The US marshals office plans to serve more than 1,200 warrants for unpaid student loans as for-profit college students march in Washington
Seven US marshals armed with automatic weapons turned up at Paul Akers home in Houston, Texas, last week to arrest him over a $1,500 student loan debt dating back to 1987.
It was totally mind-boggling, Aker said. I was wondering, why are you here? I am home, I havent done anything … Why are the marshals knocking on my door? Its amazing.
Aker said he was arrested, shackled and taken to federal court. I was told: You owe $1,500. I just couldnt believe it, he told Fox 26. I was taken before a judge surrounded by seven marshals.
Texas representative Gene Green, a Democrat, said it was unacceptable that US marshals are being used to collect decades old student loans. Theres bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt that is so old, he told the station.
Aker is unlikely to be the only person to be surprised by marshals collecting on student loans. A source at the marshals office told Fox 26 that it is planning to serve warrants on 1,200 to 1,500 people over student loan debts.
Student debts are at a record high, with 2015 graduates saddled with an average debt of $35,000, according to analysis of government data by Edvisors, a student finance advice site. That level of debt is more than twice the amount US graduates had just two decades earlier, even adjusted for inflation. About 40 million Americans have outstanding student loans.
The reports come as students and graduates are preparing for a series of meetings on the Capitol demanding action over escalating student debt. Students from Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit college company that went bankrupt last year, will on Wednesday be joined by students from other for-profit colleges including the Art Institutes, ITT Tech, and the University of Phoenix in a fight back against educational debt protest.
Last year, 15 former Corinthian students launched the nations first student debt strike, refusing to pay back loans incurred to attend for-profit Corinthian Colleges.
Arne Duncan, the former secretary of education, had said he would work to write off the students Corinthian loans and vowed to fight back against unethical businesses moving in higher education.
Youd have to be made of stone not to feel for these students, Duncan said last summer. Some of these schools have brought the ethics of payday lending into higher education. This is our first major action on this but obviously it wont be the last.
The Corinthian students have accused the Department of Education of not working fast enough to fulfil Duncans pledge. Eight months later, that promise remains unfulfilled, the students said. Instead of doing what is legally and morally right the Department of Education has engaged in bureaucratic delaying tactics to deny former students justice.
Federal student loans often make up the vast majority of for-profit colleges revenue. They have been criticised for spending more of that money on marketing and recruitment than they do on education.
- This story was amended on 16 February 2016 to clarify that Corinthian students are planning a series of meetings, not a march, in Washington.