By Victor Luckerson
March 17, 2015

A recent graduate of a for-profit college’s nursing program is refusing to pay back her federal student loans, saying the school defrauded her.

Mallory Heiney says her 12-month nursing program at Everest Institute, a Grand Rapids, Mich. school owned by Corinthian Colleges, failed to adequately prepare her for the state nursing licensing exam and put her $24,000 in debt. In a column in the Washington Post, Heiney writes that thousands of students were caught in Everest’s “debt trap.” She and several other students who have dubbed themselves the Corinthian 15 are demanding that the Department of Education discharge their federal loans.

“By using our debt as leverage, we’re making our voices heard,” Heiney wrote. “We are not asking for a handout. We are demanding justice for students ensnared in a debt trap.”

Heiney said she was inspired by Susan B. Anthony’s advocacy for women’s suffrage and by Rosa Parks’ efforts to end racial discrimination.

Corinthian Colleges, which once operated more than 100 campuses across the country, began shutting down much of its operations and selling off its assets last summer following a Department of Education investigation into its educational and financial practices.

Joe Hixson, a spokesman for Corinthian, noted that the vast majority of the students from Heiney’s nursing program successfully graduated, including Heiney herself, and that most of these students successfully passed the nursing licensing exam. “Recent criticism of Corinthian Colleges wrongly disparage the career services assistance that we offer our graduates and mischaracterize both the purpose and practices of the ‘Genesis’ lending program,” he wrote in an email, referring to Corinthian’s private student loan program.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said the agency worked with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide $480 million in loan forgiveness for borrowers who took out loans through Corinthian. However, she also encouraged students to continue paying back their outstanding loans to avoid default.

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