Durbin Statement On Department Of Education Settlement In Sweet v. Cardona

Durbin applauds settlement that discharges $6 billion in student loan debt and forgives loans of former Westwood College students

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Education reaching a settlement in Sweet v. Cardona, formerly Sweet v. DeVos, that will approve the borrower defense applications of roughly 200,000 students whose claims have been stalled, totaling $6 billion in relief: 

“Under the Trump Administration, former Secretary DeVos cruelly ignored the pleas of students defrauded by schools like Westwood College and left them to drown in student debt. Today, the Biden Administration and Secretary Cardona threw a $6 billion lifeline to these students.  I am pleased to see the Department is correcting their previous inaction, and I urge the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to swiftly approve this settlement.

“The Sweet v. Cardona settlement is an overdue prioritization of students. As bound by the terms of the settlement, I hope that the Department will move quickly to process the borrower defense claims left untouched and previously denied by the Trump Administration. It’s time we put students first.”

As agreed upon in the settlement, the Department will automatically cancel loans of 200,000 borrowers under the class-action lawsuit from more than 150 schools, including the fraudulent, for-profit Westwood College in Chicago and other for-profit colleges. This relief will also be extended to borrowers who received denials from the Department under former Secretary DeVos, and borrowers will receive refunds for any amount previously paid to the Department. The Department will process all remaining borrower defense applications under the lawsuit, roughly 64,000, within 6 to 30 months. The proposed settlement is awaiting final approval from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In June 2019, seven students sued the Department under Secretary DeVos for the agency’s refusal to process borrower defense claims. Broadening the case, the students asked to, and were allowed to, represent all borrowers whose claims had been stalled by the Department. After proposing a settlement agreement in 2020, the Department issued thousands of blanket denials of borrower defense claims on the baseless assertion that there was a “lack of evidence.” That fall, a judge rejected the proposed settlement.

Durbin has been a champion for holding predatory for-profit colleges accountable and providing relief for defrauded students. Earlier this month, Durbin sent a letter to Secretary Cardona urging him to issue widespread federal student loan debt relief to the approximately 3,600 Illinois students who were defrauded by Westwood College.