News & Politics

Clarke failed to pay student loans

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Claiming to have graduated from Oberlin College when
she was still several credits shy of a degree isn’t the
only reason for Brooklyn congressional wannabe Yvette
Clarke to be embarrassed.

Ten years after the councilwoman left the prestigious
Ohio liberal arts school behind, state officials had to
file a court lien against Clarke to get her to ante up more
than $17,000 in student loans she had failed to pay,
records show.

In July, 1996, the New York State Office of Higher
Education, now known as the Higher Education Services
Corp., went to court against Clarke to force her to start
paying off the loans. “There was a judgment brought,”
confirmed Ronald Kermani, a spokesman for the state agency. “It
was filed in the courts, and she has been paying directly
through the courts since then.” Clarke still owes $4,268, officials said.

Just why Clarke let the loan go unpaid for so long is
unclear.

According to campaign aides and a biography posted on
her Web site, Clarke held steady jobs from the time she left
Oberlin in 1986 until she entered the city council in 2002,
taking the seat formerly held by her mother, Una Tomlinson
Clarke. Starting in 1987, the younger Clarke worked first
at a neighborhood organization in East Flatbush, then
as an aide for two different state legislators. In 1992,
she became director of a “youth mentoring program” at the
health service workers’ union, Local 1199, a job she held
until 1995 when she became director of a government-funded
Bronx economic Empowerment Zone office.

Campaign spokesman Stefan Friedman declined to say why
officials needed a court order to get Clarke to pay up.
“Yvette Clarke redeemed her loan from the Higher
Educational Services Corporation in 1996. Since then she
has consistently paid down those loans in accordance with
an agreed upon payment schedule,” said Friedman in a written statement.

Clarke is lodged in a tight race against three other
candidates for the Democratic nomination to represent the
11th Congressional District. Also running are state senator
Carl Andrews, councilman David Yassky, and Chris Owens, son
of Major Owens, the longtime congressman who is retiring.

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