Court Rules Betsy DeVos Must Stop Being Asshole
Thursday, the Trump administration decided out of the goodness of its court-ordered heart to follow Obama-era policy and cancel thousands of borrowers' federal student loans. This was a bummer for so-called Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who had fought against protections for student loan borrowers because she (allegedly) gets off on watching people go bankrupt like some Disney villain. A federal judge ruled in September that her efforts to stop the "borrower defense" regulations from taking effect were illegal. DeVos will have to take comfort now in one of her 17 yachts and her Tim Burton-designed summer house.
These borrowers aren't, as Fox News might lead you to believe, avoiding repayment of the loans they took out to study advanced pottery and women's "herstory." Most of these borrowers were affected by school closures or outright defrauded by a lousy for-profit "college." The Education Department today will start notifying around 15,000 borrowers that they qualify for loan discharges. The debt totals approximately $150 million, or about four of DeVos's best yachts.
Half of the affected borrowers attended campuses owned by Corinthian Colleges, the shady chain of for-profit colleges that went under in 2015. Washington Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, said this is all a "good first step," but DeVos should stop letting for-profit colleges off the hook and try looking out for the folks who were "cheated out of their education and savings." Elizabeth Warren, who has long fought to defend student loan borrowers from the likes of DeVos, was also pleased with the judge's ruling.
DeVos has said that the Obama-era regulations are unfair to colleges and taxpayers (always throw in a reference to taxpayers to make it seem like you care about more than just rich people). The Obama administration, she argued, made it too "easy" for students to walk away from their crippling debt and enjoy carefree lives working minimum-wage jobs. She reportedly called the "borrower defense" program a "free money" giveaway, perhaps confusing it with the massive inheritance she likely received when her father-in-law recently passed away.
DeVos claimed her top priority in the job she bought was to "act on behalf of individual students." Presumably, this means she will try to learn the name of every student she helps send into bankruptcy. She tried (and fortunately temporarily failed) to eliminate Obama-era rules for holding colleges accountable for the services they provide. For instance, they should be able to find "gainful employment" when they graduate. That's usually a win-win. Graduates can afford to pay off their loans and eat every once in a while. The alumni department can then bug them with donation requests for the rest of their natural lives.
DeVos also plans to restore the authority of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, after the Obama administration withdrew federal recognition of it. This means educational crapsack colleges that failed to find recognition elsewhere, like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, will still have access to federal student aid. This lady loves quality education so much she's going to hug and and squeeze it to death.
During DeVos's sham confirmation hearing, it came out that the billionaire had numerous financial ties to student loan debt collectors. She was also invested in for-profit institution Laureate Education. She divested these holdings but she can always, you know, un-divest once she's left the education sector a smoking crater. She's also hired officials with ties to for -profit institutions.
It's not really a mystery where her loyalties lie.
But this one time, the good guys have won and Betsy DeVos has been ordered by the court to stop being an asshole, at least about this one thing. She is still free to be an asshole in all the other ways she is an asshole.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).