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Our 2022 highlights

Thanks to your support, our team's hard work, and the valiant students taking a stand against predatory colleges, 2022 was a year full of victories. Take a look at some of our highlights:

A landmark ruling in our case against Walden

Walden University, an online for-profit college, lured Black and female students into enrolling in their doctoral programs with false promises and misleading program information. Students were promised a doctoral degree in 18 months, then later told they'd have to take and pay for additional classes to graduate, classes that were never part of the program information to begin with. Students suffered while Walden's investors and executives enriched themselves. 

In January, we sued Walden for violating students' civil rights by engaging in these deceptive practices and holding students degrees for ransom. When we filed our class-action lawsuit, Walden sought to dismiss the case. 

But in a landmark decision last month, the judge ruled in favor of these defrauded students, determining our "reverse redlining" claims about this racial and gendered targeting are actionable in a college recruiting context and denying the motion to dismiss!

This is a major win for these students and for civil rights accountability in higher education. We look forward to litigating this case and securing justice for these students, and so many others like them, who have been taken advantage of by higher ed profiteers.

Over $1.5 billion to former Westwood students

For years, Westwood College operated on a foundation of lies. They misrepresented their accreditation, falsely promised that graduates would be employed in the field of their training within six months after graduation, manipulated students for profit, and abused their access to federal financial aid.

Alongside the National Consumer Law Center and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, we sued the Department of Education to secure debt relief for students who attended Westwood College in Illinois.

In August, after years of delay, the Department finally announced it would be granting full debt relief for 79,000 students of the now-defunct college -- forgiving roughly $1.5 billion in student loans. This relief will be life-changing -- albeit long overdue -- for countless students who found themselves hamstrung by debt they took on based on false promises and misleading information. We hope the Department's actions signal the agency's efforts to provide debt relief to countless other defrauded students who are still waiting for relief.

Fighting delayed justice for Kaplan students

For six years, the Department of Education failed to issue a decision on a group borrower defense application submitted by former students at the now-defunct Kaplan Career Institute.

In April, together with the Project on Predatory Student Lending and the National Consumer Law Center, we filed a lawsuit to demand justice for these students. Our lawsuit earned coverage in the Washington Post, and the government has now approved the claims of the former students. 

A breakthrough in bankruptcy guidance

In June 2021, we published The Missing Billion, a report examining the disparate treatment individual borrowers faced from the Department in bankruptcy court compared to the agency's lax enforcement against for-profit colleges and executives—who still owe over a billion dollars to the government. 

Since then, we've helped lead the charge in this fight, pushing for congressional oversight, publishing legal essays, filing lawsuits on behalf of students, and joining advocates like Senator Dick Durbin to call for change. Our efforts have earned critical press coverage -- like this Washington Post article about student borrowers facing bankruptcy -- that has increased public scrutiny and told the stories of borrowers who deserve better. 

All of this helped elevate this issue to the national conscience, and in November the Department finally changed their policies of actively opposing borrowers in bankruptcy and seeking appeals of discharge decisions that favored borrowers.

Cases against for-profit coding bootcamp, Lambda School

Lambda School, a for-profit coding bootcamp, preyed on students by knowingly advertising a false job placement success rate of 85%, operating illegally without approval from the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), and misrepresenting practices around the financing of income share agreements (ISA's).

We filed several cases against Lambda in 2021, and in April we filed another civil lawsuit naming the school's CEO as a defendant in his personal capacity.

End of a for-profit college accreditor

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools' (ACICS) was an ally to predatory colleges, accrediting a school that didn't even exist and rubber-stamping some of the worst for-profit colleges. As a for-profit accreditor -- and being in the good graces of the Trump Administration -- ACICS played a key role in some higher ed profiteers' scheme that preyed on students to line executives' pockets with federal student aid dollars while offering worthless programs.

As you may remember, in our very first lawsuit nearly five years ago, we sued the Trump Administration and secured a Temporary Restraining Order when Secretary DeVos tried to fast-track ACICS through any Departmental oversight.

In August, the Department revoked ACICS's accreditation status, and we are happy to report they are going out of business.

We look forward to building on this momentum in 2023, working to ensure more defrauded students see the justice they deserve and government oversight and accountability measures are increased to prevent borrowers from being taken advantage of in the first place.



Aaron Ament
President, Student Defense