Niesha Wright wants her money back.
The Portland woman this week sued U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in federal court, challenging DeVos' decision to delay access to debt forgiveness for students defrauded by for-profit universities.
Wright works in the mortgage industry and borrowed $26,000 to take computer classes at Portland's now-defunct ITT Technical Institute. She applied for student debt relief under a federal program created last October. The program was set to take effect July 1, but DeVos delayed its start date, citing a pending lawsuit challenging the rule filed by a California trade association that represents a coalition of for-profit colleges.
Wright talked to WW about her time at ITT Tech and her fight to be considered for loan forgiveness.
WW: When did you realize you were wasting your money at ITT Tech?
Niesha Wright: The first time I realized it was in the second year of attending the college, when a student was actually teaching the class instead of the teacher. That's exactly when I knew that this college was not accredited in any form. There's no way a student should be teaching the class. And the other moment was when I went through a class and discovered it was too hard. I dropped out—and I still passed that class.
What happened when you tried to get your money back?
I was refused, because the federal government had already paid out the loan. They flat out refused to let me drop out of the class and refused to let me get my money back. The class was not making any sense to me, which is why I was trying to drop out of the class. They refused to let me get a refund or to drop out.
How will the payments on your loans affect your life now that you might not be able to get loan forgiveness and your diploma has been rendered worthless?
It will put a strain on my credit. It will put a strain on my everyday life, because I know that balance of debt is hanging over my head without a significant degree behind it. My options are: (a) Do I go back to school and start all over to earn an accredited degree, or (b) do I just allow the government to say that I owe them money for an unaccredited degree?
Why do you think the Trump administration is taking away this relief program for students like you?
I think it's more or less that they don't know the obstacles of urban communities and the challenges they face, because they're in a position of power and money. They've never had to go through these financial aid programs in order to succeed in life.