A federal judge has ruled that US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has violated a court order. It was regarding repayment of student loans for Corinthian, one of the largest for-profit schools that went under after allegations of fraud.
“I’m not sure if this is contempt or sanctions,” US Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim said on Monday, “but it’s good to know that I have that ability.”
There is a very real possibility that DeVos will have to continue her role behind bars.
Corinthian Colleges, Inc, was one of the largest for-profit schools. It operated in both the US and Canada and claimed to provide “career-oriented” diplomas and degree programs for those looking for jobs in business, health care, trades, and IT.
Canada’s government put intense pressure on the company for questionable practices, and eventually suspected their operations licenses, causing Canadian campuses to close down at the beginning of 2015.
In April of that year, with government pressure from the US and accusations of fraud, diploma mill-like operations, and legal challenges, Corinthian Colleges announced they would close their doors the following day, leaving thousands of students without a degree or transferrable credit.
In June of 2018, Judge Kim ruled that DeVos and the Department of Education as a whole could not go after former Corinthians students for their student loans.
In fact, according to an initiative started in 2016 to protect students who have been defrauded by for-profit or predatory college practices, as many as 335,000 students could have their debts canceled. This is called The Borrower Defense to Repayment program.
DeVos and her Department of Education staff do not seem to be a fan.
Despite the judge’s ruling in 2018, DeVos has continued to contact and attempt to collect student debt from at least 16,000 students. Some of these students were just wrongfully contacted, but at least 1,800 had wages garnished or tax returns withheld due to their debts.
According to a report by the New York Times, since DeVos has been in charge of the Department of Education, she has ignored over 160,000 applications for loan forgiveness. Just, flat out ignored.
A class-action lawsuit by 80,000 former Corinthians students shows that the Department of Education has only issued loan forgiveness for about 10 students, and has continued to attempt to collect funds despite judge’s orders.
“There have to be consequences for violation of my order sixteen thousand times,” Judge Kim said when speaking of the situation.
The lawsuit against DeVos has also been greenlighted by Kim, so we will see her – and the Department of Education – back in court again real soon.