SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Makenzie Vasquez never thought she would still be wearing a waitress uniform, two years after she enrolled to become a medical assistant.
“I am far worse off than I was before I went to school,” Vasquez told KPIX 5 ConsumerWatch.READ MORE: Volunteers Spread Out Across Bay Area for Annual Coastal Cleanup
Vasquez said pushy enrollment counselors at Everest College convinced her to borrow $30,000 to attend a nine-month program, a program that she said was a joke.
“I was getting taught by students who were there a week more than me,” Vasquez recalled.
Unable to pay a required monthly fee, Vasquez was kicked out, but the school kept her $30,000 in loans.
Two years later, Everest’s parent company Corinthian Colleges is no longer in existence. The school was sued by both the state and the feds for predatory lending and false advertising to students like Makenzie, who still owe for an education they never received.READ MORE: San Francisco Celebrates Rise of Lowrider Community With Car Show and Cruise
So they are refusing to pay. “We’re striking,” Vasquez said. “We’re not going to pay back the loans — and we understand the consequences.”
Vasquez is among the “Corinthian 15,” former students from across the country taking a stand and demanding their student loans be forgiven.
Suzanne Martindale of Consumers Union said while not paying a federal loan can have serious consequences, “They don’t have many options – so they’re taking it to the top.”
“The Department of Education is the steward of all this taxpayer money in the form of grants and federal student loans, and they’re the ones who have the authority to decide which schools are eligible to receive that money. They’re also the ones with the authority to discharge those loans, I mean they own those loans,” Martindale told KPIX 5.
Since the tuition strike started, organizers say at least 80 more former Corinthian students have expressed interest in joining the tuition strike.MORE NEWS: San Francisco Schools, Public Health Dept. Partner to Provide Campus COVID Vaccinations
The Department of Education said it’s committed to upholding the rights of students who were taken advantage of, but advises borrowers to continue paying their student loans to avoid the “serious consequences of default.”