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Lowdown Call-Up #2: Student debt strike! Featuring Latonya Suggs and Ann Larson of Debt Collective

By Deanna Zandt - Tue., 5/5/15


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A college education is supposed to be a guaranteed foundation of the American Dream, but in the last two decades, we've seen this world turn into an educational and economic nightmare. Particularly insidious are the for-profit colleges--this Wall Street-owned educational sector routinely applies the full toolkit of corporate thievery: fraudulent advertising, high-pressure sales tactics, bait-and-switch scams, loan sharking, PR shams, legal dodges, political protection, and outright lying and cheating. Instead of spreading enlightenment and broadening life's possibilities, the for-profit industry has bilked and bankrupted hundreds of thousands of students.

Now, the Debt Collective is striking back--literally. Over a hundred students have joined the Corinthian College strike, turning "civil disobedience into economic disobedience."

Listen to Hightower as he chats with Debt Collective organizer Ann Larson and Corinthian 100 striker Latonya Suggs to learn what YOU can do to support the strikers, and help push America towards universal free college education for all.

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Jim: All right, welcome everybody. Hello to everyone. I'm Jim Hightower, writer and the chief word wrangler of the monthly muck wrecking populous newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown. I thank you for joining us in our occasional Lowdown Call Up. There's going to be roughly 30 minutes or so, depending on how we're doing. A casual but pointed conversation. For those of you who called up to listen in and ask questions, you can ask questions now and throughout our conversation. You can send them by e-mail, editors@hightowerlowdown.org. Or send them via the magic of Twitter, tweet us. Tweet your questions with #DebtStrikeLowdown. And be sure to follow us any time and all the time at @HightowerNews.

Our topic today comes from the April issue of the Lowdown--all about for-profit colleges ripping off America. Not just students, not just taxpayers, but America itself. The future of America, which as we're constantly told, is education, having an educated citizenry. For-profit corporate colleges have intervened into this equation, and ripping off students, tax payers and America.

It's a growing grassroots rebellion however, to fight that, that we want to talk about today. There's a New York Times article just yesterday with this headline: For Profit Colleges face a loan strike by thousands claiming trickery. Trickery, what's all this about? Well it starts with a $1.3 trillion student debt in America, that's literally shaking our whole economy.

But more importantly it's stifling a whole generation of younger Americans. What's involved here really is a scam, a mass fraud. Wall Street-owned, for-profit colleges are perpetrating this scam, this fraud on the American people. Let me just give you a few names here. Apollo group. 98% owned by Wall Street firms. ITT Educational Services is 100% owned by Wall Street firms. Career Education Group, 71% Wall Street. Bridgepoint, 91% Wall Street. Kaplan, 79% Wall Street. DeVry, 100% Wall Street. Streyer, 94% Wall Street. These are the owners of really, the McDonaldization of education, higher education in our country. The move of corporate power, of for profiteering colleges into education. Now education after all is not really about profit, but for profit colleges are all about profit, and really nothing more than that. Short changing students with a crippling debt, offering, providing useless degrees or no degrees at all in many cases. Ripping off tax payers big time.

Just a few little statistics here, 90% of the revenue coming into these corporate colleges comes from us taxpayers. 88% of the people who graduate, graduate in debt averaging $40,000 a person. 47% of a debt defaults come from these corporate universities. 72%, now this is an interesting thing. 72% of the graduates from these colleges get jobs that pay less than high school dropouts are paid. So we've got worthless degrees, taxpayer ripoff and student ripoff. The good news here is the students themselves who are battling back against this.

We've got good news here including one of the student rebel who said "without dissonance there will be no change." And that is exactly right. It takes rebels to have justice and fairness and real equal opportunity for all people in our society. Takes people who are willing to stand up. We've got a couple of those people with us right now to guide us through this, a couple of people who are very involved in this, one is Ann Larson, she is with the debt collective organization that really sprang out of Occupy Wall Street first and then led to the Jubilee, the Rolling Jubilee, and then led to the Debt Collective, which has also spawned off now, a second group, that is the Corinthian, began as the Corinthian 15.

Corinthian is one of these university chains that--by the way I looked up Corinthian and among other things, it means ornate, luxurious, luscentious, conscientious, unrestricted by law and morality, and that pretty well describes Corinthian and we have a former student at Corinthian, Latonya Suggs, and Latonya went to Everest College, one of the schools that was part of the Corinthian chain, and let me just begin with you if I might, tell us--you're an organizer with the debt collective, how did that come about?

