Maryland attorney general seeks to cancel student debt

MARYLAND — Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has joined five other attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Department of Education to forgive the federal student loan debt of thousands of students, many of them in the Maryland.

Frosh said he and his fellow attorneys general are seeking debt forgiveness for students who attend schools run by the for-profit Education Corporation of America.

This week, they submitted a Borrower Defense Request seeking relief for ECA student borrowers due to “alleged misrepresentations to students regarding its accreditation status, efforts to reaccredit, and broken promises to students, including his lifelong career advice promise.”

ECA also did business as Brightwood Career Institute, Virginia College, Ecotech, and Golf Academy of America.

According to Frosh, accredited schools must meet quality standards set by an outside accrediting body. Without accreditation, schools are ineligible for federal Title IV student aid programs that are a critical source of revenue. The ECA accreditor was decertified in 2016.

The company then tried – in vain – to obtain a new accreditor. The ECA has consistently downplayed its suspicious accreditation status and overestimated the likelihood of it getting reaccredited, Frosh said.

All the while, officials said the ECA was also recruiting students and promising them education and career counseling services. The ECA further victimized these students by not providing these services and abruptly closing its campuses in December 2018.

Federal law authorizes the Department of Education to cancel federal student loans when borrowers have been deceived into obtaining loans.

In the request, the attorneys general urged the Department of Education to provide “full relief to ECA students, including refunding any money students have already paid on these loans.”

In Maryland, Frosh said about 910 borrowers who attended ECA schools from June 2016 to December 2018 owe about $991,000 in federal student loans.

“The loans these students obtained to attend ECA schools should be cancelled,” Attorney General Frosh said. “After years of enrolling students despite failing to gain accreditation, ECA abruptly closed its campuses, leaving students with thousands of dollars in debt and without a quality education.”

Attorney General Frosh is joined in this letter request by the attorneys general of Alabama, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Virginia.