How the Department of Education Validates Debt

If you request debt validation in writing from the U.S. Department of Education, you may be in for all sorts of surprises. First, you may have to send lots of request letters before you get any meaningful response. If that’s not surprising, how about this one: the U.S. Department of Education may use the debt validation request letters that you have sent to them as support material that provides evidence that you owe money. Sounds strange? Well, that’s just one of the things that they can do – and, apparently, get away with.

This is not the way it should be.

  • The U.S. Department of Education should not be allowed to use computer records that were generated by a third party after a student graduated as “proof” that the student received bank loans before he or she graduated, while no documents exist that demonstrate that the student actually received these bank loans.

  • Both a guaranty agency and the U.S. Department of Education are third party record keepers in instances, where they produce lending and borrowing related computer records after a student graduates from college. A third party record keeper’s lending and borrowing related computer records can be considered a valid source of information, if these computer records are backed with corresponding lending and borrowing transaction documents that demonstrate, that the lender lent money and the borrower borrowed money.
  • As a third party record keeper that was not directly involved in the alleged lending and borrowing transactions, the U.S. Department of Education should not be allowed to operate so, the they can state that their computer records are accurate simply because their computer records exist, even though the U.S. Department of Education (1) obtained their records from another third party and (2) no original lending and borrowing transaction documents or computer records exist.
  • Further, after a student graduates from college, the U.S. Department of Education should not be allowed to print documents that the former student should have received while he or she was in college, by entering the student’s after graduation address and other data into a computer system, and by using a different bank’s name than their previous correspondence and allegations were related to.
  • To put it differently, the U.S. Department of Education should not be allowed to generate documents at their convenience, and then state that these documents are a valid proof of lending and borrowing transactions, and demonstrate that a former student owes money.
  • The U.S. Department of Education should not be allowed to state, that they have a former student’s original promissory notes in their possession (which they consider to be proof that the student owes money), while in reality such documents do not exist at all.
  • The U.S. Department of Education should not be allowed to enter records into a former student’s credit history after the student graduates from college, in response to student’s debt validation requests and while the former student is requesting debt validation, and no conclusive proof has been offered that the former student ever actually received the alleged money as loans either directly, or indirectly, as tuition support.

But, in reality, the U.S. Department of Education and its business partners operate in a manner described above. That’s how they “validate” debt and are trying to balance their books and record keeping in my case. This case, that is described on this website, offers proof of it.

When a major government agency operates in a manner described here, it may seem that the best way to move forward is to pretend that everything is just fine. In reality, that is not the case. Major government agency’s covering up bad record keeping does not benefit the society. We can do better than that. We have to admit that mistakes were made, move on and keep building better record keeping solutions and infrastructures. There are lots of bad database infrastructures and record keeping solutions in usage today, in all sizes. Pretending that they work just fine doesn’t produce the needed improvements.

However, as long as cover up operations and unvalidated demands continue, truly meaningful improvement making will not receive the needed prioritization either. If everything is just fine, then there is no need to allocate sufficient attention and resources to examining the problems, so that better solutions can be built. Thus, cover up operations and unvalidated demands are obstacles to truly meaningful improvements.

Below is a copy of a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Education FOIA Unit on these subject matters.

A copy of the letter published below was delivered to the following person and institution:

  • - Elise Cook, FOIA Public Liaison, U.S. Department of Education, USPS Delivery Confirmation EK453364215US
  • - Nikki Gramian, Director, Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), National Archives and Records Administration, USPS Delivery Confirmation EK453364224US

Elise Cook, FOIA Public Liaison

Office of the Chief Information Officer

Regulatory Information Management Services

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue S.W., PCP 9142

Washington, DC 20202-4700

Dear Ms. Cook,

Thank you for your response, dated 03/09/2014, which you actually sent to me in 2015, that is, close to a year later than dated.

Please note that this is an open letter that I will publish on the Internet, on StopExtortion.org so that it is accessible to the general public and to other institutions.

You claim, that you sent me 386 pages of information that is responsive to my FOIA request.

In reality, you sent me three types of documents:

  • (1) Internal documents which seem to have been generated after I had graduated from college.
  • (2) Computer screen snapshots of records that seem to have been generated after I had graduated from college.
  • (3) Copies of my letters to the U.S. Department of Education, where I request debt validation.
  • 84% or 324 pages out of the total of 386 pages of the material that you sent, are copies of my letters to the U.S. Department of Education, requesting validation of the alleged debt.
  • Further, you duplicated my letters, that is, you sent me 2 copies of my letters – apparently, in an attempt to generate more volume of the “legitimate support material.” Some of the letters appear more than twice.

