Remarks by Vice President Harris on Corinthian Student Loan Forgiveness
Department of Education
1:38 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hi, everyone. Thank you, thank you. Thank you. Sit, sit, sit. How about our great Secretary Cardona? (Applause.) We are quite glee-filled today, aren’t we? We really are quite gleeful. (Applause.) I think we have good reason, all of us. Sit, sit, sit. Thank you. Sit. Thank you.
It’s so good to be with — we have been doing this together for so long. Isn’t it wonderful to see how we are bringing it to some conclusion? Although there is still much more work to be done on the issue, as a general matter.
But I see Nick Akers there and I just want to say hello. (Applause.) Nick was in my office in the California Department of Justice and worked so hard. And, Nick, it’s just so great to see you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Can we pl- — (applause). We spent a lot of time together on this one.
So, I will now get back to my talking points. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Secretary Cardona, for your lifelong dedication to educating and protecting our students and, by extension, our communities and our country. And thank you to your whole team and to all the advocates here with us in your relentless fight on behalf of those important, wonderful people who were needlessly and just so wrongfully targeted by the for-profit college scams.
Before I — I begin my comments, I do want to, however, speak for a moment about what happened yesterday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The President will be talking more about this later. But we have been monitoring the situation quite closely. And the latest report, of course, is that four innocent people lost their lives and many more were injured.
We, of course, all of us, hold the people of Tulsa in our hearts. But we also reaffirm our commitment to passing commonsense gun safety laws. (Applause.)
And I don’t have to tell anybody in this room, but President Biden has taken more executive action to combat gun violence than any other president at this point in their administration.
But we cannot, as an administration or those of us who are here, address this alone. No more excuses. Thoughts and prayers are important, but not enough. We need Congress to act.
And so, with that, I will turn to the topic at hand, but I know that we all feel similarly about the importance of leaders leading on issues like this.
So, today — today, we are here to mark a milestone. It is a milestone in a journey so many of us have been travelling for quite some time — a journey for justice for everyone who was defrauded by Corinthian Colleges.
Students who simply wanted to better their prospects in life and instead found themselves taken advantage of by a scam that took their money and gave them nothing in return except heartache.
I first became involved, as many of you know, in the fight to stop Corinthian nearly a decade ago. As Attorney General of California, I led the California Department of Justice, and we sued Corinthian.
And we won because our investigation discovered that Corinthian had engaged in false and deceptive advertising. They promoted programs that they did not offer. They penalized their telemarketers if the telemarketers revealed the truth to prospective students.
Their ads falsely promised students that if they attended certain programs, they would be guaranteed a job after graduation, raising the hopes of people who worked so hard for the bit of money they had to pay to get in these programs.
Our investigation revealed that some of the degrees from Corinthian were so worthless that they didn’t help a single student get a job.
Moreover, the company went through great lengths to inflate its job placement numbers to mislead prospective students.
For example, in 2011, they paid a temporary employment agency to hire graduates for short-term jobs. Some students told us they were placed in jobs that only lasted for two days. Two days. That, of course, is not gainful employment, but Corinthian counted it as a successful job placement. Fraud.
We also learned that the company deliberately targeted specific populations of people, such as veterans, single mothers and single fathers, people living below the poverty line, people who lost jobs during the Great Recession, people who believed in the power of education to transform their lives, people who simply wanted to take control of their own future.
As part of our investigation, we also obtained Corinthian’s internal documents — and I remember the day we got those documents so well, and we read through them, Nick. And these documents described the types of people that Corinthian sought to deceive. So, they literally wrote this stuff down and printed it, and we read it.
And they called their target demographic — and I quote here — I’m quoting directly — they called their target — their targeted demographic “isolated.” They referred to them as people with, quote, “low self-esteem.” Men and women who were, quote, “stuck,” who were, quote — quote, “unable to plan well” for their own future; people who, quote, “few people in their lives who care about them.” Targeting people who, according to them, have “few people in their lives who care about them.”
Talk about predatory.
Corinthian purposely and fraudulently went after the folks most in need, by their own definition. The company believed they could get away with it because, as predators are want to do, they targeted people who they assumed wouldn’t fight back. They targeted people who they assumed no one would be there to fight for.
And they were wrong. Students came forward and shared their stories with us. Advocates — many of you — and many members of Congress fought on their behalf. And we sued. And Corinthian was shut down, and we obtained more than $1 billion in a judgment against the company.
In the wake of our lawsuit, the company was no longer then able to receive federal funding and could no longer enroll students, and they declared bankruptcy. It was a huge victory.
But the story, as we all know, didn’t end there. Because even though it was a victory and all of that happened, it still didn’t provide financial relief to the students who had already been impacted.
So, it’s one thing to say “there should be accountability,” but when we think about and define “accountability” based on bad actors and bad deeds, part of our system of justice tells us that, yes, there should be serious, swift, and severe consequence, but also we must look to those who were harmed and ask, “Are we doing enough to allow them the ability to recover from that harm?”
So, that’s the topic of our conversation today. What we did then is we continued our work to undo the damage that Corinthian had caused.
And, in 2015, I joined with eight other attorneys general — some of whom offices are represented here — and we petitioned the federal government — your department — (laughter) — to provide relief — he wasn’t here at the time — (laughter) — to provide relief for Corinthian student-loan borrowers.
In response, the Department of Education made some Corinthian students eligible for debt relief, but only those who applied. Until today. Thank you.
So, I am proud to announce, together with the leaders on this stage, that the Department of Education will cancel all remaining federal student loans for former Corinthian students.
So, to those that this directly impacts, what it means that — it means that if you attended Corinthian at any point in its existence, you will receive this relief automatically. You do not need to apply for it. All former students will soon receive notice that Corinthian College federal loans will be cancelled. And this will benefit more than half a million people who still have loans. And it will add up to almost $6 billion in debt relief for former students.
And, of course, we all know, that’s real money in the pockets of real people who have faced, over these years, significant debt, many of whom are still struggling to make ends meet as costs have gone up.
And I think we all know and have to acknowledge what these intervening years have meant for the folks that will now benefit from this announcement. What it has meant is that they kept getting notices that they owed money.
And let’s remember who we’re talking about in terms of who the — the folks were who applied to go to Corinthian College. We’re talking about people who are highly responsible, who decided they would save up some money to pay for an education to improve their life and the life of their family and contribute to their community.
Think about what kind of person does that. And then think about that person receiving what is probably a monthly bill saying, “You owe money,” and how that makes that person feel and the pressure they are then under because they are a responsible person who does care about contributing.
I say all of that to say that these intervening years have meant something that is not good for the folks we are talking about. I say that because, also, in terms of the significance of the passage of time, it is that, and also that for more than 20 years, Corinthian took advantage of people who only wanted a better life for themselves and their families.
In 2016, after we obtained the judgment against Corinthian, I said then that the least we could do was to give everyone Corinthian took advantage of the relief they deserve. I said then that we would do everything in our power to help them.
Finally — and sadly it has taken this long — finally, that promise is fulfilled. (Applause.)
So, in closing, I will say — where I started, I will say it again — thank you all. Thank you for all of you who helped us deliver justice. Thank you for all of you who could have — on the day that we got the judgment and got partial relief for the students — could have declared a victory and walked away onto the next thing, but you didn’t stop and you didn’t give up.
And because of your hard work and your dedication, we’re where we are today, also knowing that as a nation we still have a lot more work to do on these issues.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 1:52 P.M. EDT