On Oct. 25 the U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was fined $100,000 by a federal judge for contempt of court because of the Department of Education’s failure to comply with a court order.
Students were defrauded by the now-defunct for-profit post-secondary education company Corinthian Colleges, which was found to have engaged in predatory behavior toward student borrowers.
Corinthian Colleges advertisements often featured incorrect information that left students with an inaccurate impression of the value of the institutions’ degrees. After the company went bankrupt in 2015, students were left with debt that did not pay for a worthwhile degree.
According to Department of Education rules, the department was meant to forgive all federal student loans for all 16,000 students who were defrauded by the college.
Instead, the department sought payment from the fraud victims. Some borrowers had their wages garnered by the government and some had their tax refunds seized, despite a court order to stop collecting the debts.
This kind of illegal behavior by the Department of Education is absolutely unacceptable. Rather than being an institution of justice for the students who have been victimized by the predatory practices of for-profit colleges, the department has instead attempted to shake down already vulnerable students.
For college students who are planning out their long-term goals and their career aspirations, these kinds of details are very important. If this kind of illegal behavior from the Department of Education persists, it will degrade students’ trust in the system.
Enforcing a fine on the Department of Education is an important step to holding the department accountable. It is important, however, to demand more from our officials and work hard to foster a culture in government that respects circumstances of students.
In addition, the Department of Education should be wary of institutions that exist primarily to profit off the loans of lower-income individuals and should raise awareness about their predatory practices.
Jared Sellick is a senior majoring in political science.