New lawsuit alleges a collapsed college targeted homeless students and those with low self-esteem

Makenzie Vasquez, from left, Pamala Hunt, Latonya Suggs, Ann Bowers, Nathan Hornes, Ashlee Schmidt, Natasha Hornes, Tasha Courtright, Michael Adorno and Sarah Dieffenbacher, pose for a picture in Washington, Monday, March 30, 2015. Former and current college students calling themselves the “Corinthian 100” say they are on a debt strike and refuse to pay back their student loans. The name comes from Corinthian Colleges Inc., which operated the for-profit Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools before agreeing last summer to sell or close its 100-plus campuses. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Corinthian Colleges was previously the second largest for-profit college chain in the US before it collapsed last year, under intense pressure stemming from legal issues from state and federal agencies.

Now, ProPublica has shed light into some of the most questionable practices of the former college, analyzing documents filed by California’s attorney general as part of a lawsuit against the school.

The documents show that the school actively recruited homeless students and helped them take out federal student loans that they were unable to pay back.

In one testimony, Hollie Harsh, a homeless student recruited by Corinthian, explained her situation at the school.

“We had to complete all of our studies and homework in the Heald Campus computer lab as we had no electricity in our tent,” she said.

Eventually, Harsh said she dropped out of Corinthian due to the stress of her living environment, but not before owing more than $15,000 in debt.

Screen Shot 2016 03 21 at 12.05.11 PM“I do not know how I will ever be able to replay this student loan,” she said in her statement. “I now believe that I was taken advantage of and given false hope by [Corinthian] just so that I would enroll in their school.”

The complaint also included marketing materials that allege Corinthian intentionally targeted students predisposed to feeling like they were out of options, as well as those with low self-esteem.

One particular internal Corinthian communication document described prospective students as people with “low self-esteem” who are “isolated,” “stuck, unable to see and plan well for future,” and “impatient, and want quick solutions.”

Evan Borges, a former counselor to Corinthian, told ProPublica: “Corinthian, as we know it, is gone, effective as of the date of the bankruptcy.”

Corinthian’s next court appearance is set for March 22.

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