An Al Jazeera report published Tuesday brought attention back to GW’s controversial practice of suing alumni who default on their student loans.
GW sued more than two dozen former students in 2012 for repeatedly missing loan payments, making the University one of four East Coast schools – including Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania – that have brought the issue to court.
The Al Jazeera report features a 32-year-old GW business school alumnus, David Acevedo, who has struggled to pay back his loans since he enrolled in 1999.
He was ordered to pay $7,050 by a D.C. court last year – up from $3,084 in 2004. Those costs included his Perkins loan, plus interest, attorney fees and court costs, Acevedo told Al Jazeera.
“For many years I simply ignored it and swept under the rug the letters or the demands for the money for pragmatic reasons. I was totally out of money,” he said.
He now lives and works in Manhattan, but still doesn’t make enough to drive away GW legal team.
And Acevedo will not be the last one to see court orders because of his loans: experts say the practice will likely become even more prevalent amid rising student debt loads nationwide.
Student debt totaled $1.2 trillion in 2013, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, now surpassing credit card debt. And as student debt has swelled, so have loan defaults, with the percent of borrowers who can’t make their payments now reaching into the double-digits.
GW’s lawsuits against former students first came in the news last February, after a report by Bloomberg News that also featured Yale and UPenn.
The average debt load for GW graduates in 2012 was $33,399, though GW students’ default rate remains low at about 1.5 percent.