Ann: Hi. First of all I wanted to thank Hightower and the staff for having us, it's a pleasure to be here, thank you for having us on today. So the Debt Collective is a group of activists, researchers, writers and organizers who believe that debt is a form of leverage, that people that have debt can join together - across political lines, across regional lines, and form alliances and fight back against the creditor class. We believe that debt, although burdensome for the individual, together collectively it can give us a kind of power, a kind of collective power. We know that over the last few years, wages have stagnated, people aren't earning enough money to pay their bills, and access to cheap credit has masked some of the economic problems that families are facing.

What we have now, especially after 2008, is a lot of people deeply in debt, 75% of Americans are in some kind of debt and 40 million Americans have student debt. And many of those student debtors are already in default, already struggling to make payments. So the Debt Collective is an organization that says: what if people who had similar kinds of debt or who were in similar kinds of situations, like the Corinthian students who may not have ever met each other, they live on different sides of the country, but they have the same creditor, they went to the same school, they owe the same lender, can get together, form alliances, and fight back? The Debt Collective is developing a platform to allow people to do that, and this Corinthian campaign is sort of our first pilot project we're trying to demonstrate this concept and more importantly in the short term, get some relief for these students who have been scammed and defrauded.

Jim: You mentioned that Corinthian had earlier began the Corinthian 15, now there are thousands of people involved in this debt rebellion involving student debt. aAd by the way I mentioned earlier when I was talking about young Americans, it's often middle aged Americans, and older Americans who are suffering from this debt. Some of them having debt for 20, 30 years back when they were in school. So this has been an ongoing problem, but now we've got the park of 15 people who dared to stand up, and now hundreds of others joining them. One of those that stood up was Latonya Suggs, Latonya welcome, glad you're with us.

Latonya: Thank you, thank you so much for having me.

Jim: And where are you now? You're in Ohio, is that right?

Latonya: Yes.

Jim: Okay. And you went to school at Everest, which is a Corinthian college. They're in Ohio?

Latonya: No, it's universities online, and the campus is in Orlando, South Florida.

Jim: Okay. They got them all over I know, and so that's very interesting. How did--okay so you went in--what were you trying to do? Did you want to study?

Latonya: I studied criminal justice and wanted to be a probation officer. I wanted to go back to college to get a Bachelor's, but right now only have an Associate's degree.

Jim: Right. Well they--how did you choose this, or did they choose you? What induced you or who induced you to sign up with Everest?

Latonya: So, you could say it was a commercial and admission process. The things that they were offering sounded wonderful at the time. They said they had full accreditation, that I was able to go back to college after I graduated. They said that they would help me with job placement, make sure I found a job after I graduated, and that I'd have a good quality education and the skills that I needed to perform well in my career, which was all lies.

Jim: Did you have any idea how much debt that you we're gonna be racking up?

Latonya: No, when I rolled with financial aid, I was told that I would have $15,000 in grant money, and that I would only have to pay 15,000 dollars back, but now, I clearly owe $40,000 in student loans.

Jim: So 15,000 became 40,000, that's quite a load for someone just coming out of college. So then you signed up to take on this outfit. Tell me a little bit about Corinthian. By the way, a friend of ours, David Halperin, has written a book, and many articles and is a long time advocate for reigning in these for-profit scams refers to the schools as immoral enterprises, and he sent us a question, which I will just pose to you, Latonya, which is, "How is it that Corinthian hooks you into this?

Latonya: Well they use aggressive tactics, they do a lot of high pressure calling. Everything with me when I wrote, happened all in one day, well not actually all in one day. I called one day to get information, and the next day I was a college student, so it was pretty high pressure.

Jim: We've got a caller who came in, Mahala, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, and said her daughter went to the Art Institute of California. You've seen these schools around, you know there are a number of these formally vocational schools, Art Institute, the Cortdom Blurve, cooking schools, etc. You would think these are reputable places, but they turn out to be owned by these conglomerates as well, and Mahala says her tuition was over $120,000 by the time she graduated, and then that compounds to over $160,000. They've been paying right at $1,500 a month to try to deal with this, so this burden is no small thing, it's not just a little loan as I said earlier, the average debt coming out of these private for-profit collages, is $40,000 and in many many cases, way more than that. Let me go back to Anne for a second, you know many people would say, "Well you owe the debt, this is a debt, you took it on and you should know better," what do you say to them?

