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Thousands of college students nervously await word on their loans

Arlene Empleo-Sanchez had wanted to be a medical assistant. But now she feels that dream has been "flushed down the drain. (Photo: KOMO News)

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Thousands of Washington college students are nervously awaiting action from the U.S. Education Department to forgive their federal loans.

The state attorney general said they've been promised that because their private, for-profit college went out of business.

"I've always wanted to be a medical assistant and it's just like flushed down the drain," said Arlene Empleo-Sanchez. She had been a student at Everest College. The system has since been purchased by a new company, but back in 2015 the previous operators of Everest College had to pull the plug because they were not delivering what they promised students. It left students holding huge loans.

"Now I'm stuck with a $17,000 loan," said Empleo-Sanchez. "And I just feel like I've started over at square one again. I feel just so stressed and devastated." She is one of 5,700 previous students in our state whose troubles remain even though new owners have taken over.

The Obama Administration set up a loan forgiveness program to wash those debts away. But the new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hasn't come through, said State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, "A deal is a deal is the way I look at it. These colleges used unfair and deceptive practices to lure students in. These students have debt and we've agreed, everyone has agreed that the debt should be removed."

He and the attorneys general from 20 other states and the District of Columbia have just written a letter to DeVos asking her to act now before those students have their credit ruined by outstanding loan balances.

"I'm not sure what the problem is," Ferguson said. "But we've got students who are entitled to have that student debt relieved and taken away. And the Department of Education is just not getting it done and that's why we're so concerned."

But even if the loan is forgiven, Empleo-Sanchez may not try for her dream again. "I've been thinking about doing it, but all of this has made me scared. It made me hard to trust people. Trust other schools."

There is no response from Secretary DeVos, yet. But there could be one Tuesday when she testifies at a key senate subcommittee on appropriations. A key member of that committee is Sen. Patty Murray and her staff said the college loan situation is one of her top priorities.

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