By Martha C. White
January 20, 2016

Over the last six months, more than 7,500 former students have asked the government to forgive their college loan debts totaling some $164 million. They’re arguing that their schools — mainly for-profits colleges whose recruiting techniques and academic credentials have come under scrutiny — defrauded them by lying about things like job placements and graduate earnings.

Student loans are nearly impossible to get forgiven through traditional channels — for instance, they can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. But a 1994 Department of Education rule makes students eligible for student loan forgiveness if the school used fraud or other illegal tactics in its recruitment.

According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly three-quarters of the students who have applied to have their debts forgiven attended for-profit Corinthian Colleges, which went bankrupt and left students with loans but no degrees. The Department of Education said last year that many of these students were eligible to have their debts forgiven. Most students who have applied for student loan forgiveness went to for-profit colleges, including Corinthian, Art Institutes, and ITT Technical Institutes.

The Journal reports that the story of one student is “emblematic” of the problem. The student racked up debt only to discover that he was allegedly being taught outdated tech skills by instructors who didn’t even know the material. What’s more, the school’s job placement “services” consisted of helping him get a job at Office Depot earning less than a dollar more than minimum wage.

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