Trump’s education secretary overrides department findings on defrauded student borrowers: report
Betsy DeVos (Image credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Although the Trump Administration has had a high turnover since 2017, one of the people who has remained is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Trump’s education secretary, from 2017 to late 2019, has had more than her share of critics; some of them include college students, and a December 11 report by Cory Turner for NPR describes DeVos’ battle with recipients of student loans who say there were defrauded.

Turner reports, “These borrowers — more than 200,000 of them — say some for-profit colleges lied to them about their job prospects and the transferability of credits. They argue they were defrauded and that the Education Department should erase their federal student loan debt under a rule called ‘borrower defense.’”

DeVos, however, disagrees with the students, asserting that they did receive at least some value from their educations and that they deserve partial relief for their student loans but not total relief. And she is not swayed by some newly released memos from 2017 .

The students’ complaints — some of which are against now-defunct colleges such as ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian College — predate the Trump Administration. A memo dated January 9, 2017 states, “Corinthian Colleges, Inc. ('Corinthian') consistently represented that all graduates obtained jobs after graduation or, relatedly, that its students were guaranteed employment after graduation. These representations were false and misleading. Accordingly, the Borrower Defense Unit recommends full relief for Corinthian borrower defense (BD) applicants.”

A January 10, 2017 memo, Turner reports, recommended full relief for students who were deceived by ITT.

Turner notes, “Until now, these internal department memos have been hidden from public view. Lawmakers had previously requested access to them, but DeVos and her department refused to hand them over. Instead, DeVos has criticized the Obama Administration for lack of due diligence in processing borrower defense claim.”

DeVos, in a November 7 letter to Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott (who chairs the House Education Committee), criticized the Obama Administration for favoring full relief for the students. Trump’s education secretary complained, “The clear intent of the prior administration was to eventually provide blanket relief without review of the facts and evidence.”

This Thursday, December 12, DeVos is scheduled to testify before the House Education Committee about her handling of the students’ complaints.