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Vulnerable students ‘cheated’

Richard Bell was walking out of an appointment at a mental health clinic when staff from a jobs training college persuaded him to sign up for a course he had no idea would leave him with an $11,000 debt, the Canberra Times reports.

“I feel cheated, I think they were targeting vulnerable people and it was really unethical,” Mr Bell said.

After getting help from Legal Aid NSW, it took a couple of years and a complicated process to get that debt cancelled.

A new law has now been introduced to make it easier for people like Mr Bell who have been targeted by unscrupulous operators, to get their government loans cancelled.

Having completed a certificate four course in small business management, Mr Bell was tempted by the offer of a diploma course and a free laptop from vocational training college Aspire, which has since gone into liquidation.

But within a week of starting the new course, Mr Bell was told he could no longer attend classes at an Aspire college and that he would need to complete the rest of his course online at home “at my own pace”.

The Sydney Morning Herald has sought comment from Aspire’s parent company Global Intellectual Holdings through its liquidator.

Mr Bell gave up on the course after a month unaware that he had an government loan of more than $11,000 until a classmate took him to see Legal Aid for advice.

Jo Evans, a senior consumer lawyer at Legal Aid NSW, said it had lobbied for the legal reform to help people like Mr Bell.

Ms Evans said Legal Aid had many clients who had limited English, mental health conditions and were from low-income backgrounds or unemployed.

FULL STORY AND PHOTO

Vulnerable Richard was ‘cheated’ but other students now have a lifeline (Canberra Times)