Archives for category: Student Financial Aid and Student Debt

Steve Nelson was head of school at the Calhoun School. He is now in retirement. He writes frequently about the need for child-centered education.

“RESIST!”  Bernie Sanders? AOC?  Malcom X? Saul Alinsky?

No, this was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s plea to Education Department staffers as she ends her term in office. As reported in The Hill, she specifically implored them to “Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students.”  DeVos evoking the language of progressive activism is rich – almost as rich as DeVos herself.

She has gotten scant attention in the chaos of these last days.  It seems unjust to allow her to go so quietly from the party.  It is only in the shadow of Bill Barr, Scott Pruitt, Michael Flynn, Wilbur Ross, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Mike Pompeo, Ben Carson, Stephen Miller and many others that DeVos’s breathtaking awfulness would go uncelebrated.

I am here to right that wrong.

As with other Trump appointees, her most luminous qualification for the position was absolute disdain for the mission she was tapped to lead.  She had demonstrated  decades of hostility toward public education and her antipathy has continued unabated on the job.

Her educational “philosophy” is built on several premises that have informed her life’s work. 

Her education activism and support of reform are, in her words, “a means to advance God’s Kingdom.”   She has proclaimed that “the system of education in the country . . . really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run.”  To this end she has been a tireless advocate for voucher programs which allow parents to use tax dollars for their children’s enrollment in religious schools.  In Florida, for example, 80% of vouchers, to the tune of $1 billion, go to religious schools, where evolution is just theory, gay students are unwelcome and every course is offered through a Christian lens.

Her advocacy for charter schools is built on the second premise: Profit is a divine right and any budding entrepreneur who can walk and chew gum is qualified to give education a shot. In her home state of Michigan this has resulted in a checkerboard of charter schools that fail as often as Trump casinos and where the odds of getting a good education are like playing the roulette wheel.  The shifting of public money to charters has hollowed out the public system in Detroit, for example, where kids of color are often shuffled to and from a half dozen startups and shutdowns in just one school year.  To extend the simile, it’s a bad deal for children.

This manifestation of her “activism” seems very much like the source of her immense wealth:  Amway.  The very American Amway system also allows  any budding entrepreneur who can walk and chew gum to give Amway a whirl. The odds of success are similar to the odds of success for charter startups – meaning very low indeed.  Unless, of course, you are at the top of the pyramid. Every sucker who loses is a gain for the house.  

Amway aside, her business acumen is a bit suspect.  She was a major investor in Theranos, a remarkable scam whose founder is facing felony counts of fraud.  She and her husband are also up to their corrupt ears in another corporate scam, Neurocore, which has been charged for using unapproved (FDA) devices and deceptive (FTC) marketing.  As a kicker, they invested in a Broadway show that closed after three weeks.  Like her patron saint Trump, it’s just so much winning.

I would be remiss if not pointing out that she is, in these respects, an iconic representative of the contemporary Grand Old Party which is committed to the same principles: that we are a Christian nation and that everything done for private profit is de facto better and more efficient than anything done for public good.

A few other highlights:

She supports using federal funds to arm teachers.

She dramatically altered Title IX to give more rights to boys and men accused of sexual misconduct and to significantly limit the authority of educational institutions to support women or use their own discretion.

In her confirmation hearing, she knew nothing about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), saying states should do whatever they want.

She called historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) “pioneers of school choice,” seeming to miss that they were the result of segregation and that they were founded because black students had no choices.  It’s like admiring a particularly fine porcelain drinking fountain in Jim-Crow-era Alabama and praising it as a pioneer in hydration choice.

President-elect Biden has selected Dr. Miguel Cardona to replace DeVos.  He is a vast improvement.  For those who continue to work  in the Department of Education, we must say, “Resist!”

President-Elect Joe Biden will soon announce his choice for Secretary of Education. He promised to choose a person with experience as a teacher. He said he wants a Secretary who is committed to public education. Here is my choice.

I can’t think of anyone better qualified to be Secretary of Education than Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick, other than Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, who is chair of the Biden education transition team and has taken herself out of the running.


Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick is Dean Emeritus of the School of Education at Howard University.


She has been a teacher, a teacher educator, a scholar, and a dean. She taught middle school science in Toledo, her hometown. 


She understands the most important needs of American education: adequate and equitable funding; experienced teachers; and a commitment to equity and inclusion.


