Clarke failed to pay student loans

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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