Another Week and More Zings for DeVos

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

U.S. Education Secretary Threatened with Subpoena by House Oversight Committee. House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) threatened to subpoena U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, citing her activities on the campaign trail for President Trump and her office having “stonewalled and delayed” when the committee tried to confirm a date for her testimony. In the letter sent to the department, Maloney pointed to DeVos’s trips to Iowa and Pennsylvania to attend campaign events for Trump, saying these events left her unable to testify in front of the committee. “I am not suggesting that you may never campaign for the president, but you may not do so when it interferes with your official duties, including your duty to testify before Congress,” Maloney said. Read more in Politico.

Education Department Announces Four New Participants in Education Flexibility Program. The Department of Education has approved Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont to participate in its Ed-Flex program, according to a department press release. The program, which was updated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows states to waive certain federal requirements in their education policies. As a result of membership, each state will work to address state-specific issues within its borders, such as educator recruitment and licensure in Massachusetts and improving student outcomes in Vermont. “We are committed to shifting control over education decisions from Washington back to where it belongs: in the hands of state and local education leaders who know what’s best for their students and communities,” said DeVos.

Ed Dept to Forgive Debt of More Former Students of For-Profit Schools. The U.S. Department of Education agreed to expand the period of eligibility for debt forgiveness for former students of the Art Institute of Colorado and the Illinois Institute of Art. The schools, run by Dream Center Education Holdings, have been embroiled in a years-long trial as a result of the schools’ alleged misleading of students regarding their eligibility for federal aid. Under the new period of eligibility, borrowers who attended the Art Institutes are now eligible for forgiveness if they were enrolled, on approved leave or had withdrawn within almost a year of their school closing. The change in policy comes after a bipartisan group of 26 attorneys general wrote a letter to DeVos, urging her to cancel the student loan debt owed by all students who attended now-closed schools in 2018 and 2019. Last November, the department announced plans to cancel the debt of more than 1,500 students after a similar group wrote a first letter asking the department to cancel debt owed by former students of the Dream Center’s Art Institute of Colorado or the Illinois Institute of Art. This new letter pressed the Department of Education on its decision to forgive only those who attended the schools during 2018, claiming the students “should not be denied relief because they ended their enrollment during a time of turmoil and mismanagement by the schools’ ownership.” Read more in the Washington Post.

Reps Write to Education Department Over Debt Relief Formula. House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) sent a letter to DeVos requesting information and documents regarding the department’s partial relief formula for student loans. The new formula, unveiled to process claims by former students of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, was declared “a scientifically robust statistical methodology to determine harm” by the Department of Education when it was released. Democratic members of the committee, however, found the formula “deeply flawed” and even expressed concern that the department had altered both the formula and its supporting documents following DeVos’s testimony. The letter decried the new formula, labeling it “neither fair nor defensible,” and demanded increased transparency and documentation with regards to its development.

President Uses State of the Union Address to Urge Action on School Choice. Trump used his State of the Union speech to press Congress on key school choice legislation. Specifically, the president advocated for passage of the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act (H.R. 1434), a bill supported by DeVos that would utilize a change in tax code to help subsidize school choice, including private school tuition payments. The bill, which would cost about $5 billion per year, would also allow funds to be used for a variety of other offerings, including apprenticeships, early-childhood education and homeschooling. The bill has seen little action since its introduction in 2017, and even came under fire from conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation. Read more in The 74.

Senators Write to CFPB Over Student Loan Servicer Oversight. U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) wrote to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) asking that the bureau resume examining companies that manage federal student loans. The letter, addressed to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, asked that she break with the Education Department’s policy of not cooperating with CFPB requests for federal student loan data. The senators urged Kraninger to seek a court order to give the CFPB access to this information, and cited previous improper behavior by student loan servicers as cause for concern and oversight. NPR has more.

New Rules for Disabled Veteran Loan Forgiveness. The federal government has announced plans to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in student loan debt from about 25,000 disabled veterans, beginning in July. The expanded efforts follow initial steps taken by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018, leading to about 22,000 veterans receiving discharges upon their applying for forgiveness. The new rule, signed by Trump as an executive order, would simply discharge the loans of the remaining 25,000 eligible veterans without requiring an application. Some consumer groups and House Democrats, however, attacked the new plan as insufficient and exclusionary to those who do not qualify because they are too disabled to work but are not veterans, or because their injuries were not service-related. Inside Higher Ed reports.

Hearings/Markups of Interest: The Department of Education meeting of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education “Native American Education Updates” will take place  Friday, Feb. 14, at 9 a.m. at the National Museum of the American Indian.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 10, 2020. For more information, please visit:

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