Anne: I would say this is illegitimate debt. This is debt that students found themselves in after they were defrauded and scammed and lied to.

I just want to touch on one point that Latonya raised about the aggressive marketing tactics that Corinthian used. The California attorney general investigated Corinthian, and one of the things they found, they found some internal documents where Corinthian laid out it's marketing strategy. One of the things the corporate executive said was that their target market was quote "Impatient, isolated individuals who can't plan well for the future and don't have anyone in their lives that care about them." So the target market for these scam predatory for-profit colleges is low-income students, single parents, a lot of students of color, people whose parents didn't go to college, they don't know necessarily how the college admissions process is supposed to work.

I'm sure Latonya could describe what the television commercials are like, that she saw in Ohio before she enrolled, that talk to students who are very paternalistic and talk to students in a way that makes them seem like if you don't enroll in Everest, if you don't enroll in our program, then something's wrong with you, so these are very aggressive marketing tactics designed to make people feel bad about themselves, to manipulate their emotions and get them to enroll, and most students, the vast majority signed loan papers, and then the college continued to take out loans in their name without the student's knowledge and student's in almost every case ended up owing far more than they realized.

Jim: If it's a debt based on fraud, it's not a debt that you owe. It seems to be a pretty clear principle to me. And that would be a principle by the way that would apply to other transactions. For example, stock fraud. You go to jail if you lie to a client about the value of a stock. Consumer fraud from bait and switch to the lemon laws would apply as well. You have action but here's just a student loan of huge amounts really wrecking people's lives.

And by the way, causing our whole economy to be on the brink of teetering. $1.3 trillion is owed in student debt. That is right at the debt that led to the 2007 and 08 crash of our economy by Wall Street, based on the low income mortgage scams that they were running. So this is a similar situation that you don't even have to be a student to be concerned about this or to see the unfairness of it. Which, Latonya, would you mind giving us an example of those TV ads? I've seen a couple of them myself.

Latonya: Well one guy goes on there and he's standing at the park and ride and he's like pick up the phone now. You're not doing anything, you're not doing nothing else. You're just sitting on the couch all day anyway talking on the phone. You might as well join Everest University online. We'll make sure you get a job and this, and this, and this and that. I mean, like he had said, it really did make me feel that it if I did not enroll in Everest that, like my career would never start.

So when I did call, that was basically what they did. They like pressured me so much into saying, hey this is what you need. We are the best college for you. We'll make sure you get a job because these employers, they're looking at the quality of our students and our degrees and I mean everything sounds so perfect at the time and it was just all lies.

Jim: Well and they use celebrities also to tap the virtue of these corporate colleges. Suze Orman, the self promoting financial expert that you see here on public TV all the time and elsewhere. She's been on the payroll of University of Phoenix, one of the giant chains. Steve Harvey, the TV host and comedian has been hyping Strayer University. Al Sharpton, the MSNBC host, has done what amounts to an infomercial for these private colleges.

And then of course there's Mitt Romney who in 2012 when he was running for president, really got behind a University called Full Sail. You get Full Sail, you think sail away and that's pretty much what they're involved in. They take your money and then they sail away. But he promoted this college when he was running for president, commending them for holding down the cost of their education. Well as David Halperin exposed in his book, actually no, they don't hold down the cost. They are the third most expensive college in America.Not the third most expensive private, corporate college, for profit college, but the third most expensive college in America. And the executives behind Full Sail had funneled more than half a million dollars into Romney's campaign coffers.

So there you have a little bit of how they exist, how they are able to stay afloat. Let's go to some more questions here. Here's Maria who says that she has just had a very harsh experience with a student loan. One note is anyone out there who would take up my college and get this albatross from around my neck? We're struggling, about to lose our home. And yet another collection agency has bought my paper. Now she points out that she borrowed $7500 dollars. She has since paid back $11,000 dollars. But she couldn't always make the payments and so that added more fees and debt onto her account and then her account changes hands.

That's the other thing that they don't tell you is that by the way, your loan might be with one corporation for awhile then it might be moved to another debt collection agency and then to another one. And she says that now she still owes over $14,000 dollars. Each time the debt changes hands, another two to $3,000 in fees are added to it. Ann, what about that? We're getting a lot of calls to people saying we're just, we're drowning out here. What can we do?