I have good reasons to doubt the accuracy of the U.S. Department of Education internal records. Accordingly, in my FOAI request I asked for documents that would help to move along the debt validation process.

The total amount of the alleged loans is absurdly high when we consider that as a student I most certainly received financial aid other than loans and that covered the cost of tuition, and also take into consideration that the in-state cost of tuition to attend state owned Rhode Island College from 1990 to 1996 ranged from $1,703 to $2,838 a year, and the fact that I did not live on campus, that I was in the U.S. on Green Card while a student, and that I did not have any noteworthy income or any credit history or co-signers to qualify for bank loans.

Further, there are absolutely no documents that demonstrate that I ever received the alleged loans either directly, or indirectly, as tuition support. If such documents existed, it seems highly unlikely that somebody just throw them away at some point, and violated document retention requirements.

Further, the U.S. Department of Education’s internal records seem to be based on guaranty agency’s internal records, which were created without any documents showing that I actually received the alleged loans. Furthermore, it seems that the guaranty agency’s records were created after I graduated from college.

In my FOIA request, I asked for specific information on my receiving financial aid (not loans), and documents that would demonstrate that I actually received the alleged student loans either directly, or indirectly, as tuition support.

I did not ask for validation that internal records exist.

You packaged copies of internal documents and snapshots of computer records as if that information would correspond to my FOIA request. However, your response does not match the requested information at all. Therefore, you only made it more apparent, that the U.S. Department of Education is attempting to substitute internal records and documents that would have been created after lending and borrowing transactions, for the documents that would demonstrate that actual lending and borrowing transactions took place, and would validate the monetary demands.

  • Please explain, how exactly do internal records that were created after I graduated from college, validate that I received the alleged student loans while still in college, without any documents that demonstrate that I actually received the alleged loans?
  • The internal computer records that you are referencing are supposed to be based on lending and borrowing transactions. How do such computer records validate the correctness of the records themselves, without the support material that validates that the underlying transactions actually took place?
  • Are you claiming, that if computer records exist, they are accurate simply because they exist?
  • How precisely do my letters, where I request debt validation, validate the monetary demands of the U.S. Department of Education?
  • This letter that you are reading now, is another letter that is related to my debt validation request. So, you will make a copy of this letter, will file it, and that will be also used as support material, demonstrating that I owe money?
  • And that is how the U.S. Department of Education FOIA Unit operates.

The U.S. Department of Education FOIA Unit’s operating practices addressed here are truly shameful. Sadly, these operating practices also fit into the overall picture of how the U.S. Department of Education handles its monetary demands validation. “We have the power, so, anything goes.”

Please take a moment to think about this and about all the other shenanigans that the U.S. Department of Education has orchestrated in conjunction with this case. What reason do I have to believe in the validity of the demands made?

FOIA Request for Actually Relevant Information

Let me emphasize that none of the materials that you sent me actually correspond to my request.

You did not send me the requested information on my receiving financial aid (not loans) and grants, such as Pell Grant, work-study and Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship.

Similarly, you did not send me any information or copies of documents that would demonstrate that I actually received any of the alleged student loans either directly, or indirectly, as tuition support.

In previous correspondence, Naomi Randolph, Special Assistant, Operations Services, Federal Student Aid, who responded on behalf of Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, has stated that the U.S. Department of Education does not have information on my receiving Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship, because Rhode Island College provided that financial aid to me. I received this financial aid as an honors student.

To some degree, I can understand that the U.S. Department of Education does not have this information. However, this shows that your records are most definitely incomplete. Obviously, that should not be the case, if the U.S. Department of Education wants to be the credible source of accurate information in student loan demand related areas.

Please note, that if the U.S. Department of Education wants to make credible monetary demands, then it is the obligation of the U.S. Department of Education to have and to furnish complete information and documentation that fully supports the legitimacy of the demands made.

Further, your response barely mentions Pell Grant.

Further, strangely, your response does not contain any information on my receiving work-study financial aid, which I most definitely did receive.

So, let’s make this request even more specific. This way, you will have fewer opportunities to hide behind nonsense.

This is a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552, as amended, and the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC 552a, as amended. This is related to FOIA Request No. XX-XXXXX-XX.

Please send me all the information that the U.S. Department of Education has and is able to obtain on my receiving work-study financial aid while I attended Rhode Island College as an undergraduate student from 1990 to 1996. I hope, that this request for information is specific enough and you will honor it.

Thomas Eklund

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