Supreme Court Hears DACA Case, Reveals Little Hope for Program’s Survival. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the oral arguments of a case to evaluate whether the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is lawful. The conservative majority on the bench expressed little to no support of the plaintiff’s contention that the Trump administration did not even have the legal standing to shut down the program. DACA advocates hoped Chief Justice John Roberts, who rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, would be a swing vote by joining the Democratic appointees, however he gave no such sign during the oral arguments. There are over 700,000 DACA recipients, thousands of whom are currently enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. Janet Napolitano, DHS Secretary in the Obama administration and current president of the University of California, told Politico in an interview that if DACA is allowed to be rescinded, universities’ “options will be limited” to help undocumented students avoid legal issues and deportation.
Democrats Question Top DeVos Aide’s Departure. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and several other top Education Department officials raising questions about whether the resignation last month of former COO of the office of Federal Student Aid Wayne Johnson, along with his “sudden shift in policy position”, should prompt concerns. Johnson was hired by DeVos in 2017 to manage the department’s $1.4 trillion student loan debt, but publicly announced his departure last month claiming that the nation’s student loan system is “fundamentally flawed” and requires drastic changes. “This sudden shift in policy position raises serious questions for lawmakers, borrowers, and the public as to what informed this change…and how this information informs ongoing work at the Department after Dr. Johnson’s departure,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote. The lawmakers requested a response by Nov. 26, containing a copy of Johnson’s resignation letter, department analyses on debt repayment and student loan servicers, among other things. Read more in Politico.
DeVos Agrees to Provide Student Debt Documents to House Committee. House Education Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) announced that the Education Department had agreed to provide documents requested by the committee for over a year to help explain “why [the department is] refusing to provide debt relief to more than 210,000 defrauded borrowers.” The department reportedly only committed to providing the documents after learning Scott had already signed a subpoena for them. This development comes after DeVos refused Scott’s request to testify at a committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 19, in regard to the issue, despite his threat of a subpoena. Scott stated that the committee will “closely review the documents [it is] receiving to ensure that they are responsive to the questions [the committee] asked and provide the clarity that students deserve.”
Ed Dept Cancels Loans Sent to Unaccredited For-Profit Colleges. The Education Department announced that it will cancel federal loans provided last year to four Art Institutes locations after the for-profit colleges were revealed to be unaccredited and ineligible to receive such aid. The department became involved in controversy over accusations that it was attempting to shield Dream Center Education Holdings, owner of the four Art Institutes, from the standard consequences of lying to students about accreditation statuses. The House Education Committee released documents last month showing that the department knowingly, and potentially illegally, sent $10.7 million in federal loans and grants to two of the Art Institutes. DeVos blamed the circumstance on the accreditor Higher Learning Commission and accused the group of harming students by withholding its “seal of approval” from the failing for-profit schools. Scott (D-VA) claims that the department’s announcement of partial loan forgiveness for former Art Institute students “falls well short of what Congress requested, and well short of what students deserve.” Read more in Education Dive and The Washington Post.
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 Nov. 18, 2019. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.