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Arne Duncan’s Patently False Promise to Forgive Student Debts at For-Profit Schools

The U.S. government has funneled hundreds of billions of dollars into corporate accounts by bankrolling for-profit schools that systematically fleece their mostly low income and minority students. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promises to forgive the student loans of those who have been defrauded. Unfortunately, Duncan is lying through his teeth

Glen Ford

 by Black Agenda Report
“Enforcers for loan sharks don’t give debt holidays to the masses of victims.”

Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, claims his department is prepared to forgive the debts of thousands of students who attended the Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit rip-off conglomerate that filed for bankruptcy last month. Duncan chose his words carefully, claiming that the federal government is putting together a process that would forgive the loans of any student who can show that she had been defrauded by any college – Coriinthian or some other school.

Duncan is, of course, lying. His own department estimates it would cost as much as $3.5 billion to provide debt relief to the 350,000 students that have had the misfortune to attend Corinthian schools over the past five years. And Corinthian wasn’t the top dog in the for-profit education scam. Phoenix University, owned by the huge Apollo chain of con artists, had an enrollment of 600,000 five years ago, and still processes the checks of a quarter million victims a year. Forgiving the debts of all the students that have been victimized by the for-profit college industry would cost many tens of billions of dollars – far more than what’s left of the nation’s welfare program. We know that Arne Duncan was making no such commitment on behalf of an administration that loves austerity just as much as the Republicans do.

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Arne Duncan is lying when he says the administration will hold for-profit colleges “accountable.” These criminal enterprises are creatures of the federal government. The for-profit school industry has no reason to exist except to suck up federal education moneys while destroying the hopes and credit of desperate, largely Black and brown people. The Education Department acts as the bill collector for the industry, enforcing the terms of student debt. Enforcers for loan sharks don’t give debt holidays to the masses of victims.

“The for-profit education industry will be protected.”

Arne Duncan’s boss, President Obama, knows that the $1.2 trillion national student debt looms as a huge campaign issue, and that his political soul-mate, Hillary Clinton, will need every Black and brown vote to win in 2016. They know that a new movement is emerging, energized by young people who are especially outraged at the astronomical cost of education, including the inferior education provided by for-profit schools, which charge two to four times the tuition of public colleges. The collapse and bankruptcy of Corinthian Colleges brought the issue to a head. Arne Duncan is attempting to deflect the damage by setting up a mechanism to allow former students to petition for debt relief. It’s like a safety valve, but not too much money will be allowed to escape, and the for-profit education industry will be protected from the worst consequences of its crimes.

But, what will replace Corinthian colleges, and the other scam schools that are teetering on bankruptcy? The answer is: more for-profit schools, repackaged and rebranded – because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any intention of reinvigorating public education in the United States. For-profit colleges, like charter public schools, are a capitalist’s dream: the public pays the cost, and private corporations make the profits. And the people’s dreams go up in smoke.


Glen Ford

Glen Ford

Glen Ford is the Executive Editor of the Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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