Ann: Well, it's absolutely true that student debt is one of the worst debts that we have. There is no way out. You cannot declare bankruptcy in most, in the vast majority of cases. In some cases if you do pass away, your heirs can be responsible. If your'e old enough, they can garnish your social security check. They can garnish your wages. They can take your tax returns. They can put a lien on your house and your car. There's almost nothing they can't do to collect from you.

Now, the Department of Education is supposed to protect students from these predatory institutions and regulate higher education. They're the regulator who is responsible for this debacle that happened with Corinthian. And so, The Department of Education right now is an issuer of loans. I think it's important that we understand its role here. Because we believe that the Department of Education is actually the target that we should be focusing on. Corinthian declared bankruptcy yesterday and so it's less and less of a factor.

But The Department of Ed, they're the regulator here who let this scam continue for two decades and they also issued the loans that Latonya and other students have. So what's happening is the department issues loans to students who attend scam colleges. And then when those students are scammed and can't pay back their loans, the Department of Education sends collectors after them to employ these brutal tactics to get the money. So it's incredibly...go ahead?

Jim: Then they also write the rules.

Ann: Then the write the rules, right.

Jim: The Department of Education writes the rules, loans the money, and then collects the money. So they have a direct financial interest in keeping the students on hook for this debt even if the college has committed fraud against them.

Ann: That's right. So one point I just want to make is the person who asked the question asked what can we do for other student debtors, not just Corinthian students. And we believe that by getting some debt relief for Corinthian students and by forcing the Department of Education to issue a massive cancellation in this case, that sets the stage for future victory for other students. We need to show that the Department of Education can cancel debt. It has the legal authority to do that. We need them to do it in this case and then that opens the doors for other students to make similar claims.

Jim: Tell folks how they can get ahold of the Debt Collective.

Ann: You can visit our website, debtcollective.org. And next you can sign up there. Right now we're also, for non Corinthian students in particular, we're also getting ready to launch a solidarity strike. So students who want to be in solidarity with the Corinthian strikers who maybe are having trouble paying their own student loans, can also visit that page at debtcollective.org/solidarity. I think it's really important that we, this is an issue in for profit colleges. And as you have described, Hightower, they are particularly horrible and particularly bad actors. But higher education as a whole, a lot of students are in a lot of debt that they can't pay back. And so we want to start making those connections. And if people are interesting in helping us out, they can sign up in solidarity at debtcollective.org/solidarity.

Jim: So you can tell your story there. You can sign up and join a movement of people like you, if you're in this situation. You can take collective action, actually do something about this, and you can also financially support them. You wouldn't refuse a dollar bill coming in would you?

Ann: No, debtcollective.org has a donate button. You can donate to the strike fund. And we use that money to bring striking students to Washington DC to meet with the representatives there and to other events around the country.

Jim: Who is, let me just ask, who is the governing body of the Debt Collective?

Ann: We don't really have governing body. We're a group of activists, organizers, researchers, writers. Some of us came from Occupy Wall street but now all and we just sort of came together around this issue. Many of us worked on the Rolling Jubilee campaign which you mentioned so we were able to cancel some of the debt owed by Everest students. And we saw an opportunity there to organize with the students, to actually meet them, to join forces with them, and to help them design and roll out a campaign to get the full debt cancellation for their federal loans. And that's what we've been doing of the last nine months.

Jim: And that's a big change because I know that out of Occupy came the rolling Jubilee which was an effort to get folks to donate money that you would then use to buy debt, buy some of this student debt and cancel it. And that's been very successful, what, some 30 million dollars or something like that I think has been done with that. But that's just a first step, right?

Ann: Yeah, the Rolling Jubilee was in a way, was a public education campaign. It was a way to let people know, hey your debt is being bought and sold on secondary markets. It can be written off, just not to you. Creditors are buying and selling your debt and we wanted to demonstrate that and to demonstrate that these debts are being sold for pennies on the dollar. And so we did that. A lot of people donated in small amounts and we were able to cancel several million dollars in medical debt and also some student debt that was held by Corinthian students.

