Betsy DeVos, our new Secretary of Education, wants to encourage job creation and free-market values. For the lucrative scam industry, that is.
Everyone knows that the burden of student debt is a complex problem in the era of de-valued degrees, for-profit “universities”, and decreased job opportunities. You have to flip a hell of a lot of burgers to pay off your loans for that online B.A. you got from the University of Phoenix.
For-profit education is big business, and servicing and collecting on government loans is a big, profitable part of it all. One in eight Americans owes money on student loans totaling $1.4 trillion, and the companies charged with collecting that debt can get a little too aggressive – round-the-clock robocalls, threats, all sorts of bullying and questionable practices.
Companies like Navient, the Sallie Mae spinoff which is the largest player in this space, are making tons of money doing this, and are facing several lawsuits from consumer groups for putting their own interests ahead of the students they’re supposed to be helping. Navient preyed on students that Sallie Mae steered into costly loans that were designed to fail.
The Obama administration tried to require their Education Department to award contracts for debt servicing only after taking the past behavior of the companies into account, and to provide some protection for consumers. They issued a memorandum that would help mitigate abuses by
- Requiring companies to inform delinquent borrowers of their eligibility for income-based repayment plans before demanding they make a payment
- Requiring loan contractors to make vigorous efforts to contact borrowers at risk of default and walk them through their options
- Creating teams of specially trained customer service representatives within each contractor that would immediately handle inquiries from struggling borrowers who call for help
- Setting strict deadlines for loan companies to process borrowers’ applications for various repayment plans
- Demanding that companies inform borrowers potentially eligible for loan cancellations about their debt discharge options before discussing repayment
But DeVos wants to undo all that and give the poor patriots at Navient a much-needed leg up. Consumer protections are apparently just socialism, or something, and we don’t want to put any constraints on a perfectly good racket designed to hasten the transfer of wealth from the many to the few. After all, what would a sterling pyramid scheme like Amway, from which DeVos’ own wealth derives, have been if they had to take ethics and honesty into account? And let’s not forget how DeVos directly benefits from the for-profit education industry either!
In her spare time, DeVos is also hard at work trying to undo Title IX protections against bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Joe Biden, someone who has been a champion in this area, has spoken out against DeVos’ stance on Title IX protections specifically on sexual assault. In a recent interview, he said,
Let me tell you, it bothers me most if Secretary DeVos is going to really dumb down Title IX enforcement. The real message, the real frightening message you’re going to send out is, our culture says it’s OK. You know, the major reason why women drop out of college when they’re a freshman is because of sexual assault. Not their grades, sexual assault. And so, it would be devastating.
No father or mother should drop their kid off this late August, early September at their first day at college and drive away worried [if she is] going to be safe. Most parents don’t drive away saying, Is she going to do all right in school? Is she academically qualified? Will she show up for class? How well is she going to do? That’s not the conversation going on. The conversation that’s going on is, is she going to be safe? That is an obligation of the school, and Title IX is the vehicle, and when Secretary DeVos by her silence didn’t affirm that rape and sexual assault are forms of sexual discrimination … God, if anything is sexual discrimination, it’s rape and assault. And that’s why schools have an obligation under Title IX to prevent this from happening.
Thanks for your service, Betsy.