Is Genesis just the beginning?

Banksy on the Thekla, photo credit Adrian Pingstone

Can the government make a for-profit school tear up its private student loan promissory notes?  We’re about to find out.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed suit this week against Corinthian Colleges for alleged misconduct relating to its private loan program, called Genesis.  While lawsuits against Corinthian, which operates Heald, Wyotech and Everest, abound, something about this particular suit caught my eye.

The CFPB is asking the court to “order the rescission of all Genesis loans”.  In plain English: the government is asking a federal court to cancel all of the notes on at least 170,000 private student loans, with a combined balance of $568.7 million.  As in, tear them up.  Poof.  Make them gone, as though they had never existed. Continue reading

Jury awards $13M to student decieved by for-profit college

When Jennifer Kerr enrolled in a medical training program at Vatterott College, recruiters told her that she would be qualified for $15/hour jobs as a medical assistant.  After taking our more that $27,00 in loans and taking classes for over a year, she learned that she was not even in the medical assistant program, and that she’d need to cough up another $10,000 and study for 30 more weeks to be qualified for the job she wanted.

The Kansas City Star reports that a Missouri jury found that the bait-and-switch amounted to a violation of the state’s Merchandising Practices Act, and awarded her actual damages for the amount of the loans.  Then, they awarded her $13M in punitive damages, exceeding what she had requested by $9M.  Apparently there’s some pretty deep anger lurking out there in the jury pool.

Could we see more state court cases like this one?  According to the National Center for Consumer Law, there are large gaps in state oversight of for-profit schools, but there are some signs that state regulators and courts are starting to take unfair and deceptive practices (known in consumer law parlance as UDAP) complaints more seriously.