Durbin Statement On Department Of Education's Move To Approve $1.5 Billion Borrower Defense Group Discharge For Former Westwood College Students

The approved claims provide full student loan discharge for 79,000 borrowers

SPRINGFIELD – U.S Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement that the Department has approved $1.5 billion in full loan discharges for 79,000 borrowers regardless of whether the borrower submitted an individual borrower defense application. Of the 79,000 claims discharged, 12,650 belonged to Illinois student borrowers, amounting to $228.2 million in relief.

“After almost ten years of urging multiple Administrations to discharge these borrower defense claims, I am grateful that the Department of Education is finally relieving these students of the financial burden put on them by the predatory, for-profit Westwood College. With Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s continued advocacy, Illinois student borrowers are getting the relief they are entitled to after being conned into a fraudulent degree program.

“Today’s announcement was a victory for students, but we must do more to crack down on for-profit colleges that lie and lead Illinoisans into mountains of student debt without a viable degree or career path.”

In 2012, then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a suit against Westwood College for using deceptive marketing in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Westwood College deceived Illinois students about the costs and accreditation of its criminal justice program, misleading students into believing that the program was highly respected by employers and would ensure them a job in law enforcement. Upon graduation, students found that Illinois law enforcement agencies did not recognize their Westwood education, leaving them drowning in student debt with no job prospects.

Durbin, alongside then-AG Madigan and current AG Kwame Raoul, has been continuously advocating for discharging these student borrower defense claims since the Obama Administration. In 2016, Durbin urged then-Secretary of Education John King to discharge the debt of defrauded Illinois Westwood students based on the evidence found in Illinois AG Madigan’s suit. He repeatedly pressed former Secretary Betsy DeVos on the matter during the Trump Administration.

In his first letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Durbin called on him to promptly provide federal student loan debt relief to students defrauded by Westwood College, citing Illinois’ lawsuit and its conclusive evidence that the for-profit institution misled students. Durbin followed up on his request with a second letter earlier this summer.

In June, Durbin delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on the Department to forgive the outstanding federal student loans of borrowers who were enrolled in Westwood College’s fraudulent criminal justice program.