The CEO and the senator

An executive at a for-profit college charged by multiple government agencies for allegedly deceiving students and pushing them into high-cost student loans recently complained that the school hasn’t had its “day in court.”

Cue the irony, because this for-profit college, ITT Technical Institute, has systematically denied its own students their right to a day in court.

Like other corporations seeking to evade accountability, ITT uses the fine print of its college enrollment forms to force its students into secret arbitration (and out of court) to resolve disputes. It also prohibits students from banding together in class actions against it.

Where is the students’ justice?

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate sponsor of the CLASS Act, called out ITT’s CEO for his glaring hypocrisy.

“You complain of ‘litigation roadblocks’ that your company is facing, yet ITT Tech subjects its students to the biggest litigation roadblock of them all: forced arbitration,” the senator wrote in a letter.

Oddly enough, ITT’s CEO responded to Durbin and suggested that lawmakers should work on a bill to limit the use of arbitration clauses in higher education.

Great idea! The CEO was unaware that Durbin had, one month earlier, introduced the CLASS Act, which would remove forced arbitration clauses and class action bans from college enrollment contracts so that defrauded students can bring their cases to court.

Durbin also co-sponsored the Arbitration Fairness Act, which was introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and would eliminate forced arbitration from ALL consumer and employment terms — and allow consumers and employees to choose how to resolve disputes after they arise —whether in court or via arbitration, individually or as part of a group.

Durbin replied once more to ITT. He informed ITT’s CEO about the CLASS Act and also said: “When students seek redress for harm, they deserve the right to a fair hearing … If your students want to choose the American court system, ITT Tech should stop standing in the way.”

So far, there have been no further responses from ITT.

It’s time for Congress to take a stand against corporations like ITT that deny students and consumers their constitutional rights.

Tell your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Court Legal Access & Student Support (CLASS) Act (S. 1122, H.R. 2079) and the Arbitration Fairness Act (S. 1133, H.R. 2087).

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.