeling convinced they’d help her land a job once she graduated. ... Marler graduated from the school in 2016 with an associate’s degree in information technology. But just a few months later, ITT shut down amid claims the school misled students about job placement and graduation rates. ... In November 2017, she filed a claim asking the government to wipe away her debt under a law that allows borrowers to have their loans cancelled if they’ve been defrauded by their school. Nearly two years later, still waiting for an answer. ... Perhaps most “alarming,” according to Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, which is representing the borrowers: 96% of these borrowers say they’re lives are worse off now than before they attended a for-profit college. “It’s a wake up call for everyone about how we are managing the federal student-loan program,” Connor said. “It’s not what we like to think and what we tell people about how higher education will make your life better.”

  • So deep in student debt, they’re suing Betsy DeVos over delays in loan forgiveness

    July 2, 2019

    Alicia Davis feels like she was scammed. As a student at Florida Metropolitan University from 2006 to 2008, she said she was told the cost of her online criminal justice program would be covered by Pell grants and scholarships. She was told her credits could be transferred to other schools. Graduating from the school, a subsidiary of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges, would lead to a job and a decent wage. None of it was true, said Davis, who accrued more than $22,000 in student loans from FMU. The 36-year-old is now one of seven plaintiffs suing the U.S. Department of Education and its chief, Betsy DeVos, for allegedly failing to offer relief to more than 158,000 student-loan borrowers who claim they were defrauded by for-profit colleges...Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending, which filed the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the Department of Education has illegally halted processing forgiveness applications under DeVos's tenure, neither rejecting nor approving any claims. According to the complaint, the department "intentionally adopted a policy of inaction and obfuscation." The Education Department last approved a borrower-defense application in June 2018. "The Department of Education has knowingly enabled for-profit colleges to defraud students," Eileen Connor, legal director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending, said in a statement. "It recklessly continued to act as a loan broker for disreputable schools despite clear records of abuse and misconduct," Connor added.

  • Feds Dragging Feet On Loan Cancellation Bids, Students Say

    July 2, 2019

    The U.S. Department of Education is violating federal law by refusing to make decisions on applications to cancel federal loans from more than 158,000 students who attended for-profit colleges, a new proposed class action claims. The Massachusetts-based Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School announced the former students' suit on Tuesday, the latest in a string of cases against the department and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over Obama-era student loan protections. The complaint, filed in California federal court, says that even though students are able to cancel any federal loans they might have if their schools defraud them, the department hasn’t made a decision since June of last year on any applications to cancel those loans. “The Department of Education has knowingly enabled for-profit colleges to defraud students,” Eileen Connor, the legal director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, which is affiliated with the Legal Services Center, said in a statement. “It recklessly continued to act as a loan broker for disreputable schools despite clear records of abuse and misconduct, and now the department refuses to acknowledge the damage it has done by issuing these predatory loans to students, at taxpayers’ expense.”

  • 2 Mass. Women Among Those Suing U.S Education Dept. To Force Action On Student Debt Relief

    July 2, 2019

    A class action lawsuit filed in California Tuesday claims the U.S. Department of Education is "intentionally" not processing debt relief claims by students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges. "They don't have any timetable to resolve these claims and it's pretty clear that they don't have any intention to," said Eileen Connor, legal director for the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School, which brought the suit with the California-based legal service organization Housing and Economic Rights Advocates.

  • Scammed student-loan borrowers accuse Betsy DeVos of illegally stalling on debt-cancellation claims

    July 2, 2019

    After working as a bartender for years, Alicia Davis decided in 2006 that she wanted to take steps towards starting a career in law enforcement by getting her bachelor’s degree. It’s a decision that’s haunted her ever since...Now Davis is fighting back. She’s part of a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday, accusing the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Department of Education of illegally stalling their decision on at least 158,000 borrower defense claims filed by people like Davis...“The law is really clear, but the Department of Education has ignored their claims,” said Eileen Connor, legal director at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which is representing the borrowers. “Students are coming forward today to say enough is enough.”

