Department of Education Needs to Provide Guidance on PSLF Eligibility

April 7, 2017
Contact: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

[Washington] – Recently, the Department of Education stated in a legal filing that borrowers may not be able to rely on a determination made by their student loan servicer regarding their eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Under PSLF, workers in public service jobs can qualify for student loan forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments on their loans.

While relevant statutes make clear that certain employers, such as government and 501(c)3 jobs, automatically qualify, the eligibility of employment at other non-profit organizations remains unclear. A pending legal case focuses on nonprofit organizations not specified in statute that servicers had previously said qualified for the program. As the New York Times recently reported, the Department has yet to provide any further guidance to workers or indicate if there will be any type of appeal process for those who have had their eligible status revoked.

Borrowers rely on the representations made by servicers to manage their loan payments, and eroding their ability to trust what they are being told, regardless of their place of employment, could have serious negative consequences.

Reid Setzer, Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for Young Invincibles, released the following comment in response:

“The Department’s lack of clarity regarding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is putting the financial security of thousands of young adults across the country at risk. These workers have relied on their servicer’s determination that their employment qualifies them for forgiveness under the PSLF program, and have planned their finances and career decisions accordingly. The Department must provide clear guidance on which employers qualify workers for loan forgiveness and honor previous determinations that borrowers relied upon.”

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YI Hails Efforts to Protect Federal Student Aid

April 5, 2017
Contact: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

YI Hails Efforts to Protect Federal Student Aid

[Washington]- Today, over 570 higher education stakeholders sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to protect the federal student loan program and strengthen Pell Grants, the nation’s most important investment in higher education.

The letter has support from a broad swath of organizations including higher education institutional associations, state university systems, colleges, civil rights organizations, youth advocacy groups, and student advocacy groups, all deeply concerned about recent proposals to dramatically cut or eliminate federal student aid programs. These cuts would hurt America’s workforce and limit access to higher education for millions of people.

Reid Setzer, Young Invincibles’ Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, released the following statement:

“The letter is a show of force from the higher education community because these aid programs are so essential to millions of students across the country and must be protected. Cutting funding for these programs means narrowing access to higher education and removing vital supports that help students complete their degrees. They are absolutely necessary to give young people the ability to get the skills needed to contribute to today’s economy. We and our partners are prepared to fight for them in the face of potentially devastating cuts.”

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Trump’s “Skinny” Budget Makes Deep Cuts to Higher Education and Job Programs

March 16, 2017
Contacts: Sarah Schultz

Trump’s “Skinny” Budget Makes Deep Cuts to Higher Education and Job Programs

Today, the Trump Administration released its FY18 “skinny” budget, which deeply harms young adults’ economic security and drastically limits their access to higher education.

Reid Setzer, Young Invincibles’  Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs released the following statement:

“The Trump administration’s FY18 budget makes severe cuts to higher education, far deeper than any recently proposed. This includes slashing almost 4 billion dollars from the Pell Grant program, which helps nearly 8 million low- and moderate-income students access and afford college. This cut is fiscally irresponsible and will accelerate potential budget shortfalls in the program, as well as increase the financial burden on millions of young people buried under student debt. The budget also ignores bipartisan proposals to improve the program and lessen that burden, including reinstating Year-Round Pell.

Additionally, the Trump administration’s budget dramatically cuts funding for Federal Work Study, TRIO, and GEAR UP,  as well as eliminating the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant program all together. These programs, which open up access and support systems for low- and moderate-income students, have had decades of support from Congress, colleges, and higher education stakeholders. This is a clear indication that this administration is not committed to expanding opportunity or improving equity, especially for students of color.

The budget also makes vague cuts to job training and employment service grants and would eliminate AmeriCorps, further limiting options for young people looking to find work or serve their country. In an age where  a postsecondary degree or credential is necessary for achieving financial security, young people need pathways to quality education, training, and marketable skills to achieve the American dream. This budget cruelly pushes it farther away. We can and must do better, and call upon Congress to reject this vision for America’s future.”

