Oped: Betsy Devos’ refusal to honor student loan forgiveness shows her disrespect for the law
July 16, 2020
By Alexis Goldstein
Even in a government full of people without the integrity, will or courage to do the right thing, most of the agencies stand down — or at least pretend to — when ordered by the courts. But not the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos, who seems to have been only further animated by her losses in court over her efforts to deny the rightful debt cancellations owed to people who attended predatory, for-profit colleges, borrowers who are disproportionately women and people of color, and often now working in front-line jobs.
First, DeVos tried to delay an Obama-era update to Borrower Defense to Repayment rules — a 1990s-era regulation that says that, if a school violates state law, borrowers are entitled to cancellation of their federal student loans. The Obama administration’s update included new protections like forbidding schools from preventing students from suing in class-action lawsuits. A judge found DeVos’ delay to this rule “unlawful” and “arbitrary and capricious.”
She has also failed to cancel the debts of tens of thousands of borrowers the government already deemed entitled to relief. Another lawsuit challenged this failure, and the court ordered DeVos to halt debt collection for any borrowers covered by the lawsuit; 16,000 students and parents were collected from anyway. So DeVos was held in contempt of court and the department was fined $100,000.
In a stunning display of their ongoing lawlessness, the department then found yet another 17,258 borrowers it had illegally collected on after the ruling.