On a biting day in December, 11 activists marched into the headquarters of Educational Credit Management Corp. in Oakdale, Minn., and asked to see David Hawn, the chief executive officer. ECMC, an agency that once quietly worked on behalf of the U.S. government to collect and service student loans, was catapulted into the public eye late last year when it announced it planned to buy Corinthian Colleges, a chain of for-profit schools with a history of questionable practices, for $24 million. Hawn didn't meet with the protestors, they said. Instead, his head of communications walked out and listened as Maggie Thompson, a campaign manager for the nonprofit Higher Ed, Not Debt, listed concerns about the proposed deal, including the proposal that students won't be allowed a refund on their student loans, and delivered a stack of more than 2,600 signed petitions from Corinthian students.
The surprise visit was part of a broader battle waged by advocates and members of Congress to block the sale of Corinthian's campuses or make the terms of the transaction more favorable to students. The merger may have stalled; ECMC missed a Jan. 5 deadline to complete the purchase of 56 Corinthian campuses; it then missed a second, Jan. 12 deadline. The closing date has been pushed back to Feb. 2.