The Department of Education yesterday announced it was discharging $1.5 billion of student loans for all of the 79,000 individuals who attended Westwood College between 2002 and 2015, ruling that the school “engaged in widespread misrepresentations about the value of its credentials for attendees’ and graduates’ employment prospects.”
The student loans will be discharged regardless of whether individuals had applied for discharges under the borrower defense to repayment program.
Westwood stopped accepting new enrollments in 2015 and closed its doors in 2016.
The Department had previously canceled a small amount of student loans for Westwood students.
Westwood was accused of promising prospective students that they would find jobs in their field within six months of graduating from the school and that a degree from the school would make them “employable for the rest of” their lives, going as far as to guaranteeing it would help pay the bills of students who were unable to find a job within six months of graduating. In Illinois, for example, the school promised students enrolling in its criminal justice program that they could expect to find jobs with the Chicago Police Department or the Illinois State Police, but the school lacked the necessary accreditations to meet the employment requirements for either law enforcement agency.
“Westwood College’s exploitation of students and abuse of federal financial aid place it in the same circle of infamy occupied by Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute,” said Under Secretary James Kvaal in a statement. “Westwood operated on a culture of false promises, lies, and manipulation in order to profit off student debt that burdened borrowers long after Westwood closed. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue ramping up oversight and accountability to protect students and taxpayers from abuse and ensure that executives who commit such harm never work at institutions that receive federal financial aid again.”
The Education Department also announced it is planning “new actions to hold accountable institutions that have contributed to the student debt crisis including publishing lists of the worst actors.”