In response to the recent release of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ blatant support of predatory for-profit colleges over student borrowers, Sen. Elizabeth Warren launched DeVos Watch to hold the Secretary of Education accountable for her actions while providing protection to students and whistleblowers. Instead of working together to lower the interest rates on student loans, both Trump and DeVos have devised plans to increase the difficulty for students attempting to repay their over-inflated loans.
“Last week, Secretary DeVos and President Trump’s Department of Education released a budget that would upend the student aid program and make it much harder for students to afford college and repay their student loans,” Sen. Warren wrote in a recent CNN op-ed. “At the same time, the head of the federal student aid office abruptly resigned amid reports of political meddling by DeVos.
“With the educational and financial futures of millions of people hanging in the balance, here’s a place to start scrutinizing Secretary DeVos.”
Narrowly confirmed by a 51-50 vote in the Senate, DeVos replaced her department-provided security detail with a team from the U.S. Marshals Service that will cost $7.78 million to pay for their services from mid-February through September. DeVos upgraded her security three days after several demonstrators blocked DeVos from entering a DC public school in protest against the unqualified GOP campaign donor.
“Two of Secretary DeVos’ first hires at the Department were Robert Eitel and Taylor Hansen, both with deep connections to institutions that make big money by abusing the student aid program and preying on students,” Warren continued. “Eitel was a top lawyer from a for-profit college that recently paid a more than $30 million fine to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for allegedly ‘deceiving students into taking out private student loans that cost more than advertised;’ that for-profit college is currently under both state and federal investigation for breaking laws meant to protect students. Meanwhile, Hansen had been a top lobbyist for the entire for-profit college industry, which has paid out hundreds of millions in fines for defrauding students.
“The revolving door that shuttles people between government jobs and the corporations they police is corrosive – but it is rarely this brazen.”
Hansen eventually resigned after reports emerged that his father was operating a major student loan debt collection agency while DeVos took steps to allow debt collectors to continue charging over-inflated fees to student borrowers. Eitel continues to serve as senior counselor to the secretary.
“Millions of parents and teachers across the country stood by our side to fight against the nomination of Betsy DeVos because we knew how awful her extreme ideological agenda would be for students, borrowers, and schools – and we were very concerned about how her financial entanglements and potential conflicts of interest would impact the Department of Education,” stated Senator Patty Murray, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “When Secretary DeVos was confirmed, we committed to holding her accountable and making sure she couldn’t get away with undermining students, higher education, or public schools in the shadows or helping big corporations or special interest groups without scrutiny – so I am so glad that Senator Warren is continuing this effort and doubling down on the critical DeVos Watch work.”
On Wednesday, Warren launched DeVos Watch to hold the Education Secretary accountable for her actions and inactions while protecting the rights of students who cannot afford tuition without financial assistance. Besides providing contact information for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and a directory of state attorneys general, the site also established a whistleblower tip email that allows individuals to privately share information regarding the legality of the Education Department’s actions.
Shortly after launching DeVos Watch, Warren took to Twitter and wrote, “It’s @BetsyDeVosED’s job to put students – not predatory colleges and the student loan industry – first.”