The Price of Fighting for the Sake of Fighting is Inability to Find Constructive Solutions

Even if you lead an institution that is big and mighty, like the U.S. Department of Education is, if you choose to pursue the policy of fighting for the sake of fighting, you are engaging your resources so that you are inevitably reducing your ability to find constructive solutions.

Similarly, if you choose to pursue the policy of putting people through a higher education system that for many creates much less value than it costs, you will continue to increase the number of victims produced.

The preferences that the leaders have and the choices that they make produce consequences, and that matters. Leader’s ability and willingness to solve problems matters.

It matters to many college graduates that their education produces much less value to them than they expected. It matters to employers that many college graduates do not fulfill the requirements that the industries have. It matters to the U.S. economy, that the overall student loan debt has reached levels where it has negative impacts.

Here, and in other areas featured below, I can draw parallels between the big picture and my case.

It matters to me personally that the Department of Education is being run so that making unvalidated monetary demands and threats is acceptable. It matters to me that even when it’s clear that the demands are unvalidated, the Department of Education has no need resolve the situation.

I have documented my dispute with the U.S. Department of Education on this website rather thoroughly. Clearly, the Department of Education is demanding from me payments for bank loans that I did not receive as a student.

It seems, that people at the Department of Education are finally starting to realize this as well. However, my case is characterized by a remarkable lack of interest from the Department of Education’s side to find a constructive solution to this situation. The Department of Education insists on continuing the fight for the sake of fighting. In the process, resources continue to be spent needlessly and unproductively.

The number of people who are in a situation that is very similar to mine may be relatively small. However, there are very many people who are affected by the lack of U.S. higher education related leadership, and inability and unwillingness to find and implement realistic solutions to the existing problems. Further, the leaders have let the higher education related problem areas grow so big, that they impact this country’s economy negatively through many domino effects. As a result, everybody pays the price.

Year after year, the Department of Education spends substantial resources on producing an ever growing number of people who overpay for education that does not deliver nearly as much value to them as expected. Growing number of people get trapped into student loan payments that they cannot afford.

The people who are running the Department of Education must know this, way better than I do. Yet, they have done virtually nothing to actually improve the situation. All that is being produced are bubbles – speeches, rhetoric and one-liners.

Healthcare reform is this government’s domestic priority. Perhaps the higher education problems fell victim to this short list of priorities.

When the circumstances necessitate it, shouldn’t the government be able and willing to handle more than one domestic priority?

Before becoming President, Senator Barack Obama said that "Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It is not necessary for us to think we can do only one thing and suspend everything else."

Yet, making any meaningful and substantive changes to higher education financing and debt collections have been suspended, even though these areas have caused substantial problems for years. If the President, for his political benefit, chooses not to focus on more than one high level domestic priority at a time, even though he knew in advance that this is one of the requirements of being president, and this choice victimizes people, what recourse do the victims have?

Or, perhaps the current government prefers not to make any real, substantive changes to the existing, very government dominated higher education financing industry. How can you admit that one government centric solution, the Department of Education’s role in the higher education financing industry, is in the current socio-economic environment largely a failure, and a very costly one, while you at the same time are trying to push another government centric reform, the Affordable Care Act?

So, in the higher education related areas, the focus has been on keeping the system in tact and doing more of the same – even though it is known that this process continues to create increasing amounts of problems and dissatisfaction. People, whose lives are impacted negatively, and companies and industries that are affected as a result are an inevitable "collateral damage." Roadkills.

What if instead of spending resources on keeping in tact infrastructures that are not effective, the focus would be on generating and implementing higher education related solutions that work and produce more value to the participants than they consume resources?

As long as we continue to have leadership that is unable and unwilling to find constructive solutions to higher education related problems, we have little hope of seeing real improvements in the enormous mess that the student loan industry has became, where the Department of Education has been the key player.

Again, in the problem solving areas I can draw strong parallels between the big picture and my case.

