The federal government on Friday said it wiped out roughly $53 million in student loans — including about $4 million for borrowers in Colorado — from more than 1,600 borrowers who attended Westwood College, which was founded in Denver and had campuses in the metro area before closing in 2016.
The U.S. Department of Education said in a release the amount was part of $55.6 million in overall relief for more than 1,800 borrowers. The majority of the debt forgiveness was for students who attended Westwood College, which closed in March 2016 after suspending fall enrollment, according to the Denver Post. The for-profit college had at least 300 students in the Denver metro area when it closed. The additional debt relief was for students who attended Marinello Schools of Beauty and the Court Reporting Institute.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser lauded the federal department’s announcement. In a release, his office said the debt forgiveness included 115 Colorado borrowers, totaling nearly $4 million. The office investigated Westwood in 2012, resulting in a $4.5 million settlement with the school over violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
The department found Westwood campuses across the country misrepresented the ability for students to transfer credits from 2002 until its closure. Without being able to transfer credits to other schools, students basically had to restart their education at different institutions.
The department additionally found that between 2004 until its closure, the college made widespread misrepresentations to students that its criminal justice program would help them get jobs as police officers in the Chicago area, despite the fact that places like the Chicago Police Department wouldn’t accept credits from Westwood in their hiring process, according to education department’s release.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a release the announcement showed the department’s commitment to standing up for students who were taken advantage of by colleges. The Biden Administration has canceled more than $1.5 billion in student loan debt for nearly 92,000 borrowers, according to the education department’s release.
Westwood College was owned by Colorado-based Alta College, Inc., which was later acquired by a private equity firm called Housatonic Partners.