- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2019

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday that the cancellation of 4,000 student loans from a pair of now-shuttered art-and-culinary schools in Colorado and Illinois.

Students who attended the for-profit Art Institute of Colorado or the Illinois Institute of Art from Jan. 20, 2018, until Dec. 31, 2018, will have their student loans nullified, and their eligibility for federal Pell Grants will be restored.

In addition, the department plans to extend the “lookback period of eligibility for closed school discharges” for students who attended the other 24 schools operated by the nonprofit Dream Center Education, which closed in March.

“The Department is committed to holding institutions and accreditors accountable to the students they serve,” Ms. DeVos said in a statement. “In this instance, students were failed and deserve to be made whole. By canceling these students’ loans and restoring their Pell eligibility, as well as extending the closed school discharge period, we hope that these impacted students will now have the tools and resources they need to complete their education.”

The decision will affect 1,500 borrowers who took out about 4,000 loans, the department said.

The Trump administration had come under pressure to forgive the debt from former students who alleged that their loans were approved even though the schools had lost accreditation, in violation of federal law.

The department faulted the Higher Learning Commission for giving the schools “a newly developed and improperly defined accreditation status after January 20, 2018.”

“The Department is concerned that the Art Institute of Colorado and the Illinois Institute of Art were actually fully accredited from January 20, 2018, until their closings at the end of the year,” the department said in its press release.

“Because HLC has required these two schools to note on student transcripts that credits and degrees earned during this period are from a non-accredited institution, students have been harmed as they seek transfer credit and employment elsewhere,” the DOE said.

In 2017, Dream Center Education Holdings bought schools under the Art Institute and Argosy University names from the Education Management Corporation, which has since filed for bankruptcy.

In February, the Trump administration blocked plans for Argosy to go nonprofit and removed it from the student federal aid program, citing concerns with management, according to Inside Higher Ed.

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