Editorial: Victimized ITT borrowers deserve student loan relief

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

Nearly five years after the collapse of Indianapolis-based ITT Tech left students across the nation with crushing debt and a substandard education, the federal government has finally granted loan forgiveness to 18,000 of them.

It is welcome relief made possible by the administration of President Joe Biden, who has overturned Trump administration policies that left so many victimized students, including many veterans, without hope.

While we don’t agree with progressive political talk of forgiving wide swaths of student loans, we do believe students at ITT Tech and other substandard for-profit schools are entitled to have such indebtedness wiped clean.

At ITT in particular, students were defrauded and enticed into attending the school by ITT’s exaggerated claims about its graduates’ success in finding jobs, the U.S. Department of Education said.

“In reality, borrowers repeatedly stated that including ITT attendance on resumes made it harder for them to find employment,” the department said in a news release.

The department also found that ITT misled students about the ability to transfer credits to other schools. The credits rarely transferred.

Despite these significant failings, the Trump administration made it tougher for students to get relief even as several for-profit schools were collapsing. Then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declared it was becoming too easy to get student loans forgiven.

Under Biden, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona decided last week to erase $500 million in debt for 18,000 ITT students, including 650 in Indiana. This is on top of another $1 billion in student loan debt that was cleared in March for 72,000 borrowers that the department determined were also taken advantage of by for-profit colleges.

There is little doubt that even more defrauded students are deserving of relief. At least 16,000 other ITT students alone have filed for loan forgiveness, according to The Washington Post, and we believe their petitions deserve quick consideration.

However, the Biden administration has said it is also open to considering more widespread loan forgiveness.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has encouraged Biden to use his executive powers to eliminate $50,000 in student loan debt for all borrowers. But, as a Los Angeles Times editorial argued last month, it is hard to imagine that a president could responsibly fund a $1 trillion program without congressional authorization.

It’s also hard to fathom that those who have yet to pay off their student debt would receive relief while those who have paid off their student loans and are still struggling would be left out.

Ballooning student debt and rising college tuition should be brought under control with more targeted, precise and forward-looking approaches.

Biden’s own American Families Plan offers better options, including free community college and larger Pell grants. However, we would tweak his plan a bit by making the cost of community college dependent on a student’s ability to pay. This would significantly reduce the program’s price tag and make sure students were financially vested in their educations.

Such approaches in combination with steps to protect students from being victimized by substandard schools are the best way forward.•


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2 thoughts on “Editorial: Victimized ITT borrowers deserve student loan relief

  1. Not only ITT students but also students of the likes of Decker School of Construction and other vocational technical schools that closed and didn’t deliver on degrees promoted and promised.

  2. “substandard for-profit schools” identifiable as substandard, how? By their deceptive and predatory practices and the greed of their executives?