U.S. Department of Education forgives loans of more than 1,600 Westwood College students, crediting Colorado Attorney General’s Office
115 Colorado borrowers to have their federal student loans canceled
July 9, 2021 (DENVER)—Attorney General Phil Weiser applauded the announcement today that the U.S. Department of Education is forgiving the federal student loans of more than 1,600 Westwood College students nationwide—including 115 Colorado borrowers—after the school misled prospective students about employment and salary prospects and the transferability of the school’s credits.
The department will forgive about $53 million in student loans, which includes nearly $4 million for Colorado borrowers.
“I applaud the U.S. Department of Education’s move to protect these borrowers by forgiving their student loans after Westwood College intentionally misled them,” Weiser said. “Colorado is a national leader in investigating and holding accountable predatory schools. We look forward to working with the department to protect and bring relief to defrauded student loan borrowers.”
Colorado-based Alta College, Inc. operated 15 Westwood College campuses, including an online school, across the country from 2004 until its closure in 2016. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office investigated Westwood in 2012 and settled a lawsuit with the school over violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act and state lending laws.
Relying in part on Colorado’s submission of evidence, the Department of Education found that Westwood misrepresented the ability of students to transfer their credits at all its campuses across the U.S. Despite claims by Westwood, students were generally unable to transfer their credits to other institutions which meant that they had to—or would have to—restart their education when attending a different school.
For some students starting over at a new school was not feasible, especially for those who had already exhausted much of their federal aid.
While investigating Westwood, the department also found that, from 2004 until its closure in 2015, the school told students that its criminal justice program would lead to careers as police officers in Illinois, when in fact the Chicago Police Department and other agencies would not accept Westwood credits in their hiring processes. Students said that instead of obtaining employment as a police officer after graduation from Westwood, they often had to accept minimum wage jobs or jobs that required no degree at all.
The attorney general’s office submitted a group application for student loan forgiveness that would cover additional Westwood borrowers and encourages the department to follow today’s first step with a grant of more widespread relief.
The Colorado Student Loan Servicers Act created a student loan ombudsperson in the attorney general’s office as a resource for student loan borrowers throughout the state. The ombudsperson is responsible for receiving, reviewing, and attempting to resolve complaints from student loan borrowers. Borrowers struggling with their student loans can click here to file a complaint with the student loan ombudsperson.