DeVos gives for-profit schools a gift while punishing defrauded students

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t is getting more difficult by the day to keep pace with the barrage of nasty policy “reforms” and attacks on domestic programs because of the never-ending distractions centering on the criminal in the White House. No doubt a few Americans overlooked another abominable action from Trump’s evangelical extremist running the Education Department that fairly epitomizes why Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is an epic disaster. It also shines a glaring light on Trump’s greatest lie that his primary reason for running for office was to “drain the swamp” in Washington when in fact he began transforming the so-called “swamp” into a rotting special interest cesspool the day of his poorly attended inauguration.

Despite the best efforts of a real President, Barack Obama, to aid students defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit schools, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos devised “new rules” to protect the for-profit private education industry that DeVos represents; the plight of the defrauded students was never a consideration despite they were fundamentally scammed out of a reported $13 billion.

The corporate-friendly plan eliminates regulations requiring for-profit colleges to prove that they provide a quality education that allows enrolled students to secure gainful employment. The plan is being criticized as “the most drastic in a series of moves that DeVos has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards.”

The Obama-era regulations would have cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates did not earn enough money to pay those loans off. The rule sent many for-profit colleges and universities into an economic tailspin because so many of their alumni were failing to find decent jobs due to fraudulent claims and inadequate education.

The DeVos-Trump private-school protection plan was hailed as a long-needed reform to “correct Obama-era” rules created to protect consumers. It is noteworthy that DeVos blocked the “Obama-era borrower rule”  from ever being implemented to protect her personal special interest – the for-profit private school industry. The action obviously garnered rave reviews from the for-profit education industry because it provides them with a field-tested means of defrauding students with veritable impunity.

Education activists, however, sharply criticized the action because it leaves defrauded students with $13 billion indebtedness with  little-to-no recourse or relief. At best, education advocates and defrauded students learned that in Trump’s America past corporate corruption and fraud is richly rewarded, and future corruption will be nearly impossible to prosecute – at least that is the case for industry that DeVos exists to enrich. It is worth noting that a government ethics report listed DeVos as invested in a “student debt collection agency” that does business with the Department of Education, but DeVos is only looking after the interests of the cheated students to hear her tell it.

DeVos said the proposal will assist for-profit private schools avoid trouble – by describing how best to avoid being caught or held accountable for cheating. She also lied and claimed the “new rules” actually protect any student who was economically devastated by deliberate deception. According to DeVos, her plan is really focused on protecting the significantly indebted students, but only if “they can prove the [private for-profit] schools deliberately misled them.” If DeVos’ past actions are any indication, students will have to  prove they were defrauded by a for-profit private school to a committee made up of for-profit private school officials.

Education Department documents that were alleged to support DeVos’ plan claimed that although students “really should be protected” from fraudulent private schools, it is really their fault they picked the wrong schools. The Department said:

Postsecondary students are adults who can be reasonably expected to make informed decisions;  if they have access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

That giant pile of bovine excrement statement fails to mention that one of the primary purposes of President Obama’s “borrower protection rule” was to pressure for-profit private schools to provide prospective students with something they resisted like plague – “access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

DeVos claimed the new proposal will save nearly $13 billion by reducing the amount of loan relief awarded to students who were defrauded to the tune of at least $13 billion by the people DeVos exists to enrich and protect. Under the new proposal, likely written by the for-profit school industry, private schools can now defend themselves against fraud claims and prevent damage to their reputations; all while preserving the billions in revenue from students who were defrauded. It also authorizes for-profit fraudulent schools to “force students into arbitration agreements as well as bar them from ever suing the schools that defrauded the students.” It is a practice that many for-profit colleges use regularly and “would have been banned” under President Obama’s rules that DeVos prevented being implemented.

While the private education industry cheered another means of cheating students, education advocates “blasted the proposal.” They rightly claimed DeVos’ plan “places [unscrupulous] private schools ahead of students while discouraging victims from ever pursuing financial relief.”

The director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University explained the real purpose of the Trump-DeVos gift to the for-profit education industry.  Toby Merrill said:

“It encourages abusive and predatory institutions to continue to rip off students with impunity, while slamming the door on the debt relief that Congress has instructed the department to provide to cheated students.”

A senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Education Department official, Bob Shireman said:

The proposal is perhaps the most damaging action Betsy DeVos has taken since assuming office. These changes would effectively strip students of their right to recourse if a college or university misled them, making it next to impossible for defrauded students to get the relief they are entitled to.”

The for-profit school industry and their Republican facilitators hailed the corporate-friendly changes as a “great improvement for the for-profit college industry.” The president and chief executive of the trade group, Career Education Colleges and Universities, said the old rules allowing fraud claims to reach fruition were not only unfair, they were very detrimental to for-profit private schools, even though they were never implemented. Steve Gunderson said:

The department has undertaken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to this rule, and we applaud their hard work on this important matter.”

It is unclear how much Mr. Gunderson’s “private school trade group”  was involved in devising the rules to benefit the industry, but it was likely substantial. DeVos does not make any education move without consulting, and then enacting the demands of special interests .

DeVos belied the publicly-stated motivation behind what is her gift to the for-profit education industry she helped create and now represents. She told an assembly of her close business associates in the private school industry: “Our commitment and our focus has been and remains on protecting students from fraud.”

Of course the private education leaders applauded DeVos’ new policy because they perfectly understand that DeVos’ commitment and focus “has been and remains” protecting charlatans in the private education industry. If that was not the case, she would not be making it virtually impossible for defrauded students to ever get relief, much less restitution. It is the only reason she made suspending President Obama’s  2016 “borrower defense rules”  one of the first acts as the most “unqualified Education Department head” in history.

As a reminder, President Obama’s action followed the total collapse of two for-profit schools, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute to give defrauded and indebted students a possible means of “relief” after suffering far too many for profit private schools’ obvious breach of contract.

It is almost certain that the average American is repulsed at the thought of being scammed, or defrauded, out of any amount of dollars – especially if they had to borrow those dollars with the hope of  improving their future. Trump is firmly behind this act because his so-called “Trump University” epitomized what at least 100,000-plus defrauded students experienced and now have the Herculean task of waiting until 2019 to attempt to “prove the schools deliberately misled them.”  The new rules will not go into effect until 2019, and because DeVos canceled President Obama’s “borrower defense rule” before it was implemented, defrauded students have no recourse.

Although this Trump-DeVos atrocity is not nearly as exciting as the myriad other troubles currently plaguing the criminal in the Oval, it should enrage the population whether they support education or not. It is yet another monumental monetary gift to special interests and that is ire-inspiring in-and-of-itself. But the real outrage is yet another Trump administration “reform” devised to allow special interests to inflict harm on consumers with the full protection of a corrupt federal government that is run by special interests and theocrats.

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