ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL CALLS ON U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO GRANT RELIEF FOR DEFRAUDED ILLINOIS STUDENTS
Raoul Seeks Discharge of Federal Student Loans Held by Former Westwood Students
Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul urged the U.S. Department of Education to discharge federal student loans held by former students of Westwood College by approving the Westwood group discharge application submitted by the Attorney General’s office in 2016.
In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Raoul calls for the department to grant the group discharge application the Illinois Attorney General’s office filed seeking the discharge of federal student loans for Illinois students enrolled in Westwood’s criminal justice program. In 2015, the Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with Westwood over allegations the school systematically deceived those students about their ability to become police officers in Illinois. While the settlement discharged institutional loans for Westwood borrowers, it did not apply to federal student loans held by the department.
“Westwood misled students into participating in its criminal justice program by deceiving them about their odds of finding employment as police officers after their graduation,” Raoul said. “I urge the Department of Education to provide the just relief due to students who took out federal loans in good faith with expectation of being provided reasonable opportunity for careers in law enforcement.”
The group discharge application calls on the department to forgive these criminal justice students’ federal loans without requiring individual borrower defense applications. From 2016 forward, the Attorney General’s office has provided the department with extensive evidence of Westwood’s fraud to aid its analysis.
Earlier this year, the department released comprehensive findings related to Westwood concluding, in part, that the school deceived Illinois criminal justice students about their ability to become police officers after graduation. Despite agreeing with the allegations made in the Attorney General’s group discharge application, the department failed to grant widespread relief. The letter calls on the department to grant the relief its own factual findings demand: discharge of all federal loans for Westwood criminal justice students in Illinois.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office has long been a national leader in investigating and enforcing consumer protection violations in the higher education field. Since entering office, Attorney General Raoul has secured over $160 million in relief for Illinois borrowers who were deceived by their school, private lender or servicer. Earlier this year, Raoul’s office announced a $1.85 billion national settlement with Navient, formerly the nation’s second largest student loan servicer. Last year, Attorney General Raoul’s office initiated and worked to pass “Know Before You Owe,” to alert borrowers of their remaining federal student loan eligibility to help them steer clear of predatory private loans. Raoul has also overseen the rollout of the state’s first Student Loan Ombudsman, a position created by the Student Loan Servicing Rights Act, to provide resources for student borrowers who are struggling to make student loan payments.
Student borrowers who have questions or are in need of can call the Attorney General’s Student Loan Helpline at 1-800-455-2456. Borrowers can file complaints against their student loan servicer at the Illinois Attorney General’s website.