Yesterday, Senator Richard Durbin cited details from my recent story in Salon on the floor of the Senate.
It is easy to go back to school, the recruiters will tell you over the phone. In fact we can sign you up for federal loans right now. That is what happened to Jaqueta Cherry from North Carolina. After trying a community college, Jaqueta was lured by a kind voice on the other end of the telephone and the fancy commercials on television from for-profit schools. She saw them in North Carolina. You see them across the United States. Get on a bus in Chicago and look around; you will see all the signs trying to lure young people on those buses into for-profit schools. Jaqueta said "the schools blew up my phone. She enrolled at Everest College, part of the Corinthian College chain. The California Attorney General is currently suing that chain of schools and the Departmetn of Education is investigating allegations that they lied to the federal government about job placements. Meanwhile, Jaqueta's living situation changed and she had to drop out because she couldn't continue her studies at Everest. It wasn't long before she was tracked down by another for-profit school through a pop-up ad she clicked on on the Internet. If you are college-aged and get on the internet, you are going to see these ads bombarding you for for-profit colleges and universities. She got a call the next day from Education Management's Art Institutes and signed up for an online program. After taking out more loans, Jaqueta found herself unable to continue her courses. Her roommate moved out, left her with unpaid bills. Her only access to the Internet was a phone which was turned off two days prior to her final exams. Well at that point, she was thousands of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it. Guess what? The calls kept coming. The calls that she got from Everest and the Art Institute these days are the not the kind voices that they used to be. "They are very mean and threatening," she says. Not surprising. See Jaqueta is no longer an ATM machine from which they can withdraw federal loans."
Here is a link to the C-Span video.
The Senator wanted to talk about Jaqueta Cherry's experiences at online for-profit colleges.
Senator Durbin has several bills in committee which would address some of the issues touched upon in Jaqueta's story. His Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights would make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Elsewhere, he has legislation in place to reduce the 90-10 rule to 85-15. Those numbers describe the maximum allowable share of revenue that any college can generate from federal financial aid. Thus, if more than 90 percent of a school's revenue comes from the federal government, the school is put on watch and can potentially lose access to Title I dollars. Durbin's bill would reduce that share to 85 percent. As well, it would require that dollars from the Veteran's administration be counted within the federal aid portion. The fact that those monies are currently excluded has meant that many for-profit schools aggressively recruit service members.