In July the Department of Education shut down the schools owned by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit education company operating in the US and Canada. (The New Yorker has a big article about it here.) As a result, 15 students are refusing to repay the debts they incurred while attending the schools, basically claiming they were hoodwinked into buying an education that had little value. In 2010 more than 100,000 students were enrolled in colleges under Corinthian control.
The 15 hope to have their debt forgiven, but they also hope to start a movement and increase awareness of the massive student loan debt currently on the books. (The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates the figure at more than $1 trillion.) Below is the text of the letter the 15 students–calling themselves The Corinthian Fifteen–have written to Department of Education:
19 February, 2015
Who are we? We are the first generation made poor by the business of education.
We are people living paycheck to paycheck, single mothers, and young people just starting out. We wanted an education because we were driven to learn and to achieve a better life for ourselves and for our families.
We trusted that education would lead to a better life. And we trusted you to ensure that the education system in this country would do so. But Corinthian took advantage of our dreams and targeted us to make a profit. You let it happen, and now you cash in.
Each month you force us to make payments into an immoral system that profits from our aspirations.
We paid dearly for degrees that have led to unemployment or to jobs that don’t pay a living wage. We can’t and won’t pay any longer.
Repayment plans presented as a helping hand simply aren’t good enough. The wrong done to us is deeper than that.
We are not alone in this fight. Corinthian’s predatory empire pushed hundreds of thousands into a debt trap. But even beyond for-profit schools, tens of millions of students are in more debt than they can ever repay. And you are the debt collector, with powers beyond a payday lender’s wildest dreams.
To the Department of Education and to the lenders, servicers, and guarantee agencies who have stolen our futures, we say: enough! Erase these loans.
To current and former college students across the country, we say: we stand with you to demand the end of a higher education system that profits from all our dreams. Join our fight.
We won’t pay. We are the Corinthian Fifteen,