  • The courts cleared the way for DeVos to grant student debt relief. So why are 180,000 people still waiting for an answer?

    July 2, 2019

    Courts have sided repeatedly with student loan borrowers demanding the U.S. Education Department process their applications for debt relief, yet more than 180,000 people are still waiting for a decision. Now, some of them are again turning to the courts for help. On Tuesday, seven borrowers sued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her agency after the department failed to take action on their applications, some of which have languished for years...“It’s not like they’re working through the backlog and it’s just taking time. The department doesn’t think they have to do anything with these claims, and that’s why people are coming forward,” said Eileen Connor, an attorney representing the borrowers. “What they want is for the court to tell the department: ‘You have to do something. You can deny them. You can grant them. But you have to do something.’”...Connor, director of litigation at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, argues that the court injunction does not prevent the Education Department from creating a new methodology to deny claims or grant full relief. The Project on Predatory Student Lending brought the California case.

  • Delayed Obama-Era Rule on Student Debt Relief Is to Take Effect

    October 17, 2018

    A long-delayed federal rule intended to protect student loan borrowers who were defrauded by their schools went into effect on Tuesday, after a judge rejected an industry challenge and the Education Department ended efforts to stall it any longer...“We’re really gratified,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represented several student borrowers who challenged the department’s delay. “These regulations have a lot of critical protections in them for student borrowers and taxpayers.”

  • Home Personal Finance California, New York and 6 other states side with scammed students in battle with DeVos

    October 12, 2018

    ...The states “spent significant resources trying to ensure that people who were eligible for loan cancellation because of Corinthian fraud would get it,” said Eileen Connor, the director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, one of the organizations representing the borrowers. “It’s just really outrageous that the Department really capriciously turned away from that.”

  • As feds pull back, states step in to regulate for-profit colleges and universities

    July 10, 2018

    ...“It’s just a new stand for the department to be taking, that the states aren’t its partner — that the states are its enemy,” said Eileen Connor, director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.

  • DeVos Halts Partial Debt Relief Policy After Judge Slams Procedures

    June 6, 2018

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has temporarily halted relieving the debt of some student borrowers who were defrauded by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, after a federal judge found her department misused earnings data to calculate loan forgiveness...The halt came after Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim of Federal District Court in San Francisco found that the department had violated the Privacy Act by sharing student borrower information, such as Social Security numbers and birth dates, with the Social Security Administration to obtain earnings data. The judge ordered the Education Department to end the practice and its collection of Corinthian student debts...Judge Kim’s ruling resulted from a class-action lawsuit filed by the Project on Predatory Student Lending of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and the group Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, which challenged Ms. DeVos’s partial-relief system shortly after it was announced. They argued that the new policy was arbitrary, capricious and illegal...“The court has already ruled that the Department of Education must immediately stop using its illegal partial denial rule,” said Eileen Connor, litigation director for the Project on Predatory Student Lending.

  • Feds Must Stop Collecting Debt From Defrauded Students

    June 5, 2018

    A federal judge has blocked Education Secretary Besty DeVos’ plan to force more than 60,000 defrauded students to repay loans for education programs that some borrowers describe as “worthless.”...Plaintiffs’ lawyer Eileen Connor, of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, praised the ruling as an important step in providing relief to students who the school duped into wasting valuable time and money on a “valueless” education. “These people were targeted specifically because they were economically vulnerable,” Connor said in an interview. “The department’s delay and denial of loan cancellation is harming them in a way that can’t be repaired, and that harm accrues on a daily basis.”

  • On ITT and the Education Department, no more excuses

    January 31, 2018

    An op-ed by Toby Merrill and Eileen Connor. For years, predatory for-profit colleges have exploited the promise of higher education, cheating students and leaving them in mountains of debt they never should have had. Making it worse, the industry has been enabled by a Department of Education that has made excuse after excuse about why it can not step in to help students. Last week, the Education Department ran out of excuses.

