In the not even four years that Betsy DeVos has been Secretary of Education, she has been sued more than her predecessor in eight years. DeVos has faced 455 lawsuits, making her the most-sued secretary in the 41-year history of the Department of Education.
A high number of these cases are challenges to DeVos’ funding of for-profit, often religious, educational institutions and her decision not to honor loan forgiveness decisions.
Favoring the Profiteers
In June 2019, the DeVos’ Education Department officially repealed the Gainful Employment rule which was meant to protect students from low-quality career programs that provide costly credentials but do not offer value in the job market.
The repeal led to a string of lawsuits from groups such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which assailed DeVos for providing relief to for-profit institutions at the expense of increased student risk of incurring huge loans.
The AFT argued that the repeal’s consequences were “immense” for enrolled and incoming students, who often choose “sub-optimal programs” which have a lower return on student investment. The result is that graduates have lower incomes and less capacity to repay loans.
DeVos argued that “students should have the right to enroll in the program of their choice” rather than the government deciding which programs they should pursue. However, without the requirements of the Gainful Employment rule, students are less informed about their job prospects when they make that decision.
Refusal to Forgive
DeVos has also refused to honor thousands of qualified borrowers’ loan cancellations. DeVos was held in contempt and the Education Department was fined $100,000 when 16,000 students and parents were still billed for loans from Corinthian Colleges which were declared fraudulent.
DeVos was also rebuked by a judge when she issued “blanket denials” on loan forgiveness applications. Judge William Alsup of the US District Court in the Northern District of California wrote that DeVos issued “perfunctory denial notices utterly devoid of meaningful explanation.”
DeVos’ latest setback occurred in August when she was slapped with a preliminary injunction for attempting to divert coronavirus aid funds from public to private schools.