As long as there isn’t any constructive and definitive solution to the problems that the Department of Education has created in my life, I will have to continue to work on the nonexistent student loan case. Even though the monetary demands that the Department of Education has made remain to be unvalidated, I have to take these demands and the corresponding threats seriously.

As I recently wrote in EffectiveHigherED Case 4, instead of focusing only on the negative, I personally choose to spend my time and energy on both exploring the problems and on developing constructive and effective solutions that can form realistic alternatives to the higher education delivery, financing and debt collection infrastructures that are currently dominantly used. This is an enormous project, which I will have to narrow down. However, this project makes the inevitable struggle meaningful. Instead of fighting only for the sake of fighting like the Department of Education does, I prefer to turn problems into opportunities.

In the process, I will have to keep in touch with Mr. Duncan at least for as long as he is in the office. Well, that does also mean that Mr. Duncan’s debt keeps growing and growing. Further, it means that we will continue to document publicly Mr. Duncan’s failure to solve problems.

Below is a copy of a letter that is related to my case and I sent to Mr. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Eighth Open Letter Sent to Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

A copy of the letter published below was delivered to the following people and institutions:

  • - Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, USPS Delivery Confirmation EM746183193US
  • - Naomi Randolph, Special Assistant, Operations Services, Federal Student Aid, USPS Delivery Confirmation EM746183180US
  • - Paul E. Leary Jr., CEO, Collecto, Inc., d/b/a EOS CCA, USPS Delivery Confirmation EM746183176US
  • - Brittiany Leary, Senior VP of Operations, Collecto, Inc., d/b/a EOS CCA, USPS Delivery Confirmation EM746183162US

Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue S.W.

Washington, DC 20202

Dear Mr. Duncan,

Thank you for your letter dated 10/28/13 that your assistant sent to me on your behalf regarding your coercive demands for payments of a nonexistent debt that the Department of Education does not own, your purposeful usage of unqualified documents, misleading statements and threats, and your usage of unpaid forced labor for handling debt validation case that the Department of Education should handle with its own labor resources.

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

Mr. Duncan, by making unvalidated monetary demands the institution that you are leading, the Department of Education, has created a very serious situation that will not resolve on its own. Just like student loans do not materialize simply by a guaranty agency and the Department of Education creating internal records, problems that the Department of Education has created do not disappear simply by you stating that you have nothing else to say. The unvalidated monetary demands that have been accompanied with threats, and your forcing me to work on the consequent cases are very serious subject matters that you cannot simply brush aside.

Because you are clearly unable to validate your demands, in order to find a conclusion to this case, first and foremost, the Department of Education must send me a written statement, signed by an authorized official, stating that the Department of Education stops making any further monetary demands and will not under any circumstances take any actions and will not make any further demands regarding the specific previously claimed alleged debt, and will not authorize any individual, company, organization or institution to take any actions or to make any kinds of further demands regarding the specific previously claimed alleged debt.

Until you provide assurances that I no longer have to be concerned about the Department of Education’s monetary demands and threats, I must continue to work on the relevant areas , and to invoice you for the relevant costs.

Enclosed are (1) the latest invoice and (2) list of past due and outstanding invoices, totaling $93,740.45. You have not disputed the validity of this debt, and you have not showed why this debt is not owed. Thus, I conclude that this debt is valid. As long as this dispute continues, you will continue to receive debt validation requests and relevant invoices.

Communication Process

Mr. Duncan, in my letter dated 06/15/13 I already stated that I will not communicate with any of your business partner-collection agencies regarding the nonexistent debt issues. You do not have the legal right to demand that I must contact a collection agency regarding nonexistent debt problems that you created. Thus, if you want to communicate through a third party, you must find mutually acceptable communication channel for such communication purposes.

