Durbin To Devos: Illinois Institute Of Art Students Deserve Full Loan Discharges After Accreditation Misrepresentation By Dream Center

Evidence Is Mounting That The Department Of Education May Have Inappropriately Assisted Dream Center

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Education announced it would cancel loans taken out between January 20, 2018, and December 31, 2018, for students who attended Dream Center Education Holding’s (DCEH) Illinois Institute of Art and Colorado Art Institute.

“Today’s loan cancellation will only relieve harmed Illinois Institute of Art students of part of the debt they incurred at these worthless institutions.  I renew my call to Secretary DeVos to extend closed school discharge eligibility back to January 20, 2018, for these campuses.  As far as the impact on students, these schools effectively closed the date they lost accreditation—never to regain it,” Durbin said.

On January 20, 2018, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) withdrew accreditation from the Illinois Institute of Art and Art Institute of Colorado.  In June 2018, Durbin wrote to HLC following reports that DCEH misrepresented the accreditation of these schools by telling students that they remained accredited after January 20—leading many students to continue their studies or newly enroll at an unaccredited institution.  Last August, Durbin led a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging the Department to allow any Illinois Institute of Art and Colorado Art Institute student who attended or withdrew on or after the schools lost accreditation on January 20, 2018, to qualify for closed school discharge. 

Questions remain about the Department’s role in the accreditation misrepresentation.  In August 2018, Durbin, Warren, Blumenthal, and Brown wrote to Secretary DeVos about allegations that a Department of Education official contributed to DCEH’s accreditation misrepresentation and submitted follow-up Questions For The Record as part of the Senator Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on the FY20 Department of Education Budget.  House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) has since begun an investigation into the matter.

Last week, Durbin, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to Secretary DeVos calling for her immediate and full cooperation with Chairman Scott’s. DeVos failed to substantively respond to July 17 letter from Scott which revealed that DeVos and other Department officials may have misled Durbin and other Members of Congress about the matter.  Scott’s October 22 letter revealed that the Department may have made at least $10.7 million in improper federal taxpayer-funded payments to DCEH at a time when it was legally prohibited from participating in Title IV; and retroactively granted non-profit status to the Illinois Institute of Art and Art Institute of Colorado campuses to cover up these improper payments.