I have watched her lectures online, and I was blown away by her wisdom, her articulateness, and her deep understanding of the needs of children, teachers, and schools.


Leslie Fenwick is steeped in knowledge of teaching and learning, and she knows the details of federal policy. 


She is the perfect person to clean up the mess that Betsy DeVos created, to reverse four years of an administration that sought to demolish civil rights protections, to defund public schools
, to fund private and religious schools, and to impose financial burdens on college students who are deep in debt or were defrauded by for-profit institutions.

After twenty years of failed federal policies of high-stakes testing and punishment for schools and teachers, American education needs bold and forceful leadership, not incremental change.


Leslie Fenwick knows that public schools are an essential element of American democracy. They are community institutions that belong to the public, not to entrepreneurs or corporate chains. 

She will support schools instead of closing them. She will support teachers instead of threatening them.

She is a strong and clear-thinking leader.


She respects educators.


She is an inspiring speaker.

She would be the ideal Secretary of Education for the Biden administration. 

If you want to show your support for Dr. Fenwick, please sign the NPE Action petition and tweet your support:

Here is the petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/dr-leslie-fenwick-for-us-secretary-of-education

For twitter: contact @joebiden @DrBiden @Transition46


After four years of Betsy DeVos and her antagonism toward public schools, civil rights protection, and students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges, the U.S. Department of Education needs a thorough makeover. A house-cleaning. A thorough disinfecting.

Larry Buhl of Capital &Main describes in this article what the Biden administration must do to de-DeVos the Department.

Is it possible to reverse the ways in which she attempted to destroy public schools, civil rights enforcement, and fair dealing with college students who have borrowed more than they can ever pay back?

That is the job facing the new Secretary of Education. Bring out the Lysol!

The Trump administration seems to have gone into hibernation since the election. The coronavirus is raging out of control, but the federal coronavirus task force is silent, with neither Trump nor its titular chair Mike Pence attending its meetings. Given the administration’s penchant for toxic actions, its inactivity may be a blessing, but in the case of student loan repayments, this is not the case.

The administration has thus far failed to address the repayment of student loans of 33 million Americans, which had been put on pause because of the pandemic. The freeze ends December 31, and no one in the administration has indicated whether the freeze will be extended or will end.

– “Trump’s student loan cliff threatens chaos for Biden,” by Michael Stratford: “At midnight on New Year’s Eve, President Donald Trump’s pause on student loan payments for 33 million Americans is set to expire, just three weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is slated to take over.

“The Education Department started warning borrowers through text messages and emails this week that their monthly payments will resume in January. Even though Trump said this summer that he planned to later “extend” the freeze beyond Dec. 31, a White House spokesperson declined to comment on whether the president is still considering another executive action to move the expiration date.

“If Trump doesn’t act unilaterally and Congress doesn’t act to avert the cliff either, Biden could waive his own executive wand once inaugurated, though the president-elect’s campaign will not divulge his plans. The intervening weeks of limbo could cause mass confusion and uncertainty for borrowers. For the incoming president, the economic and administrative mess could take months to untangle, consuming the early days of his Education Department.”

David R. Taylor is a veteran teacher and blogger. He asks the important question of what to expect the consequences to be for public education if Trump is re-elected.

Very likely, it means four more years of Betsy DeVos and her crusade to destroy public education and shower federal money on charter schools, private schools, and religious schools.

Taylor reviews some of her worst actions, such as favoring predatory lenders and favoring for-profit colleges that rip off students. Such as, abandoning the kids who need her most by downplaying civil rights complaints and stripping transgender students of any protections. Such as, trying to starve her own department of funding.

Between the return of DeVos and a voucher-loving majority on the Supreme Court, public schools are in for a rough ride. We can’t change the composition of the Supreme Court (unless there is a genuine effort to expand it and add balance), but we can vote to make sure Betsy goes back to Michigan and her ten yachts.

The California State Attorney General, Xavier Becerra and 48 other states and the Consumer Financial Bureau won a $330 million settlement on behalf of students from a now-defunct for-profit “college.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with 48 states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Tuesday announced a $330 million settlement with ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech), the now-defunct predatory for-profit college, and PEAKS, its holding company. The settlement, which in California is pending court approval, resolves allegations of an illegal private student loan scheme that harmed student borrowers by misdirecting them towards expensive student loans that they struggled to repay. The settlement will automatically discharge PEAKS’ entire student-loan portfolio with loan forgiveness for anyone with an outstanding PEAKS loan. This will provide relief for more than 43,000 borrowers nationwide, including 4,000 Californians. PEAKS will also be required to shut down after carrying out the settlement.

