Argosy University settlement provides debt relief for former students

The school closed its metro Atlanta campus three years ago

Credit: Photo Contributed

Credit: Photo Contributed

Three years after Argosy University officials abruptly closed its metro Atlanta campus and others in nearly a dozen states, some former students are getting important financial relief.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and his counterparts in several states recently reached an agreement with the school’s owners that wipes out loan debts for several hundred former students nationwide.

The agreement is the latest effort by authorities to crackdown on for-profit colleges and universities. Education advocates and elected officials have longed complained that for-profit schools have taken advantage of students with misleading claims and high tuitions.

“By engaging in deceptive practices, Argosy University . . . left Georgia students saddled with student loan debt but with no degree to show for it,” Carr said in a statement.

Georgia officials said the for-profit school engaged in false marketing practices and misled students about its career services. Argosy also had some students take out loans directly from the school, without obtaining the necessary licenses to enter into the agreements.

The multistate agreement cancels loans taken out directly from Argosy by students that began attending on or after October 17, 2017. It also prevents further collection and negative credit reporting against those students.

“Georgians who were misled by the University and its owners deserve relief, and we hope this agreement sends a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” Carr said.

Carr’s office said students in line for the debt relief will receive notification that there has been a discharge and cancellation of all outstanding balances.

Argosy offered master’s and doctoral degrees in fields such as business, clinical psychology and law. About 1,500 students took courses at its Georgia campus near Atlanta. The yearly tuition was about $20,000.

The university changed ownership about a year before it closed as its finances were in free fall. Students rushed to get their academic transcripts as word spread about the school’s money troubles in its final days.

Former Argosy students like Ellenwood resident Ashley Jones, 37, say the closure upended their lives. Jones, who was pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, said she and friends in her course program helped each other through the chaos.

“It was therapists going to see other therapists,” Jones said.

Jones and some friends completed their degrees at the University of West Georgia in December 2020. She owes about $50,000 in loans that weren’t taken directly from Argosy. She believes more safeguards are needed to help students when a school is in financial trouble.

“Institutions shouldn’t be able to tell students ‘Hey, we’re closing and you’ve got to figure your own way,’” she said.

Credit: Photo Contributed

Credit: Photo Contributed

Many college financing experts, such as the Center for Responsible Lending’s Yasmin Farahi, say the federal government should reinstate the Gainful Employment Rule. It required for-profit schools to meet various guidelines to receive to remain eligible for federal financial aid.

Some attorneys general are also asking U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to discharge federal debt for former Argosy students enrolled there for more than 120 days before the school closed.

Argosy University Timeline

January 2016: Education Management Corporation (EDMC), which operated Argosy, reaches a settlement with 39 states and Washington, D.C., for allegations that included using deceptive recruiting practices.

March 2017: EDMC announces plans to sell Argosy to the Dream Center.

July 2018: Dream Center announces via email of plans to close 30 campuses, with no scheduled closing date.

March 2019: Argosy University closes.

February 2022: Argosy owners agree to an agreement with officials in 10 states to provide student loan debt relief for some former students.

Source: Minnesota Attorney General’s office.