WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 200,000 students say despite the promise of a job post-graduation from mostly for-profit colleges, they have nothing to show for it except mountains of debt.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced scrutiny from lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the Department of Education’s implementation of a loan forgiveness rule aimed to help defrauded students called Borrower Defense.
Her efforts to overhaul the program was blocked by the courts and in October, DeVos was fined for contempt of court for the department’s handling of the claims.
“Are you deliberately violating this court order because you are too corrupt to uphold the law or because you are too incompetent to do your job,” said Rep. Josh Harder, a Democrat from California at a House Education and Labor hearing Thursday.
“These students were misled and cheated and the fact that some of them may be making money doesn’t mean they weren’t defrauded,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Oregon.
In recent years, most of the borrowers’ claims have been leveled at for-profit colleges.
DeVos is accused of undermining the program and making it more difficult for students to receive debt relief.
She is pushing partial relief as an alternative and rolled out a new plan this week that would measure a student’s income as qualification for support.
“If students have been deceived by institutions and suffered financial harm as a result, they should be made whole but if claims are false or students did not suffer financial harm, then hard working taxpayers including those who scraped and saved in order to pay their own student loans should not have to pay somebody else’s too,” said DeVos.
DeVos says the Obama Administration weaponized the regulation against schools it didn’t like, which led to a surge of claims and an immense backlog at the department.
Republicans are sympathetic to that argument.
“After diving in to some of the nuances about this issue, I understand why you decided to grant partial relief in some cases,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie, a Republican from Kentucky.
According to department data, more than two thousand Kentuckians have pending claims.