But we knew that we had to get past the donate button and that donating and the purely kind of online media campaign was just a beginning. And we wanted to form the Debt Collective to give people in debt a platform for advocacy, for organizing, for resistance against creditors. And so that's what we're starting to do now with the Corinthian campaign. We're going to get a victory here for these students and then we're going to move on to the next campaign and keep building pressure, keep building the collective power of betters.

Jim: Growing, grass-roots, little-D, Democratic movement, that's what we're dealing with here, and that is what America really is all about. We've got another question came in: Corinthian took in over a billion dollars per year in federal student loan money, where did that money go? Who got rich on the backs of these students and the taxpayers? Well, it'd begin with the CEO's of these corporate conglomerates; college conglomerates really. They are paid way above of what university presidents are paid or keen to college presidents are paid. They rake in tons of money but don't forget that Wall Street crowd as well.

In fact we've got another question here about vanguard, it says: Saw your chart on the Lowdown, about the wall street firms investing in these colleges, this includes vanguard. Vanguard has a reputation as a well-respected, investor-owned operation - not usually associated with this type of activity, enlighten me. Well, the enlightenment is that these colleges, corporate colleges, perform well on Wall Street, that's why Wall Street buys into them. And then they get their investors to put money into them, so even you know supposedly socially responsible investment outfits, are not always just super conscious. They are first about the returns that they're going to get for their investors and for themselves. They care second about those returns, they care third about those returns, and then on down the line somewhere comes the students, way down the line.

Indeed Vanguard owns--it's the owner of Apollo, it's the owner of ITT educational, and owner of Bridgepoint, owner of Kaplan, and owner of Devry, and owner of Strayer, so it is heavily invested in this. And the way to deal with the Vanguard, is to confront them. I mean they need to be called out. These colleges like Corinthian, or any of them, that are pulling off these scams, they're not going to be shamed because they can cover themselves in money and look prettier than they otherwise would be.

But Vanguard, it's supposed to have a socially responsible reputation, and I think the more we expose that, to our churches, to our unions, to our fellow workers, to family and friends, people in supermarkets and stop people in the street and tell them about Vanguard and what they're doing. That'll begin to change their attitude and whether they really want to be invested in something that the public is now discovering is a scam and a fraud on the American people. We had one from Lucia that called in and she's surprised to see Phoenix University on the list, are they not what they portray themselves to be?

Ann: The University of Phoenix is another for-profit school that, I mean our position is education should not be for profit. And that any for-profit school, it may be degrees of awfulness along the spectrum but education should not be for profit, I mean students like Latonya can talk about they want to go through their lives. They want a career, they're promised that, they thought they were making an investment in themselves. They could provide for their families, they could raise their children in a safe environment and model for the kids what they want their kids to do in the future like go to college, get a job, and those dreams and positions are taken advantage of. That's going to happen in almost any for-profit college - as you mentioned their first priority is profit, and that just should not be a priority of an educational institution.

Jim: Absolutely and the thought of making education free should be what we're focused on. When I went to college a century and a half ago, education essentially was free. I went to a state university here in Texas, paid $800 for everything, that's tuition, books, fees, living expenses, room and board, all of that was covered back then with $800. We essentially had free tuition in the state. Now, it's quite expensive to even go to a state school and yet we've been, we're telling our students constantly that a college degree is the new high school diploma. That now you've got to have a college degree just to make it, just to be in the game. You've got to have a college degree. And then they turn around and say and we're going to make that almost impossible for you to get and when you get it you won't have much because we're turning education over to for profit corporations. And I just can't stress that enough.

That this is what is wrong. Education is not a commodity for corporate profit to be bought and sold. It is an essential component of the common good in our country. The contract that we as citizens have with each other, that we're going to have an enlightened citizenry. And we do that by providing education from which everybody benefits and yet here we're turning that over to these private corporations. So, let's see.

Ann: It might be good for, Latonya maybe you could talk about what it would mean to have free education for you, I mean how would that change your life or what do you think about that proposal?

Latonya: I really think that would be a really good idea. Not only for me, but for future generations as well because I feel like we walk into a college with hopes and dreams but come out within the nightmare, because we're basically forced into a debt trap. And if education would free, there would be a lot, I mean the world would be a better place.

They'll be better jobs. People will be able to take care of their families and welfare, I mean, because a lot of things that revolve around free education and like you said, they're trying to profit off the students by charging the fees high, high, high, amount of tuition and it's not doing anything but ruining our lives.

