JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former students of the now-shuttered Florida Coastal School of Law will soon have their debts canceled.
This was made possible after a judge approved a $6 billion settlement to a nationwide class action lawsuit. The closed law school in Jacksonville is one of 153 institutions across the United States named in the settlement.
Roughly 200,000 students said their schools, including Florida Coastal, defrauded them. Since it closed about a year and a half ago, former students said they not only struggled to pay off massive debt — their law careers also took a hit.
With the judge’s decision, they can now start applying for full student debt dismissal through the Department of Education’s Borrower Defense, which is done online.
The News4JAX I-TEAM spoke to former students who said not only were they buried under massive debt, some said they couldn’t even find a job due to the school’s reputation. One woman who I-TEAM investigator Joe McLean spoke to said this impacted her life in many ways.
“This caused more than just a financial thing for me. I lost everything. I’m sorry. I lost everything when I came down here. I walked away from a house. I walked away from family up there to come to school that promised me that they never delivered on,” said former student Jennie Rose Reiter-Smith.
In addition to the automatic relief with the judge’s opinion, it also allows for some refunds, plus credit repair to hundreds of thousands of eligible borrowers. A separate group of borrowers who did not attend schools on the department’s list will also receive decisions on their applications on rolling deadlines.
While Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is pleased with the decision, at least one group that lobbies for for-profit colleges said the decision is “an unlawful overreach” and discussed a possible appeal.
Meanwhile, the 43,000-square-foot Florida Coastal building on Jacksonville’s Southside now sits empty.