WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today announced that Diane Barta, a former Ashford University student, will testify at tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Student Loan Bankruptcy Reform.” Barta will testify about her experience attending Ashford University – a for-profit college recently purchased by University of Arizona that has long been the subject of numerous state and federal investigations and lawsuits for predatory practices. Barta took out student loans for all her schooling and currently owes $120,341 in student loan debt, including $53,935 for Ashford. She currently works as a network administrator and does not qualify for income-based repayment programs for her student loans. She will testify that she worries she will be unable to make student loan payments when the temporary COVID-19 student loan forbearance period ends.
Currently 45 million Americans hold more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. Unlike most other types of debt, student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy except in extremely rare circumstances.
Key quotes from Barta’s prepared remarks are available below:
“I had a Pell Grant to help pay for my associate’s degree. But I had to take out loans, as well, for the rest of my schooling because neither my parents nor I could afford the cost. In fact, I am the only one of my siblings who attended, let alone completed, college. And, although I had to take some loans for undergrad, the price tag to attend Ashford was much, much higher. It required me to take out almost $54,000 in loans, that is in addition to $30,000 in loans from my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and almost $36,000 in interest.”
“In the meantime, [Ashford] sold many students, including me, on the idea that it would provide a high-quality education in a convenient manner. In fact, I enrolled at Ashford because recruiters told me that the program I was starting–a master’s in teaching and learning with technology–would allow me to begin teaching online right after I finished. I have applied for many online teaching positions since completing my degree and never even been offered an interview. I now know that Bridgepoint and Ashford have been investigated or sued by five separate states and at least three federal agencies for lying to students and others.”
“In 2012 my husband lost his job as a commercial plumber. At that point 100 percent of our bills, our vehicles, everything was in my name. So when, without his income, we couldn’t make our payments, I had to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. I cried when I did it. But we didn’t have any other options. And then I found out from the lawyer that I couldn’t include my student loan debt – our biggest debt – in the bankruptcy.”
“I have tried to find other ways to responsibly pay back my loans. When I tried to enroll in an income-based repayment plan, however, I was told that I made too much to qualify. But, who can afford to pay more than $1,000 a month just for student loans, especially when trying to raise children? I had to put my loans into forbearance twice to avoid defaulting. I have also recently applied for a borrower defense to repayment for the debt I took on to attend a worthless master’s program at Ashford.”
“If I could have discharged my loans in bankruptcy – as painful as filing was – it would ultimately have been a great relief. I wouldn’t still be having sleepless nights worrying about how I am going to pay and what happens to my children, my husband, and me if I cannot.”
Barta’s full remarks are available here.