Jim: So they're feeding you to the wolves of Wall Street to start with.

Latonya: Yes.

Jim: And by the way when we say education, I want to stress one point, that that doesn't mean that you've got to have a four years bachelor's degree. It doesn't mean you need a PhD. You don't need a PhD to do the j-o-b in most of what we do in America. But it also includes trades schools and by the way that's how the, a number of these colleges really started. They were small, independent local trade schools. You know everything from bookkeeping to barbering and served a very legitimate purpose. But then when they got conglomerated and packaged up and became Wall Street entities, then the notion of service gave way to the first for profit, the questionable first for profit.

So bare that in mind too. We're talking about the ability to have the training that you need, and not, and training for everything from a good basic skill to a PhD in higher thoughts of philosophy, and et cetera. I mean we're all in this together and everybody contributes. Now we've got a question from Patricia who asks how do the community colleges fair against these for profit schools? Ann or Latonya, either one? Latonya have you been to a community college?

Latonya: No.

Jim: No, okay. But they're the fastest growing segment of the, of higher education in America today and they are substantially cheaper than these for profit schools. In fact I think I've got a number here. The tuition fees charged for a two year degree by this corporate college is about $35,000, four times more than the average community college for a worse education. Ann, do you have anything to add about the community colleges?

Ann: Yeah, I mean one of the reasons that explains the rise of the for profit industry is the under funding of public colleges including community colleges. We have a trend in the United States where we've basically stopped funding regular, traditional colleges and universities. Tuition is going up, state and federal funding is going down including community colleges. So many of these community colleges that were designed to serve their community and to offer a place to students like Latonya do not have enough funding to serve their community.

And so many students have told us that they tried to get into their community college and they were told there was no room. They were going to put them on a wait list and they would let them know when they could, when they would have room for them or they could enroll. Or even if they were enrolled, they couldn't get the classes they needed to graduate. But they are simply too full and they don't have enough money to properly serve the community. So what that means is for profit colleges can take advantage of that environment and they can swoop in and set up online schools, and set up even the physical locations that are location around the country.

Corinthian had more than 100 campuses around the country in places that weren't well served by traditional public higher education. And as Latonya mentioned, you make a phone call and they high pressure you and enroll you the next day. Whereas as we know to enroll in a traditional college, it takes a bit of time. There's an enrollment process. And you talk to an adviser or counselor. They help you choose classes. And going to a for profit college is much quicker and they make a lot of big promises and they get you in quickly so they can start drawing money from your account. And we need to think about the rise of for profit colleges in the context of a general lack of funding for traditional higher education in the US right now.

Jim: And I reiterate that they're drawing that money from the student's account, which comes from taxpayers. So this is a for-profit entity that is wholly underwritten by government dollars. We're getting toward the end of our time now, Ann and Latonya, but Ann let me ask you, you were scheduled to have a meeting with Arne Duncan, who is the secretary of education in Washington, Barack Obama's choice to lead the federal effort in education and you were trying to talk to them I know about the treating the indebted students as a class in trying to resolve the debt that they hold, trying to forgive the debt that they hold, what happened to that meeting?

Anne: So Latonya and I and other students and organizers met in DC yesterday with secretary Duncan and his staff about our demand that our department can't cancel this debt held by Corinthian students. We expect and we demand that they will do a broad, class-wide discharge. And we began to hear reports from the media and from other sources that the department intended to unveil an individualized review process where each student, students like Latonya would have to individually prove injury, so they might even have to hire lawyers, they'd have to file paperwork, and they'd have to wait for who knows how long for each individual case to be adjudicated by the department, and we believe that this is simply unacceptable.

That the widespread fraud perpetuated by Corinthian is widely known, they've been sued multiple times by state and federal sources, nine state attorney generals have come out in support of students' demand for cancellation of these loan so we just don't think students should have to re-prove their injury on an individual basis so we cancelled the meeting until the secretary and and his staff can confirm that policy is not on the table. But maybe since Latonya's here, maybe we could just talk a little bit about what, about why we believe, as the debt collecting, students believe that individual process is not sufficient.

Jim: Go ahead Latonya.