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Governor Rauner’s FY2018 Budget Funds MAP but Falls Short on True Investment in Higher Education

Yesterday, Governor Rauner released his Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Erin Steva, Midwest Director of Young Invincibles, released the statement below in response:

“We applaud the recommendation to increase Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant funding by 10 percent. Funding shortages have forced 160,000 eligible students to go without aid each year, and expanding MAP grant funding will provide critical relief to Illinois’ highest need students.

This is a critical down payment, yet much more is needed to support students from low-income families and to reverse the rapid disinvestment that has left Illinois’ higher education system starving for resources. MAP grants covered 100 percent of tuition and fees in 2002, but now only fund 46 percent of costs at four-year community colleges and 32 percent of costs at public universities.

Ultimately supporting low-income students will require a deeper investment in our higher education system as a whole. This year’s budget would cut higher education funding by over $270 million relative to FY15, additional cuts that will devastate our already resource-starved institutions. Over a decade of state disinvestment has caused tuition increases, faculty layoffs, and students to leave for out-of-state schooling. Illinois must make higher education a priority and back that commitment with meaningful investment that restores funding for the current fiscal year and brings higher education funding to pre-recession levels for FY18.”

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Young Invincibles Voices Serious Concerns Over Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos

January 19, 2017
CONTACT: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

[WASHINGTON] — During Tuesday night’s confirmation hearing, Secretary of Education-Designate Betsy DeVos took questions from the members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on a host of issues related to education in America.

Young Invincibles’ Deputy Director, Rory O Sullivan, released the following statement in reaction to the hearing:

“Despite hours of rigorous questioning, Mrs. DeVos’ positions on a host of issues vital to today’s students and borrowers remain woefully unclear at best or outright harmful at worst. She failed to articulate clear stances on crucial questions like how to address the staggering increases in student debt, whether she would protect Pell grants and other forms of student aid, and how to assist millions of student loan borrowers struggling with a complex system and unmanageable monthly payments.  Beyond these critical policy concerns, when asked about combating “waste, fraud, and abuse” by predatory schools, Mrs. DeVos would not commit to enforcing existing rules like the gainful employment rule. Neither could she say clearly who would be in charge of any enforcement efforts should she be confirmed as Secretary.

In a time when over 40 million borrowers are grappling with 1.3 trillion dollars of growing student debt, a Secretary of Education without an agenda or even an opinion on issues that affect millions of students and borrowers is a major cause for concern. We are seriously apprehensive about the nomination of Secretary-Designate DeVos.”



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Automatic Group Student Loan Relief Offered to Defrauded Borrowers

January 13, 2017
CONTACT: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

[Washington, D.C.] - The Department of Education announced today that federal student loan borrowers at the defunct American Career Institute in Massachusetts are eligible for automatic group discharge of their federal student loans under the recently finalized borrower defense rule. Investigations by the Department of Education and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, combined with admissions of wrongdoing by ACI, demonstrated that the school misled and deceived students, employed unauthorized instructors, and exaggerated its job placement rates.

“The decision to grant automatic group discharge lifts a huge weight off the shoulders of students who were deceived,” said Reid Setzer, Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for Young Invincibles. “Discharging loans used to attend fraudulent institutions is exactly what the Department should do in cases like these. The Department has made sure that these defrauded borrowers can get back on track, without having to go through complex and confusing processes that can prevent them from obtaining relief. We hope the Department will continue to protect students from predatory actors and help restore the financial security of students whenever fraud has been found, so they can continue to pursue their educations.”

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Newly Released Gainful Employment Data Holds Schools Accountable for Return on Student and Taxpayer Investment

January 9, 2016
CONTACT: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

[Washington, D.C.] – Today, the Department of Education released its latest gainful employment data including important information about how well graduates from two-year and four-year career and vocational programs can afford their student debt. Every career program receives a debt-to-earnings ratio showing how much their graduates earn compared to what they borrowed. Programs that exceed debt-to-earnings thresholds for multiple years fail the test and ultimately lose access to federal financial aid. Moreover, the Department of Education could use the data to warn students and families about poorly performing schools.

