When Corinthian Colleges announced that it would shutter all 28 of its U.S. campuses in 2015, many of the school's students were caught between two bad options: they could either transfer credits to another similar school (many of which were also under federal investigation) and continue to accrue debt as they pursue their degrees — or walk away, and lose the months or years they've already invested.
Latonya Suggs was one of the original Corinthian 15 debt strikers, a group of Corinthian students who fought for relief from their student debt, and currently an organizer with the Debt Collective. People like Suggs will be impacted by the Trump administration's freeze on student loan forgiveness. Here's her story.
My name is Latonya, and I am on a debt strike. Thanks to Corinthian Colleges (the parent company of my school, Everest College, and others) debt is controlling my life. I've decided to join a group called the Debt Collective, to demand that the Department of Education cancel our loans.
I enrolled in college because I had dreams for my family. I kept wondering: How can I succeed in life? How can I prepare for a career so I can better care for my young son? Those were the questions I asked when I looked in the mirror every morning. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, and they didn't know how to support me when it came to encouraging me to go to college.
But, I had been taught that education was the key to a better life. I thought getting a diploma would help me. I saw commercials on television for Everest College; they promised to provide me with what I needed to achieve my dream to work as a probation officer so I could help young people get their lives back on track. I enrolled in college, at the age of 26, with high hopes for my future.
Two years later, I eventually earned a degree in criminal justice through the Everest Orlando South campus. All of my classes were online. Looking back, I realize that I was not only robbed of my money, I was also robbed of the opportunity to attend a real school where I could meet other people and get a quality education.
Since I graduated three years ago, I have been living a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. My degree is worthless. The quality of my education was low; no one accepts my credits, and employers don't think my diploma has any value. I'm $30,000 in debt, and I wasted all those months that I can never get back.
I have been scammed, I have been manipulated, and I have been lied to, all for trying to follow my dreams. I have cried many nights wondering why this happened to me. Living in debt has made me rethink everything and has left me depressed and stressed.
Joining with others to fight for debt cancellation has given me a new purpose. I know there are risks involved in taking this step, but I am ready for the consequences. My credit is already poor, and my tax refund has been already garnished. There is not much left for creditors to take.
Education is the only way that many people can work toward a brighter future. Yet, education debt controls the lives of millions, especially low-income and working-class people like me. As an African American, I feel that it is especially important for me to take a stand against predatory lenders. They have preyed on our community too long. It's time to fight back.
Fighting for a better future means holding the government accountable. The Department of Education supported Corinthian's predatory scheme for years. Now that the last of the campuses have been forced to close in California, the school from which I graduated no longer exists. But, my loans have not been canceled yet.
I'm not asking the Department of Education to forgive Corinthian students' debts because we have done nothing wrong. Instead, the department and the fraudulent schools should be asking us for forgiveness. We demand that they discharge all our student loans for the wrongs that have been done to us.
This story was originally published on May 1, 2015.