Category Archives: Education

Feds Order Student Lender, Debt Collector To Refund More Than $19M To Borrowers

Two months after private student loan lender National Collegiate Student Loan Trust came under scrutiny amid reports that the company, along with its debt collector TransWorld, filed illegal student loan debt collection lawsuits against defaulted borrowers without citing proper or correct paperwork, federal regulators have ordered the companies to pay $21.6 million in refunds and penalties, and revise their collection practices.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced today that National Collegiate Trusts must pay at least $19.1 million in refunds and penalties to borrowers, while TransWorld must pay a $2.5 million penalty for taking part in illegal student loan debt collection lawsuits, and allegedly having otherwise-shoddy record-keeping. National Collegiate, which hired TransWorld to collect the student loans on its behalf, currently holds more than 800,000 student loans worth about $12 billion. Related: $5 Billion In Private Student Loans Could Be Wiped Away Because Of Shoddy Record Keeping According to the CFPB complaint [PDF], the companies violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act by filing thousands of false affidavits and pursuing thousands of collection lawsuits they could not have won, if contested.

Improper Lawsuits

When a borrower defaulted on one of National Collegiate’s loans, TransWorld would file a lawsuit against the debtor seeking to require the borrower repay the debt. In order to sue to collect debts, however, the person or company filing suit must be able to prove that the consumer owed the debt and that the company owns the loan being collected. However, in the case of National Collegiate Trust and TransWorld, the CFPB alleges that the companies filed 1,214 lawsuits against borrowers even though documentation needed to prove debtors actually owed the loans was missing. In many cases, the missing paperwork was likely the result of the way in which loans are issued and then sold. In National Collegiate Trust’s case, the company holds loans that were made years ago by a plethora of banks, then bundled together and sold to investors. Over time, records on these loans can disappear, which appears to be the case for many of these lawsuits. For instance, the CFPB claims that in at least 812 collection lawsuits, there was no documentation that the loans were actually transferred to National Collegiate Trusts. In another 208 lawsuits, the promissory note to prove that a debt was owed did not exist or could not be located. According to the CFPB, National Collegiate Trusts and TransWorld also filed at least 486 lawsuits after the applicable statute of limitations on the debt collection had expired. As a result of these allegedly illegal lawsuits, borrowers paid more than $21.8 million in judgments. This despite the fact that in many instances judges have ruled in the borrower’s favor, wiping away their debt, because National Collegiate couldn’t prove it owns the student loans.

Affidavit Issues

The CFPB claims that from Nov. 1, 2012 to April 25, 2016, 94,046 lawsuits were filed on behalf of National Collegiate Trusts citing allegedly falsified affidavits and documents supporting the company’s right to collect debts. The notarized affidavits purported to show that employees had personal knowledge of the student loans. However, in many cases, the CFPB claims this wasn’t actually the case. While many individuals swore that they reviewed the chain of title records regarding the debts, in reality, the CFPB contends that these people were simply told to look at a screen to verify the information. They did not have knowledge of where this data came from, the CFPB claims. Related: Student Loan Company With Allegedly Shoddy Recordkeeping Under Investigation In some cases, the Bureau claims that when affidavits piled up, interns and mailroom clerks were instructed to sign the documents. According to the CFPB, when employees raised concerns about signing the affidavits, they were told to continue signing the documents. Many continued this practice as they felt bullied by management or feared losing their jobs. Of the affidavits signed between Nov. 1, 2012 and Aug. 3, 2014, the Bureau claims 11,412 documents were improperly notarized.

Getting Resolution

Under the CFPB’s proposed judgment [PDF] resolving the case, National Collegiate Trusts must conduct a thorough audit of the more than 800,000 student loans in its portfolio. If the audit identifies any additional student loans for which the Trusts lack the documentation needed to prove the consumer owed the debt, the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts will cease all collections on those loans. National Collegiate Trusts must pay at least $3.5 million in restitution to more than 2,000 borrowers who made payments after being sued by the trusts on a loan where documentation was missing or the statute of limitations had expired. The company must also provide refunds to any customers who are identified through the upcoming independent audit. National Collegiate and TransWorld [PDF] must also revamp their collection practices, ceasing the filing of collection lawsuits for debt that is no longer owed or for which they do not have proper documentation. Additionally, the company must pay $7.8 million to the U.S. Treasury and a $7.8 million penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund. As for TransWorld, the collection agency must pay $2.5 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