Christopher Nellum, Policy Director of Young Invincibles, issued the following statement:

“Too many career colleges charge high prices, but fail to adequately train students for the job market, leaving them under mountains of debt with few prospects. Bad actors are particularly common in the for-profit sector, and the newly released data show that 98% of the programs that failed the gainful employment test are for-profit institutions. We’ve consistently supported holding poorly performing schools of all types accountable for providing quality education and for responsibly using student and taxpayer investments.

Despite providing major benefits and protections for consumers and taxpayers, the gainful employment rule is under threat by the incoming Congress, members of which have already expressed a desire to eliminate it or roll it back. This would be a serious mistake. With college costs and student debt rising, we must maintain and strengthen rules like gainful employment, which keep the interests of students first.”

Young Invincibles was a lead student advocate on the gainful employment negotiated rulemaking session.


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Young Invincibles Releases Student Agenda for Postsecondary Data Reform


October 5, 2016

Contact: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

Young Invincibles Releases Student Agenda for Postsecondary Data Reform

Groups representing over one Million students sign on

[Washington] – Today, Young Invincibles released the Student Agenda for Postsecondary Data Reform, elevating the student perspective on how we should reform our higher education data systems. The proposal would create a more transparent and effective educational system. On average, earning a postsecondary degree is a young adult’s best path toward better job prospects and economic security, yet is more expensive than ever. Students want to know what the return on their investments will be, but current limitations on the information available restricts them from doing so.

“Right now we can’t answer basic questions about the value of different colleges, like which schools or programs lead to different types of jobs, for different types of students. This is a remarkable lack of transparency given the $1.3 trillion students have borrowed to finance their educations. Students across the country weighed in on how to reform our system, and they are eager to access more and better data to inform their decisions of where to go to school and how to pay for it,” said Tom Allison, Deputy Director of Policy and Research, Young Invincibles.

Over the course of the last two years, Young Invincibles has worked with students across the country to understand how they view information about college outcomes, gathering their perspectives on topics including what kind of data should be collected, how we should use that data most responsibility, and how to protect privacy. The agenda outlines a set of reforms that would increase the amount of data available with an emphasis on better reflecting today’s student population and on accountable and secure use. Groups representing over one million students signed support this agenda.

“The Association of Big Ten Students signed on to the Agenda because we believe that students should know what they are getting when they make one of the largest and most important investments in their life. There is no legitimate reason that we cannot have access to this valuable data and make sure that personal information is protected,” said William Dammann, Legislative Affairs Director for the Association of Big Ten Students, an organization representing hundreds of thousands of students at institutions in the Big 10 Athletic Conference.

To learn more about the agenda and to sign on on behalf of yourself, organization, college or university, find more here:

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Where Are the ACICS Accredited Institutions?

By Tom Allison

Accreditors play a significant role in authorizing colleges to operate, and the schools they approve gain access to hundreds of billions of dollars in federal financial aid every year. Many schools rely on government funding for up to 90 percent of their total revenue. So it is a big deal that the Department of Education has taken away the accrediting power of Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), a move that significantly helps protect students from predatory institutions. After all, ACICS accredited seventeen institutions that were under federal or state investigation, allowing them to receive $5.7 billion in federal aid in the last three years.

Researchers and advocates have focused a lot of attention on the aggregated outcomes of colleges ACICS accredits, and that’s a great way to compare ACICS to other accreditors (see the great work from Center for American Progress here and Pro Publica here). The results have been staggering: students at colleges accredited by ACICS graduate at the lowest rates, take on more debt, and have the most difficulty repaying their loans.

To better understand the outcomes of the 160,000 students who attend these schools we dove deeper into the actual institutions ACICS accredits and where they’re distributed across the country. This map links all ACICS  accredited institutions with outcomes measures from the College Scorecard, showing how different schools stack up. We were pretty surprised how spread out they were (38 states total). California led the pack with thirty-six campuses, Florida and Pennsylvania each had twenty, and ten are in Texas.


Here are some of the worst performing schools, by the performance metrics tracked in the College Scorecard.