You initiated a dispute without having legally valid documents and actual base for making monetary demands and threats. Thus, it is your obligation to provide mutually acceptable means for finding suitable solutions to this dispute. Your trying to drop this case now, after you have failed to validate your demands is completely unacceptable.

Where Are the Freedom of Information Request’s Results?

Mr. Duncan, in the letter dated 07/01/13, that your assistant signed and sent to me on your behalf, I was advised to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Education.

Following the instructions that you sent me, I submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Education first on 07/15/13. I received a response stating, that I must sign a specific statement. I did so. Then I received yet another request to sign yet another statement, where I had to declare under penalty of perjury that the information that I have provided about this case is true to the best of my knowledge. I did sign that specific statement as well.

After my third FOIA request, I received the United States Department of Education FOIA REQUEST ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, which states that the date the request was received was August 20, 2013.

The FOIA tracking number of my request is XX-XXXXX-XX.

Mr. Duncan, where are the results of my FOIA request?

In my request I specified the information that I am looking for:

  • Copies of signed documents that validate my receipt of financial aid and/or student loans in the past.
  • I am looking for information on how much financial aid I did receive as Rhode Island College student. Relevant financial aid includes work-study, Pell Grant, and Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship, and other types financial aid (which do not include any alleged bank loans).
  • Similarly, I am looking for signed documents that demonstrate my receipt of student loans from Fleet National Bank either directly, or indirectly as tuition support. If you choose to maintain your monetary demands, you must demonstrate that I actually received $46,354.00 as principal that you allege I borrowed.
  • Publicly accessible sources state that the in-state cost of tuition to attend Rhode Island College from 1990 to 1996 ranged from $1,703 to $2,838 a year. I am looking for similar information from the Department of Education on the total cost of my attending Rhode Island College from 1990 to 1996.
  • I am looking for copies of signed documents that demonstrate that in 1997 Fleet National Bank submitted an insurance claims to Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority regarding my alleged student loans, and that consequently Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority made insurance payments on my behalf to Fleet National Bank in 1997.

In my FOIA request I specified further what documents I am looking for and the nature of the documents that I am looking for. Similarly, I specified that as far as promissory note debt instruments are concerned, I am not looking for copies of documents that are made from copies. If you do not have the original two-sided (duplex) Application and Promissory Note documents that I signed, please state so.

Similarly, if you do not have documents that I signed and that render the Application and Promissory Note financial aid applications into legally binding promissory notes that meet the requirements set for the legally binding promissory note debt instruments, as defined in Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code, please state so.

Do You Need Further Clarification?

Mr. Duncan, our communication process so far has shown in detail the following:

  • There is no contract that involves my receipt of student loans as the promisor from Fleet National Bank as the promisee. Thus, there is no contract involved here that has been breached.
  • There are no legally binding promissory note debt instruments that I signed as a student at Rhode Island College that involved me as the promisor and Fleet National Bank as the promisee.
  • Accordingly, the Department of Education does not hold any valid legally binding promissory note debt instruments that involve me as the promisor and Fleet National Bank as the promisee.
  • The Department of Education does not own a nonexistent debt that involves me as the promisor and Fleet National Bank as the promisee.

Apparently, the Department of Education has difficulties with coming to terms with the above. Further, it seems that despite of having substantial resources at your disposal, you simply do not know how to solve this dispute.

If you and your colleagues at the Department of Education are unable to specify what further clarification you need on the above, feel free to send me yet another response where you state that in your opinion you have already provided sufficient proof on the existence of debt, and that I should contact a debt collection agency. Such responses demonstrate, that you are still trying to evade your responsibility to validate your monetary demands and to solve the problems that you have created. As a result, I will have to continue to explain to you the same topics again. If you choose not to resolve the issues addressed here, for you this dispute will continue at least for as long as you are in the office, and on the Internet I will have to continue to document your failure to solve the problems that you created.

However, as I have stated in the past, I am interested in finding a more constructive solution to this case.

Thomas Eklund

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