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A Student Loan Debt Strike is Launched; Congressman John Kline Owns the Blame

Despite closing or selling dozens of campuses, Corinthian College Inc. was one of Rep. John Kilne's most generous campaign contributors in 2014.

Despite closing or selling dozens of campuses, Corinthian College Inc. was one of Rep. John Kilne's most generous campaign contributors in 2014.

"Jill B' was in her fifth month attending Everest Institute. She was $15,000 in the hole in federal student loans. Every day she regretted choosing to enroll at the for-profit university and she was pissed at herself for not doing the research.

She took to an online message board where she characterized the instructor heading the medical assistant class as indifferent to learning, even destructive. "My teacher graduated from Everest in 2006 and has never [had] a medical assisting job.... She tells us on a daily basis that she wants to quit."

See also: John Kline's Descent From Patriot to the Whore of Higher Ed

So it was no surprise that, last year, Corinthian Colleges Inc., Everest's parent company, was forced to shutter many of its schools, including its only Minnesota location in Eagan, under the weight of state and federal probes alleging it cheated students by lying to them about job placement and graduation rates.

Now a group of students has launched "a debt strike." They're vowing not to repay any student loans they took out to attend Corinthian's schools.

In a letter written last month to the Department of Education, which holds the discretionary power to forgive federal student loan debts, the students said, "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."

For-profit colleges like Corinthian have given Kline almost $1 million. He repaid the favor by blocking every attempt at reform.

For-profit colleges like Corinthian have given Kline almost $1 million. He repaid the favor by blocking every attempt at reform.

They might also wish to send their letter to Congressman John Kline of Burnsville.

Kline has long been the biggest obstruction to reforming for-profit colleges. It's an industry grown fat and sweaty on the taxpayers' dime -- to the tune of $33 billion annually -- while leaving students paralyzed in debt and working part-time at Caribou.

In recent years, the success of Kline's political fortunes and the industry he shills for have become one and the same.

Kline, the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from for-profit colleges.

So it's perhaps no coincidence that he authored the grandly titled Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, which ensured that the government couldn't crack down on wretched schools, no matter how poorly they performed.

It blocked the feds from forcing colleges -- like Corinthian's Everest Institute in Eagan -- to disclose graduation rates and median student debt-loads, keeping students in the dark. It also barred the government from enforcing any standards that might strip a school of its federal money.

Just last summer, as he split time on Capitol Hill and traversing the state's Second Congressional District shopping for votes, Kline's true loyalties were never more apparent.

On the line in D.C. was the financial lifeblood of more than 100 for-profit colleges when two Democrats from California, Mark Takano and Susan Davis, crashed one of Kline's committee hearings.

The Center for Investigative Reporting had recently published a report detailing how for-profits were targeting vets to soak up their GI Bills. Takano and Davis pointed to the University of Phoenix's San Diego campus, where only 15 percent of those veterans had graduated or found jobs.

The Californians tried to protect these soldiers by factoring military benefits into the so-called 90/10 rule. It's a regulation that strips schools of their eligibility to collect federal student loan monies if they can't show that a mere 10 percent of their tuition dollars come from students who actually chose to use their own money.

Kline, a retired Marine colonel who had served in Vietnam and Somalia, was likely more aware than most that veterans were being lured into dead-end educations.

Yet he kiboshed the proposal, ruling it out of order. A subsequent vote along party lines ultimately sealed its fate.

As for the former and current for-profit higher ed students now on debt strike, they say they resorted to the tactic because the Department of Education has done nothing to forgive any of their taxpayer-backed debt incurred as Corinthian students.

This despite the fact that the department has the authority to annul loans where students can demonstrate that schools defrauded them.

The strikers vow to continue the non-payment of their student federal loans until the government intervenes.

Perhaps the days of enabling the swindling of students are winding down. But if so, Kline won't talk about it. Spokesman Jacob Olson didn't respond to interview requests.

Send story tips to Cory Zurowski.