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Tuesday, 15 May 2018 05:51

Betsy DeVos Gives Green Light for Fraud at For-Profit Colleges

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devosfraudjpgSecretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to enable for-profit colleges. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is bareling ahead to cater to for-profit education. She has already exhibited her zeal for education that is run by companies, particularly championing charter schools. Donald Trump in large part chose her, it appears, because of her advocacy of charter schools in her home state of Michigan. However, DeVos is not just an advocate of privatizing primary and secondary public schools, she is also a shill and enabler of for-profit colleges.

Consider, for instance, her enthusiasm for diluting the gainful employment rule promulgated under the Obama administration. The rule was created to force for-profit colleges to be more transparent in disclosing how many of their graduates actually obtained decent-paying jobs. It also limited the student debt ratio of corporate education; otherwise, the companies would be at risk of losing some of their federal loans. DeVos chose to lessen the requirements on for-profit colleges in order to put fewer at risk of non-compliance.

Recently, DeVos also came to the aid of for-profit higher education schools by, in essence, dissolving the Department of Education's (DOE) anti-fraud efforts in regards to for-profit colleges. This will enable these entities to more easily financially take advantage of students. The DOE anti-fraud team had already been reduced to just three staffers under DeVos, and now it is slated for extinction.

A May 13 New York Times article about the dissolution of the for-profit college anti-fraud team notes the pitched criticisms of DeVos's action:

Aaron Ament, a former chief of staff to the office of the department’s general counsel who helped create the team under President Barack Obama, said it had been intended to protect students from fraudulent for-profit colleges. “Unfortunately, Secretary DeVos seems to think the colleges need protection from their students,” said Mr. Ament, who is now president of the National Student Legal Defense Network.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, also criticized the team’s new direction. Ms. DeVos has taken a number of actions to roll back or delay regulations that sought to rein in abuses and predatory practices among for-profit colleges — actions that Ms. Warren and other Democrats have said put the industry’s interests ahead of those of students....

“Secretary DeVos has filled the department with for-profit college hacks who only care about making sham schools rich and shutting down investigations into fraud,” Ms. Warren said.

Indeed, the DOE and Trump administration are filled with former for-profit educaton big shots. 

According to a March article in the Republic Report, DeVos is surrounding herself with former executives at for-profit colleges. This includes most recently Diane Auer Jones:

Diane Auer Jones is joining Betsy DeVos's Department of Education Department as senior policy adviser to the secretary. Jones has been working at the U.S. Department of Labor since November, and worked in the George W. Bush administration as assistant secretary for postsecondary education.

But in between, Jones was, from 2010 until 2015, senior vice president and chief external affairs officer at Career Education Corporation, meaning she was a full-time lobbyist for a predatory for-profit college.

Illinois-based Career Education Corp., whose schools have included American InterContinental University, Colorado Technical University, and Sanford-Brown, was getting as much as $1.9 billion annually in federal student aid dollars during in the peak years of the for-profit college era.

Before the DOE higher education fraud team was disbanded it was headed by Julian Schmoke, who formerly work at the for-profit DeVry University. DeVry paid a $100 million dollar fine in 2016 to the Federal Trade Commission as settlement for the past misleading of students.

As an article in Patheos noted about the infestation of the DOE by senior staffers who believe in profiteering off of the aspirations of students to find meaningful and decent-paying work:

So much for draining the swamp. We’ll just put the people who were under investigation in charge of the investigations, just like Trump wants to have the say over the Mueller probe. None of this should be the least bit surprising. After all, Trump just had to pay out $25 million to settle suits over his utterly fraudulent Trump “University.” He made huge amounts of money on that scam and he wants to protect others from the same fate. Because why would we want to prevent rich people from committing fraud on non-rich people? Who do we think own this country, anyway?

And DeVos is an avowed enemy of public education in general. I’m surprised Amway hasn’t built their own “university,” where the students sell other students education packages. Multilevel Marketing U. Their mascot would be the Fighting Con Artist.

It is worthy of note that DeVos's DOE is reflective of the Trump administation concern about enabling the profitability of companies in the business of education. Mercedes Schlapp, the White House’s director of strategic communications, represented a for-profit under investigation -- Bridgepoint -- at a lobbying firm she owned with her husband.

It is clear that DeVos and the Trump administration favor for-profit education over our public schools and non-profit educational system. What is becoming clearer is just how formidable that bias is.