President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday announced that it is dedicating $72 million to support more than 2,300 student borrowers who applied for relief from loans to pay for degrees at Ashford University, a former for-profit online college in San Diego that was found to have cheated attendees.
The ex-students in question will be contacted by the Education Department next month to confirm that their applications have been approved.
The decision follows an Education Department review of evidence brought forward by the California Department of Justice after it won a lawsuit against Ashford and parent company Zovio last year.
“Defendants created a high-pressure admissions department whose north star was enrollment numbers,” a court said in its March 3, 2022, ruling.
The court also ordered Ashford and Zovio to pay $22.3 million in a civil penalty, which has been appealed.
“Based upon evidence presented in that lawsuit, which covered the period from March 1, 2009, through April 30, 2020, the [Education] Department concluded Ashford and Zovio made numerous substantial misrepresentations during that period that borrowers relied upon to their detriment,” the department said in a press release.
The $72 million in approved funding covers claims for students who enrolled during the 11-year period and applied for borrower defense with allegations supported by the review’s findings.
In a statement, Education Undersecretary James Kvaal said Ashford deployed “high-pressure and deceptive recruiting tactics” to attract students.
“Today we are protecting the students who were cheated by Ashford, and we will also hold the perpetrators accountable, protect taxpayers, and deter future wrongdoing,” he said.
Biden echoed Kvaal, saying his administration won’t allow colleges to prey on students.
Ashford and Zovio lied to students about the cost of attendance and what type of financial aid they would receive, among other things, according to the court finding and the Education Department review. Ashford and Zovio also compared their degrees to a traditional four-year ones, even though the college’s bachelor programs required five years to complete.
What’s more, only 25% of students graduated from Ashford within eight years of enrollment, the Education Department added.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta welcomed the administration’s decision. He called on students who were impacted but haven’t yet sought relief to do so “as soon as possible.”
Even though a Biden plan for student loan forgiveness was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this summer, the administration has greenlighted over $116 billion in student loan cancellations.
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