  • For-profit loan forgiveness program could see major cut

    January 31, 2018

    The Education Department’s plan to provide only partial loan forgiveness to some students defrauded by for-profit colleges could reduce overall payments by about 60 percent, according to a preliminary analysis obtained by The Associated Press...The department said some students will now be getting only partial loan forgiveness to make the process fair and protect taxpayers from excessive costs...Eileen Connor, a litigator at Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which has represented hundreds of defrauded Corinthian students, criticized the projections. “I think that is terrible. It’s another example of the Department of Education picking the side of fraudulent schools and not doing right by those who have been hurt by them,” Connor said.

  • Students from defunct ITT Tech get a shot at claiming school’s remaining assets

    January 25, 2018

    A federal judge approved a settlement Wednesday allowing former students at ITT Technical Institute to participate in the bankruptcy proceedings of its parent company, giving them a shot at the remaining assets of one of the nation’s largest for-profit college operators...“Students are now stakeholders in this bankruptcy,” said Eileen Connor, attorney for the students...Connor, who is also an attorney at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, said Wednesday’s settlement builds a case for the Education Department to grant full relief.

  • Students defrauded by for-profits may not get full relief

    December 21, 2017

    The Education Department is abandoning the Obama administration’s practice of wiping out the loans for all students who were swindled by the now-defunct Corinthian college chain. Under President Barack Obama, tens of thousands of students deceived by the for-profit school had more than $550 million in student loans canceled in full. But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Wednesday she is putting a new process in place that she says will be more efficient. The department will now look at average income in order to determine the value of a student’s education. Then it will decide whether to forgive the loan partially or in full. Eileen Connor, a litigator at Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, called the decision “unlawful and arbitrary.”

  • DeVos May Only Partly Forgive Some Student Loans

    October 30, 2017

    The Education Department is considering only partially forgiving federal loans for students defrauded by for-profit colleges, according to department officials, abandoning the Obama administration's policy of erasing that debt..."Anything other than full cancellation is not a valid outcome," said Eileen Connor, a litigator at Harvard University's Project on Predatory Student Lending, which has represented hundreds of defrauded students of the now-shuttered Corinthian Colleges. "The nature of the wrong that was done to them, the harm is even bigger than the loans that they have."

  • Forging a path to debt cancellation for former ITT Tech students

    January 11, 2017

    On Jan. 3, Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending filed a 7.3 billion dollar class action lawsuit in the bankruptcy proceedings of ITT Tech -- one of the country’s largest for-profit college chains -- on behalf of a proposed class of hundreds of thousands of former students.

  • Ex-ITT students want to join suit to get debt canceled

    January 11, 2017

    They said they were defrauded, and now they want a seat at the table. Last week, a group of former ITT Tech students moved to establish themselves as creditors in the school's bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana...The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School is representing the students. Eileen Connor, director of litigation for the center's Project on Predatory Student Lending, is the lead attorney representing the students. She was unavailable for comment.

  • Student Victims Seek to Become Creditors in ITT Bankruptcy

    January 9, 2017

    It seems only right that victims of predatory for-profit education companies should have their student loans forgiven. After all, in addition to being left with mountains of debt, former students have worthless degrees from schools that no longer exist, such as those once operated by the defunct Corinthian Colleges or ITT Educational Services. Because taxpayers backed most of these loans, however, the Department of Education has been loath to forgive them. So it was gratifying to see five former ITT students take matters into their own hands this week by petitioning a federal bankruptcy court to consider loan forgiveness as part of the company’s liquidation...on Jan. 3, lawyers at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School filed to intervene in ITT’s liquidation, which is currently being overseen by James M. Carr, a federal bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of Indiana...“We’re trying all the angles, all the avenues,” Toby Merrill, founder and director of the Harvard project, said in an interview...“All of these students have filed their own claims with the Education Department,” said Eileen Connor, director of litigation at the Harvard project. “But the Department has been sitting on them, and they are not visible in any way.”