“As students strive for a college degree, their attention should be on their studies not on being cheated by unscrupulous lenders,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Using a private lending scheme, ITT Tech saddled students with massive debt, exorbitant interest rates, and a worthless diploma. Today’s settlement removes the financial handcuffs gripping thousands of California students defrauded by ITT Tech. These students and former students can now wake up from this borrower’s nightmare. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to crackdown on predatory for-profit colleges that focus on dollars instead of diplomas.”

Peter Greene explains here how Trump came to Betsy DeVos’ rescue when Congress tried to stop her from punishing students who had been scammed by predatory colleges.

DeVos wanted to withdraw an Obama-era program that helped students who incurred debts to fraudulent colleges. A court intervened to stop her. DeVos considers the students buried by debt to be free-loaders. Congress rebuked DeVos in a rare bipartisan vote. Trump issued his very first veto, simultaneously supporting DeVos and rejecting the thousands of students who had been defrauded.

This is outrageous.

Back to court.

How cruel can Betsy DeVos and Steven Mnuchin be? As people of great wealth and privilege, they have not a thought for those who have been impoverished by the pandemic.

Both have been sued in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of student debtors whose tax refunds they sought to garnish.

Jessica Corbett writes in Common Dreams:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the federal departments they run were hit with a class-action lawsuit Friday for illegal seizures of thousands of student borrowers’ tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 40 million Americans jobless and familes across the country struggling to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

The suit (pdf)—filed by Student Defense and Democracy Forward in the U.S. District Court for D.C.—accuses the Education and Treasury departments of violating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act from late March, which halted all involuntary collection of federal student loans, including tax refund offsets, until the end of September.

“Secretaries DeVos and Mnuchin have inflicted needless financial pain on student borrowers and their families by failing to stop the illegal seizures of their tax refunds,” Democracy Forward senior counsel Jeffrey Dubner said in a statement.

“The turmoil caused by the ongoing pandemic is no excuse for breaking the law,” Dubner added. “Our class-action suit seeks to hold the administration accountable so that student borrowers can stay on their feet during this crisis.”

Trump vetoed legislation that would have protected college students burdened by debt from predatory colleges. Many of the defrauded were veterans.

Trump’s support of predatory colleges should not be surprising, since Trump owned a predatory college “Trump University”), which was closed down by regulators and led to Trump being fined $25 million.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump on Friday vetoed a bipartisan resolution to overturn a policy that makes it tougher for students who say they were defrauded by colleges to have their federal education loans canceled.


In rejecting the measure Friday, Trump called it “a misguided resolution that would increase costs for American students and undermine their ability to make choices about their education in order to best meet their needs.”


Although the White House had long signaled the move, veterans groups that strongly oppose the regulation had implored Trump to stand with members of the military who they say are routinely preyed upon by unscrupulous schools for their lucrative GI Bill education benefits.


In the lead-up to Memorial Day, veterans groups ran advertisements on Fox News urging Trump to support the congressional resolution.

But siding with veterans would have forced Trump to abandon the longest-serving member of his Cabinet: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“President Trump’s veto … was a victory for DeVos and the fraud merchants at the for-profit colleges. My question to the President: in four days did you forget those flag-waving Memorial Day speeches as you vetoed a bill the veterans were begging for?” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who introduced the resolution in the Senate.


The veto arrives two months after Congress agreed to scrap DeVos’s overhaul of a 1995 law known as “borrower defense to repayment.” The law provides federal loan forgiveness to students whose colleges lied to get them to enroll.


An Obama-era update of the statute lowered hurdles for students and shifted more of the cost onto schools, but DeVos tried to scuttle the update and then rewrite the rule.

The Trump administration in September finalized its rewrite, which limits the time borrowers have to apply for relief and requires them to prove they were harmed financially by the deception. The rule is scheduled to take effect July 1.


To sideline the policy, Democrats used the Congressional Review Act, which lets lawmakers overturn recent regulatory actions of federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.
Durbin and Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced resolutions in their chambers days after the Trump administration finalized the rule. But as the campaign to overturn the Trump policy gained momentum, the White House threatened to veto the resolution.