Teachers oppose PED’s proposed changes to how students learn science

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s new Secretary of Education is proposing changing the way kids learn science. The teachers union says the Public Education Department is promoting junk science. The education secretary says the new STEM ready standards will get students ready for the 21st century economy. “The STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These standards get them ready for the 21st century the way our standards in the past decades just haven’t done,” said Christopher Ruszkowski. Ruszkowski said the Next Generation Science Standards focuses more on getting students ready for the modern workforce, like lessons in robotics. Twenty-six states have passed similar standards. Critics are claiming Ruszkowski changed the model used by other states. “These standards that PED is proposing is taking that out and they’re saying fluctuations in the climate. It’s politically motivated, it’s not motivated by what’s best in the field,” said Stephanie Ly, the President of the New Mexico Teachers Union. She claims PED is moving education in the wrong direction. “It’s not debating whether students should learn all the different sides of the story, they really should, but the fact is that there’s a truth and there’s junk science,” she said. KRQE News 13 asked the secretary if he was taking out teaching evolution and climate change in schools. “There’s been science standards in New Mexico now for over a decade and our teachers have always had the access to adapt to their local needs and their local context,” he said. Last spring, the governor vetoed a bi-partisan bill that would have implemented the new science standards. Instead, the new secretary made changes to those standards. He now wants to by-pass the legislature and implement the system on his own. Secretary Ruszkowski said the door is still open for changes. Public comment will be held on October 16.
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Amy Biehl students want more done to fight homelessness

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Students at Amy Biehl High School are proud of their school, but say it does come with its problems. “I see a lot of needles everywhere downtown, you see homeless asking people for money and sometimes you’ll see drug deals going on,” said Santiago Carrillo, a senior at Amy Beihl. “I have seen people like sleeping on the sidewalks or the needles all around or even people coming to talk to me just because they needed someone to talk to,” said Courtney Graber, a senior at Amy Beihl. Carrillo, Graber and Ulises Portillo, another senior KRQE News 13 spoke with, were all inspired to try and help solve the homelessness problem they see around their school every day. “Hopefully, get them a new job opportunity that they can be sustained, have their own housing and be an individual person,” said Portillo, when talking about his volunteer work at Saint Martin’s. Hoping to clean up around their school and solve the problem on a larger scale, Portillo, Carillo, and Amy Beihl Principal Frank McCulloch, had a meeting with Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton. “He would answer our questions but he wouldn’t speak about how we could do it,” said Carillo. Carillo and Portillo say they were disappointed after the meeting and were hoping for a clearer plan on how to fix the issue. “We were looking for more of like, how they can help us and we can help them, but that didn’t really happen,” said Carillo. “The meeting with the students and the principal I thought went really well. We met for a good long meeting. So, I was surprised when they were saying I’m not doing enough but I will just say what I have been doing,” said Isaac Benton. Benton cites his work of coordinating programs that help the homeless, his co-sponsorship of affordable housing in the city, and securing funding to start a pilot program for a shuttle that will take homeless people to services they need. “The overall problem is a large one and a very complicated one,” said Benton. Benton says he understands the students’ desire to solve this problem, but says there is no quick solution for this problem. He also says the problems going on around Amy Beihl are “not okay” and fixing them will take a joint effort between the city, the school and Albuquerque Police. The students say they plan to continue to work to make this problem better, and their principal is proud of that. “Partly, what’s so impressive about my students is that they’re so empathetic. They’re not concerned about just moving vagrants along getting them away from our school but they really are looking at the underlying issues,” said Frank McCulloch, Principal and Executive Director of Amy Biehl High School.
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ENMU sees record-high enrollment while UNM, NMSU see drops

PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) – Universities around the state have been seeing a drop in enrollment, and an even bigger drop was expected this semester with a reduction in lottery scholarship funds. However, one university is seeing exactly the opposite. Eastern New Mexico University is reaching new heights in its 82-year history. “We have the highest enrollment ever at Eastern New Mexico University — 6,027 (students),” said Jeff Elwell, ENMU President. Enrolling 13 more students than last year may not seem like much, but it’s a new record for the school. It comes at a time when the state’s other big schools are going backwards. Enrollment at both the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State are down almost 3 percent this year. That’s about 800 students at UNM, and about 400 at NMSU. ENMU officials say in their case, it’s a sign of progress. “It’s a good trend and even better is our freshman class is five students higher, which really plays out over the next four or six years for graduation rates,” President Elwell added. No one knows yet if the dwindling lottery scholarship is behind the enrollment drop at UNM and NMSU, but many students on campus at ENMU say the lower tuition is exactly why they chose the university. “I chose ENMU because tuition is cheap here because I’m in state and I get lottery,” explained freshman Dario Tiqui. “Tuition was definitely a big factor in deciding where I went,” said Dustin James Roberts, ENMU freshman. “I came here because it’s the cheapest within miles,” Kyleigh Bridges added. Besides more students staying — retention rates are also up. “We improved to 63 percent which is about a 3.5 percent improvement,” President Elwell said. ENMU’s tuition is about $6,000 a year, which compares to about $7,000 for NMSU and UNM.
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UC Berkeley Faculty Members Seek Boycott Of Classes During ‘Free Speech Week’

BERKELEY (CBS SF) — More than 170 University of California, Berkeley faculty members are calling for the boycott of classes later this month over concerns that an impromptu right-wing “Free Speech Week” will attract anti-immigrant activists and violence to campus. Faculty members have signed on to a letter advocating for cancellation of classes while the event is being held. Organized by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and conservative campus publication the Berkeley Patriot, speakers are expected to include Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter and Mike Cernovich. “As concerned faculty members, we cannot remain silent while students, staff, colleagues, and fellow community members are threatened,” the letter states. The letter’s authors also write, “We refuse to grant the Alt-Right the media spectacle that they so desperately desire.” Out of concern for their students’ well-being, faculty members say they will not hold classes on campus during the period of the Free Speech Week, scheduled for September 24-27. Dr. Charis Thompson, Chancellor’s Professor and Chair of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley told CBS San Francisco that she spoke with her students and they’ve unanimously agreed to hold class online during that time, instead of in the classroom. Professor Thompson said she wasn’t one of the original drafters of the letter but said she added a couple of points to it that she felt were important. She said more and more faculty members are signing onto the letter all the time. The letter, which urges faculty to cancel classes on campus, close buildings and not to penalize students who don’t come on to campus for a class. She said the letter has been circulated to most faculty members. As of Friday morning, there were over 170 signatories listed. Thompson said the letter was created by a wide coalition of faculty members and that it was written collectively by people who believe holding classes on campus would be unfair to students who choose not to attend because they fear for their safety. After speaking with members of the university administration, Thompson said she believes them to be understanding of the concerns outlined in the letter, but said “they feel their hands are tied” and aren’t trying to stop a gathering that is being dubbed a free speech event. Yiannapoulos previously described his vision for the event saying, “We are going to bring all the people that leftist campus censors hate the most. But we are also sending invitations to liberals, too. We want debates on stage, we want battles of ideas. We want to really have a live demonstration of the value of classical liberalism, of an open marketplace of ideas.” But Thompson described how the disciplines of African-American studies, ethnic studies and gender and women’s studies are especially targeted by those who don’t like their findings. She said these departments at the university closed early on Thursday due to an on-campus speaking event by conservative writer Ben Shapiro. “Our free speech is being severely curtailed at the moment,” Thompson said. “It’s been really, really difficult.” Thompson said some of her university colleagues have had their printers hacked and received xeroxed swastikas. Thompson also said one faculty member received a message from someone online threatening to set them on fire in their classroom. In response to the faculty petition, UC spokesman Dan Mogulof told CBS San Francisco that whether or not to hold class is up to faculty members. He said they decide how to cover their curriculum over the course of the year and that the university trusts them to do that. Mogulof said whether Free Speech Week will even be held is still “completely uncertain.” He said the Ben Shapiro event held Thursday night was done safely and successfully because the Berkeley College Republicans took all the steps required to host an on-campus event. But Berkeley Patriot has not taken any of the necessary steps to host Free Speech Week, such as providing payment for indoor venues and coordinating with law enforcement, Mogulf said. Already one of the speakers listed for Free Speech Week has told the university they would, in fact, not be speaking at the event, according to Mogulof. Mogulof said deadlines to complete the required tasks expired weeks ago, but that the university has been very flexible on the dates because they wanted to give the group a chance to hold their event. He said the Berkeley Patriot group is running out of time. By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.