Capitol Alert

Kamala Harris urges debt forgiveness for Corinthian students

Attorney General Kamala Harris discusses elementary school truancy rates during a press conference at the Capitol on March 10, 2014.
Attorney General Kamala Harris discusses elementary school truancy rates during a press conference at the Capitol on March 10, 2014. The Sacramento Bee file

Joining a group of student loan recipients who have refused to repay tens of thousands in debt they racked up at schools owned by Corinthian Colleges, Attorney General Kamala Harris is calling upon the federal government to forgive loan debt for borrowers who attended the troubled for-profit chain.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released Thursday, Harris and the attorneys general of eight other states urged the Department of Education to “immediately relieve borrowers of the obligation to repay federal student loans that were incurred as a result of violations of state law by Corinthian Colleges, Inc.”

“Through their predatory practices, these unscrupulous for-profit schools have co-opted a public loan program intended to increase access to higher education and left hundreds of thousands of students in financial ruin,” the letter states. “Students and families should not be left to bear the costs.”

In 2013, Harris sued Corinthian claiming it had deceived prospective students about the value of their degrees and sought out low-income, vulnerable people with aggressive, false advertising. Under legal and financial pressure from state and federal officials, the Santa Ana-based company has crumbled over the past year, ultimately agreeing to sell or close more than 100 campuses of Heald College, Everest College and WyoTech that it operated nationwide.

Harris’ office has continued to vigorously pursue charges against Corinthian. On Wednesday, the president and CEO of Heald accused Harris of chasing away prospective buyers with onerous demands for oversight and threats of litigation.

The attorneys general’s letter, which also requests a system for student borrowers to seek debt relief if their school breaks the law, follows the February launch of a “debt strike” by former and current Corinthian students. The strikers, calling themselves the “Corinthian 100,” argue they were defrauded by the company because of lackluster federal oversight and are urging the Department of Education to discharge their loans. Last December, 13 U.S. Senate Democrats also demanded debt forgiveness for Corinthian students.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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