Highest default rates:

Institution State Default Rate
Tucson College AZ 35%
Omega Institute NJ 33%
Kaplan Career Institute-Pittsburgh PA 31%
West Tennessee Business College TN 30%
Cheryl Fells School of Business NY 29%

Defaulting on student loans can wreck your credit. It is the worst outcome for a student borrower, and about a third of these schools’ students end up in this situation.

It’s true that for-profit institutions enroll more low-income students, who end up taking on more debt, but certain institutions’ students take on truly extreme levels of debt. The median debt for students at Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville is over $58,000, for instance. In fact, Florida hosts three of the five most indebted institutions accredited by ACICS.

Highest Median Debt:

Institution State Median Debt
Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville Inc-Jacksonville FL $53,832
Digital Media Arts College FL $43,476
NewSchool of Architecture and Design CA $43,417
International Academy of Design and Technology-Chicago IL $42,103
Jones College-Jacksonville FL $38,291

Loan repayment rate isn’t a perfect outcomes measure (none of them are). In fact, there are several different ways to calculate repayment rates. We use the Department of Education’s definition in the College Scorecard, which counts the percentage of borrowers who are actively paying at least $1 off the principle of their student loans. This can leave out students in income-driven repayment plans who might be paying the interest on their loans, but not enough to go towards the principal. However, loan repayment rate is in some ways the strongest measure of the return on investment a college provides a student, because it captures both sides of the value equation – money put in to finance the education and the ability to repay once in the workforce.

Data jargon aside, it should be concerning to students, parents, and taxpayers that less than a quarter of a college’s students are able to pay a $1 off their student loans three years after leaving the school.

Lowest Repayment Rates:

Institution State Repayment Rate
Camelot College LA 12%
Gallipolis Career College OH 16%
TESST College of Technology-Baltimore MD 17%
Daymar College-Chillicothe OH 21%
Cheryl Fells School of Business NY 21%

Of course income is a major factor in students’ ability to repay their loans, and it’s somewhat expected that a college’s graduates would go on to earn higher incomes than a typical high school graduate. So here are the schools with the lowest percentages of graduates able to earn more than that high school annual income ($25,000 per year):

Institution State % Earning Above High School Graduate
Camelot College LA 11%
Gallipolis Career College OH 12%
Forrest College SC 19%
Laurel Technical Institute PA 21%
West Virginia Junior College-Charleston WV 22%

Considering most students pursue higher education for better career opportunities, the fact that only one in five of these colleges’ students are able to improve their prospects is unacceptable.

While many of these schools are clearly failing their students, other schools don’t look too shabby by these limited measures. Premiere Career College in Los Angeles, for instance, graduates 83 percent of its students, with 73 percent able to repay their loans, and only 2 percent defaulting. Fortunately, these institutions can find a new accreditor, and the Department should ensure a smooth process for these and other high performing institutions to do so.

Author’s Note: Institutions with data missing in the College Scorecard were removed from the rankings. Puerto Rico institutions were also excluded from the rankings, but included in the map. Some institutions marked as accredited by ACICS in the College Scorecard data are no longer accredited by them, while other institutions have closed. I made every effort  to expunge these institutions as well. Big thanks to Ben Miller for pointing out those anomalies and sending over updated data.

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ACICS Shutdown Protects Students

September 22, 2016

Contact: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Education took steps to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges and universities by revoking the accrediting power of Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). Christopher Nellum, policy director of Young Invincibles released the following statement:

“In our current system, we place a lot of trust in accreditation agencies to review a college or university’s academic quality. Students rely on accreditors’ seal of approval when judging where to attend. Unfortunately, ACICS allowed many of the worst-acting for-profit colleges to operate, risking the dreams of tens of thousands of students in the process. The decision to revoke the accrediting power of ACICS comes as the culmination of several state and federal lawsuits against ACICS-approved schools, the shutdown of Corinthian Colleges, and the recent closure of ITT Technical Institute, one of ACICS’s largest institutions. This action is a major step toward protecting students from predatory for-profit schools that promise successful careers, but leave students under mountains of debt.”

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