Mallory Heiney, a 21-year-old former student of the now-defunct Everest College, is part of a group of students refusing to pay back their student loans.
Heiney wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post in which she described the lies Everest allegedly told her as well as the insufficient education she says she received.
Heiney called Everest a “debt trap.” When she explained to her adviser that she couldn’t afford student-loan payments while in school, she was assured she could defer the payments on her $24,000 in student loans until post-graduation, according to her article.
That ended up being untrue, she said. Heiney said she was on the hook to start paying interest payments on her loans two months into her program.
The program also allegedly failed to provide her with a quality education. She said her teachers did little more than read aloud from textbooks, and she was unaware of basic concepts required to pass her nursing licensing exam. She said she was able to pass only by “spending hours researching the test questions online and watching YouTube videos.”
Heiney and 15 other students who attended the Corinthian College system have banded together to fight what they describe as predatory student-loan tactics by the financial aid offices and a failure to provide quality education.
The members of the group, referred to as the Corinthian 15, feel justified in their refusal to pay back their loans. They believe they are fighting for students everywhere who are manipulated by unfair university practices and are riddled with student loan debt as a result.
“In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus,” Heiney wrote in her article. “This soon led to the revolutionary Montgomery bus boycott. If those who came before us can take a stand in the face of persecution, harassment, beatings, imprisonment and even death, I will certainly stand in the face of wage garnishment and a tarnished credit report.”
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Prior to 2014, Corinthian Colleges Inc. was a network of more than 100 schools and one of the largest for-profit college companies in the US. But numerous investigations and lawsuits alleging wrongdoing against the company rapidly decreased its size. In July 2014, an agreement with the US Department of Education (DOE) forced Corinthian to sell 85 of its schools and close another 12.
After litigation was brought against the company and many of the colleges closed, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the DOE worked together to secure $480 million in debt relief to students of Corinthian.
“These consumers were lured into high-cost loans destined to default, and then targeted with aggressive debt collection tactics. We will be vigilant to ensure that consumers receive this important relief and that others are protected in the for-profit college industry,” Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, said in a statement.
But that relief aid covers only the private loan debt that students borrowed from the school. Any federal loan debt that students borrowed has not been waived.
The Corinthian 15 cite The Higher Education Act of 1965 in defense of their refusal to pay back the entirety of their student-loan debt, saying that students whose schools have closed are allowed to withdraw and have their loans discharged.
Heiney is angry at a system she believes lets Corinthian off the hook but punishes students who took out loans to get a quality education at colleges that no longer exist. “Corinthian Colleges had the option to threaten bankruptcy, sell its campuses and wash its hands of its financial problems,” she said. “But students are stuck with their debt.”
We reached out to Corinthian Colleges for comment on The Washington Post op-ed article and will update this post if we hear back.