Latonya: It's definitely not sufficient because, like you said, a lot of people can't afford lawyers and, I mean I can't afford a lawyer, and it's kind of hard to dig up dirt on the schools you did prior to because they try to save their butts like they always do. I mean I can't even get an enrollment agreement for my school. I've requested for it a thousand times and they still haven't sent it, so it's like how can I prove that these people defrauded me, you know what I mean? Without the significant evidence.

Now, as far as all the territory lending, and them being sued, that's clearly on the table. There are thousands of people that don't have jobs, some who have thousands of dollars of debt and still don't have a diploma. I mean come on. If they can take it back and listen to calls and the things that they say about accreditation and job placement, those were all lies. And it's not just me, there are thousands of people who are in the same predicament that I am in. Why does it have to be an individual process? We all stick together.

Jim: Good. That's the way we have to do it because this is a shameful failure on the part of the Obama administration and I'll put it that way because it's not just the secretary of education, he's not doing this on his own, this is a policy that's approved at the White House. And again, what we've got here, is the conflict of the department of education being both a lender and a collector of those loans. And if Corinthian had shut down its doors, then the department would have to pay about 1.2 billion dollars to wipe out all of the debt the students had, so they had a self interest in keeping the students hooked to Corinthian even though the Corinthian colleges themselves were mostly transferred to other companies. Corporate, put right down in the beast there.

Latonya: You're right about that, you're right about that because I graduated last year in 2014 in October, my school transferred over to Zeth. If I would've stayed in college for four more months, I could've had the chance to have a full discharge. These people, the department of education did not help me, they did not send a signal, they did not let me know anything, I didn't know nothing, I was just like okay, my school's closing, it is what it is. They rushed everything. So they basically forced me into this situation.

Jim: So, this is a point of pressure right here, then is the Department of Education. We can be mad at the colleges, and they are the cause of it, but it's also enhanced and made effective by our own Department of education. So, the question is, and we'll close with this one, have both of you respond to it: how can regular people, just folks who are tuning in on this call or folks who might read about it in The New York Times or the Hightower Lowdown or wherever or people who find themselves in this predicament -- how can regular people help to put pressure on the Department of Education and the Obama administration?

Latonya: You could tweet: ""Join DebtCollective.org."" Sign up. We have a solidarity strike coming up. You can join that, sign up for that. And basically, just show support, talk about it, bring awareness because we're more powerful in numbers, and in order for this to stop, we must stick together.

Jim: We've got a number of organizations that are behind the students on this,: some of the unions, SEIU for example; Demos, a great advocacy group for democracy and for ordinary people. We've got a number of U.S. Senators led by Elizabeth Warren, and I think Bernie Sanders is a part of that, too, and others who are trying to put pressure on the administration. So, it's another thing you can do, is get a hold of your Congress critter by the short hairs, if you can, and ask them to intervene, to stand for students instead of these corporate higher education ripoff artists. Stand up for students and for taxpayers! It's real bizarre that congresspeople who are so concerned about spending federal dollars is allowing billions and billions of our dollars each year to flow into these corrupt entities. So, again, the website, if you could give us that, Ann?

Ann: So, our website is DebtCollective.org. You can read particularly about the student strike at DebtCollective.org/studentstrike, and you can sign our solidarity letter at DebtCollective.org/solidarity. And I would just add to everything Hightower said about pressuring your congressional representatives, that's important, and also State Attorneys General. In nine states, we've got a statement that's already been issued, supporting students and asking the DOE, the Department of Ed., to cancel their debt but we could use other State Attorneys General, you know, issuing statements in support. So, the states that have already supported are Oregon, Washington, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Mexico -- all on the record supporting students demand for debt cancellation. Since you live in another state, we could really use your help contacting your state AG and asking them to support students in this fight.

Jim: Well, Ann and Latonya, thank you, and on my behalf, at least, and the HIghtower Lowdown, thank all of the students who are standing up and all of the advocates for this. This is a very, very important, kind of a landmark battle here against corporate enthronement in our country, the idea that they can get away with this and that our government would collude with them to make billions of dollars by ripping off students and taxpayers alike is really scandalous. So, we appreciate your taking time to be with us today, and your great insights. Also, most importantly, thank you for standing up. As one student put it, ""Without dissonance, there will be no change,"" so we have to be the change. Thank you very much.

Latonya: Thanks, Hightower.

Ann: Thank you.

Jim: All right, bye-bye.

Latonya: Bye-bye.

Ann: Bye.


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