In a policy statement issued in January, the White House Office of Management and Budget said overturning the rule “would restore the partisan regulatory regime of the previous administration, which sacrificed the interests of taxpayers, students and schools in pursuit of narrow, ideological objectives.”


Yet in March, Trump told Republican senators that he was “neutral” on the rule, giving veterans groups hope that the president, who has sought and enjoyed support from veterans, might sign the resolution.


Hours before Trump vetoed the resolution Friday, American Legion National Commander James Oxford issued a statement urging the president to “come to the aid of student veterans,” much like he did a year ago in granting automatic student loan forgiveness to permanently disabled veterans.


News of Trump’s decision left the American Legion, other veterans groups, consumer advocates and lawmakers disappointed.
Lee pledged to forge ahead with a campaign to override the veto in the House.
“The fight for our students and veterans is far from over,” she said Friday. “I’m urging all of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to put students, veterans and taxpayers first, and vote to overturn the 2019 Borrower Defense rule.”


The Trump administration estimates its new rule will save the federal government $11 billion over 10 years — loan payments that would have gone uncollected under existing rules.
“

The Secretary is thankful to the president for his leadership on this issue,” Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said in a statement Friday. “This administration is committed to protecting all students from fraud and holding all schools accountable when they fail their students. This administration’s rule does just that, despite false claims from many corners.”


DeVos has defended her overhaul as a sensible and fair way to account for the needs of students, colleges and taxpayers. She has derided the Obama-era update as a giveaway for students and a veiled attempt to go after for-profit colleges.
“Whereas the last administration promoted a regulatory environment that produced precipitous school closures and stranded students, this new rule puts the needs of students first,” Trump said Friday.

The new rule “extends the window during which they can qualify for loan discharge, and encourages schools to provide students with opportunities to complete their educations.”
Trump said the resolution “would return the country to a regulatory regime in which the Federal Government and State attorneys general, rather than students, determine the kinds of education students need and which schools they should be allowed to attend.”

The $2 trillion appropriated by Congress as coronavirus relief funds will benefit for-profit colleges with poor records, according to Marketwatch. They are likely to collect $1 billion. DeVos has been an investor in for-profit colleges, so don’t expect her to care. Democratic Senators have complained to DeVos but got no response this far.,

Dozens of for-profit colleges that are among those most likely to benefit from stimulus funding face thousands of claims from students demanding their money back because they say they were defrauded, according to analysis prepared for MarketWatch.

Some of the schools eligible for bailout funds also face federal scrutiny for mismanaged funds, while others have been dubbed “failed” under a federal standard requiring them to provide an education adequate for repaying loans, the analysis shows. Some schools eligible for bailout funds have settled lawsuits with the U.S. Justice Department following allegations of fraud and misuse of federal student aid…

The analysis found that of the top estimated 100 for-profit schools eligible for coronavirus crisis subsidies, 79 had students who demanded their loans be forgiven under a federal program meant to provide relief to students who alleged they had been defrauded. From these top 100 for-profit schools, 12,000 students had filed federal complaints alleging they were victims of fraud. Twenty-three of the top 100 for-profit schools most likely to receive funding were previously characterized by federal regulators as “failed” under a requirement that students go on to find jobs good enough to repay loans. DeVos last year rescinded the requirement that schools meet this standard as a condition for benefiting from federal subsidies.

Twelve of the top 100 for-profit schools eligible for stimulus funds also faced some form of legal action as of 2017 for alleged fraud involving recruitment and misuse of federal student aid programs, according to the analysis. Thirteen, meanwhile, were under “heightened cash monitoring,” an extra level of scrutiny under U.S. Department of Education rules meant to serve as a caution to students that can indicate problems with finances or accreditation.

“Colleges like these with a predatory history and thousands of prior students who are still awaiting compensation for deceptive practices should not be getting a federal bailout,” said Bob Shireman, deputy undersecretary of education under President Obama who now oversees higher education programs at The Century Foundation, a liberal think tank.

As the rushed effort to dispense $2 trillion in stimulus funds unfolds, experts are questioning how the government more broadly will guard against fraud, waste and abuse, and whether the public can trust whether tax dollars will be used to achieve the program’s goals.

Expect waste, fraud, and abuse, and a big payday for some of the worst actors in higher education, as well as a payday for the charter industry, which lobbied to be included in the fund for struggling small businesses, although they have not lost a dime.