A Harvard Law School clinic is suing the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain documents that may allow for-profit college students to cancel federal student loan debt.

As reported in the Washington Post, the Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending is seeking access to sealed filed relating to the federal government's settlement of claims against Education Management Corp., a giant for-profit school company that has operated chains including Art Institutes, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University.

In 2015,  EDMC agreed to pay more than $95 million to resolve allegations that recruiters had violated federal regulations by receiving compensation with incentives for securing student enrollments. Some states involved in the litigation were successful in the deal in obtaining forgiveness from EDMC for more than $100 million in outstanding student balances. But the settlement did nothing to provide students with cancellation or forgiveness of federal student loans.

The new Harvard case seeks access to files from the 2015 settlement that may allow students to file "borrower defense to repayment" claims.

According to the Post, "Attorneys at the Harvard Law clinic say the evidence the Justice Department gathered, specifically recruitment documents, could make it easier for those students to have their claims approved. They filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year seeking access to the files but were told by the Justice Department that there was a court order preventing the release. The Harvard attorneys asked the courts to clarify and said federal prosecutors then changed their position by claiming the information was not subject to the FOIA law."

“When the government settled this case, they hailed it as a victory for students and taxpayers. We are seeking these documents on behalf of students, but also on behalf of taxpayers who are the members of the public who have an interest in these documents,” project attorney Amanda Savage told the newspaper. “There has to be oversight of how public dollars are being funneled toward for-profit corporations.”


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