Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

Can we stop telling the lie that Betsy DeVos has the best interest of this nation’s students at heart?

The U.S. Department of Education has devolved into yet another classist system of oppression set up to hold down people of color and low-income families. This latest move by DeVos is proof of that.

According to a report from ABC News, DeVos proposed a new set of rules Wednesday that would make it harder for students who have been defrauded by for-profit schools to get relief from their student loan debt.

This is basically a repeal of protections that were put in place during the Obama administration—go figure—and the justification for it is that it would cut $13 billion from the department’s spending, the majority of which went to defrauded students in the form of debt relief.

Let’s first acknowledge that there is already a huge disparity between the number of black students who are even able to get college degrees compared to their white cohorts. Of the black students who do get to attend college—any college—they come out with more debt than white students do. In fact, a 2016 Brookings Institute Economic Study says the “black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation,” with black students owing “$7,400 more on average than their white peers” the moment they graduate with their bachelors degree. That number goes up to $25,000 a few years after graduation.

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That same report highlights the correlation between increased debt among students of color and for-profit colleges—something The Project on Predatory Student Lending, a clinic at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center—has studied as well. The project itself was founded in 2012 “to combat the massive fraud that was being perpetrated against students and taxpayers by for-profit colleges, and government policies that enable the predatory industry to continue to cheat borrowers and taxpayers.”

The project describes the for-profit college industry as being “as predatory as any payday or subprime lender, and is disproportionately responsible for racial disparities in education debt.”

A great many students of color, who otherwise may not be able to attend college, find themselves convinced to enroll in “technical schools” “vocational” or “career” colleges such as ITT Technical Institute, Corinthian Colleges, or ICDC in Southern California.

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Corinthian Colleges shut down in April 2015 after a federal investigation found the schools to be operating dishonestly, misleading students about job placement rates, and altering grades and attendance records in order to continue to be eligible for federal student aid funds.

Similarly, in Sept. 2016, ITT Technical shut down all its campuses after a series of federal sanctions forced it out of business.

In the case of both ITT and Corinthian Colleges, the Department of Education offered students loan forgiveness for their debt.

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In the case of ICDC, the school announced on March 31, 2016 that it would be closing on May 20, 2016, with many of its students not being able to finish their program of study.

In light of the school’s closing, the Department of Education gave ICDC students three options:

  • They could apply for a closed school loan discharge, which would discharge 100 percent of the federal Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, or Federal Perkins Loans that were taken out to attend the ICDC. They would also receive a reimbursement of money they had already repaid to the government for the student loans.
  • They could move into a “teach-out” program in which they could transfer to Trident University and finish their program there. The ICDC website actually redirects to Trident University at this time.
  • They could transfer the credit or hours they earned to another institution to continue their education in a comparable program.

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Under the DeVos proposal, student borrowers would be responsible for proving that a for-profit institution either knowingly misled them or acted with “reckless disregard for the truth.” It would also be mandatory for students to find another school to accept their existing credits if their college closed.

Whose side is Betsy on, the students’ or the schools’?

It’s worth noting, as ABC News did, that DeVos has managed to staff her department with many former members of the for-profit college sector—including senior advisor Robert Eitel, a former executive at the for-profit college firms Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corp.

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Eitel was brought on board around the time DeVos started working on this new proposal that basically punishes students for trying to get job training or an education.

In a statement about the new rules, the Department of Education said “Postsecondary students are adults who can be reasonably expected to make informed decisions if they have access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

In her proposal, DeVos claims her new rules would “encourage students — including those who pay cash or use other forms of credit to pay for college — to seek remedies directly from institutions that have committed acts or omissions that constitute misrepresentation.”

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Girl, please.

Think again about who is going to be disproportionately impacted by these new rules.

Then tell me who Betsy DeVos is in power to serve.