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Biden administration cancels $3.9 billion in ITT Tech student debt

The announcement is the administration's latest effort to crack down on for-profit colleges, while millions of other borrowers await word on Biden's broader plans for student loans.
Students find the doors locked outside the ITT Technical Institute campus in Rancho Cordova, Calif., on Sept. 6, 2016.
Students find the doors locked outside the ITT Technical Institute campus in Rancho Cordova, Calif., on Sept. 6, 2016.Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Tuesday it will cancel the remaining federal student loan debt for borrowers who attended ITT Technical Institute after it found that the for-profit college misled students.

The move will automatically cancel $3.9 billion in loans for 208,000 students who attended ITT dating to 2005, the Education Department said in a statement.

“It is time for student borrowers to stop shouldering the burden from ITT’s years of lies and false promises,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “The evidence shows that for years, ITT’s leaders intentionally misled students about the quality of their programs in order to profit off federal student loan programs, with no regard for the hardship this would cause.”

The Education Department said the Biden administration has now canceled $32 billion in loans for students “whose institutions took advantage of them,” as well as for public service workers and disabled students.

ITT, which used to be one of the country’s largest operators of for-profit technical schools, shut down in 2016 after the Education Department banned it from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid.

The remaining debt is being canceled through a program called borrower defense, which allows student debt to be erased if a school misrepresents or lies about its educational degrees.

Through interviews with ITT managers, recruiters and borrowers, as well as reviews of internal records, recruitment materials and brochures, the Education Department determined that ITT “engaged in widespread and pervasive misrepresentations,” it said.

Among the misrepresentations, the Education Department said: ITT misled students about their ability to get jobs or transfer credits, and it lied about the accreditation of its nursing program.

“ITT defrauded hundreds of thousands of students,” said Richard Cordray, the Education Department’s chief operating officer for federal student aid. “By delivering the loan relief students deserve, we are giving them the opportunity to resume their educational journey without the unfair burden of student debt they are carrying from a dishonest institution.”

The Biden administration has stepped up executive action to protect students defrauded by for-profit colleges. In June, it canceled $5.8 billion for 560,000 borrowers who attended schools affiliated with Corinthian Colleges.

The Education Department said Tuesday it also notified the for-profit institution DeVry University this week that it owed the government $24 million to cover the cost of canceling the loans of students who went there.

Debt cancellation advocates have pressured President Joe Biden to take steps to address student debt more broadly for the more than 40 million borrowers in the U.S.

Biden has said he would decide whether to pursue mass cancellation by the end of August, when the latest payment pause for federal student loans is set to expire. He has previously indicated that he would be open to canceling $10,000 per borrower; progressives have been pushing for $50,000.