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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos dismantled a team of departmental investigators tasked with taking on abusive for-profit colleges, according to a Sunday article published by the New York Times.

Once comprised of a dozen lawyers and workers, the team has been scaled back to include only three employees. Under the Obama administration, the taskforce looked into misleading for-profit colleges, writes the Times. One of which was the DeVry Education Group.

DeVry, along with many of its corporate counterparts, has been the subject of multiple lawsuits. In 2016, the group settled for $100 million with the Federal Trade Commission over its claims of high salaries and stellar job placement rates for graduates.

With President Trump occupying the Oval Office and an outspoken advocate of private education sitting as its secretary, the Department of Education has, not surprisingly, bucked its efforts to flush out and punish predatory, for-profit colleges.

Now, writes the Times, the three employees remaining on the investigative force deal with comparably mundane matters – processing student loan forgiveness applications, for instance, along with looking at smaller compliance violations.

The case against DeVry was discarded earlier in the year. Later in the summer, former dean of DeVry, Julian Schmoke, was appointed to lead the team.

“In addition to DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit colleges, went dark,” reports the Times.

Former employees of each of the same large for-profit colleges now work for DeVos and the Department of Education. Elizabeth Hill, a department spokeswoman, said the curtailing of the Obama-era investigations is a result of attrition rather than manipulation and malice.

Politicians and officials from administrations past have all voiced displeasure with DeVos’s appointments and practices.

“Secretary DeVos has filled the department with for-profit hacks,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “who only care about making sham schools rich and shutting down investigations into fraud.”

For-profit education is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Some companies, like the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute, defrauded thousands of students by selling them over-priced and worthless degrees. Image via QuinceMedia/Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0). Posted and claimed as public domain.

Connections between the Trump administration and predatory for-profit colleges go beyond DeVos, Schmoke and the Department of Education. The Times and CNN both note that Bridgepoint Education may have another champion in White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp.

Schlapp and her husband worked as consultants and lobbyists for Bridgepoint, which retained the services of the couple’s company after Mercedes was appointed to the White House.

Along with Schlapp and Schmoke, the administration’s senior advisor on postsecondary education has ties to for-profit colleges, too. Diane Auer Jones, who worked extensively with Career Education, now occupies a prominent position with the Department of Education – but, despite her occupational proximity to a potential conflict of interest, Jones has yet to recuse herself from matters relating to her former employer.

“Ms. Jones,” wrote Sen. Warren along with nine other Democratic senators, “has a history of participating in in the revolving door of government and lobbying, including a position as the chief lobbyist for a for-profit education company operating colleges accredited by ACICS.”

The letter, penned and sent to DeVos at the end of April, challenged Jones’ neutrality and ability to perform without bias as a Department of Education advisor.

Sources

Betsy DeVos Dismantled Fraud Probes of For–Profit Colleges, Report Says

Blumenthal and Senators Raise Concerns over For-Profit College Industry Lobbyist’s “Oversight” Role at Department of Education

DeVry agrees to stop promoting job placement claim

Education Department Unwinds Unit Investigating Fraud at For-Profits

NYT: For-profit college fraud investigations scaled back under Betsy DeVos

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