ON YOUR SIDE: Missouri, Arkansas attorneys general announce settlement in debt relief for ITT students
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (edited news release) - Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced an agreement to obtain debt relief for former ITT Tech students as part of a settlement with 47 attorneys general and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
ITT operated a campus in Springfield.
In Missouri, this settlement will result over $9.1 million in debt relief by cancelling loan principal, interest, and fees/charges for over 1,300 Missouri borrowers. Nationally, the settlement will result in debt relief of about $330 million for 35,000 borrowers who have outstanding principal balances.
The settlement is with PEAKS Trust, a private loan program run by the for-profit college and affiliated with Deutsche Bank entities. ITT filed bankruptcy in 2016 amid investigations by state attorneys general and following action by the U.S. Department of Education to restrict ITT’s access to federal student aid.
“Working with attorneys general across the country in a bipartisan fashion to obtain relief for consumers who have been harmed is an integral part of my job, and it’s something that we do on a daily basis,” said Attorney General Eric Schmitt. “This settlement will bring millions in debt relief for former ITT students in Missouri and across the country who were pressured and coerced to take high interest loans.”
PEAKS was formed after the 2008 financial crisis when private sources of lending available to for-profit colleges dried up. ITT developed a plan with PEAKS to offer students temporary credit to cover the gap in tuition between federal student aid and the full cost of the education.
ITT and PEAKS knew or should have known that the students would not be able to repay the temporary credit when it became due nine months later. Many students complained that they thought the temporary credit was like a federal loan and would not be due until six months after they graduated.
When the temporary credit became due, ITT pressured and coerced students into accepting loans from PEAKS, which for many students carried high interest rates, far above rates for federal loans. Pressure tactics used by ITT included pulling students out of class and threatening to expel them if they did not accept the loan terms. Many of the ITT students were from low-income backgrounds and were left with the choice of enrolling in the PEAKS loans or dropping out and losing any benefit of the credits they had earned, because ITT’s credits would not transfer to most schools.
The default rate on the PEAKS loans is projected to exceed 80%, due to both the high cost of the loans as well as the lack of success ITT graduates had getting jobs that earned enough to make repayment feasible. The defaulted loans continue to affect students' credit ratings and are usually not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Under the settlement, PEAKS has agreed that it will forgo collection of the outstanding loans and cease doing business. PEAKS will send notices to borrowers about the cancelled debt and ensure that automatic payments are cancelled. The settlement also requires the PEAKS to supply credit reporting agencies with information to update credit information for affected borrowers.
Students will need to do nothing to receive the debt relief. The notices will explain their rights under the settlement. Students may direct questions to PEAKS at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-747-0273, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at (855) 411-2372.
In June 2019, Attorney General Schmitt was part of a $168 million settlement that resulted in debt relief for 18,664 former ITT students, including $4.7 million in debt relief for roughly 600 Missourians. That agreement was with Student CU Connect CUSO, LLC, which also offered loans to finance students' tuition at ITT Tech.
ITT had operated campuses in Arnold, Earth City, Kansas City, and Springfield.
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