Friday Night Massacre: DeVos Trashes Rule That Protected Students from Predatory Colleges
In an all-too-familiar turn, Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos chose a Friday afternoon to formally rescind a regulation that protected consumers and taxpayers — in this case the gainful employment rule, issued in 2014 by the Obama administration. The rule was aimed at denying federal dollars — in the form of student grants and loans — to for-profit and career college programs that consistently left graduates with more debt than they could ever afford to repay.
Following relentless lobbying and lawsuits by the for-profit college industry, the rule was modest — it would only have penalized the bottom 10 percent, worst-of-the-worst programs, those that charged astronomical tuition to train students for jobs whose earnings, even for successful graduates, would be relatively low.
But any level of accountability was too much for Betsy DeVos and her top higher education aides — unconfirmed “acting” officials who previously worked for some of the same predatory schools whose bad behavior made the gainful employment rule necessary. So today they trashed the rule completely.
In 2016, candidate Donald Trump promised to fight for veterans, for the people of the “inner cities,” for the working class “forgotten man and woman.” Those folks, along with single moms, people of color, immigrants, and others whose families have limited experience with college, have been the prey of unscrupulous for-profit college owners, from the strip mall to suites on Wall Street. The abuses of these schools — deceptive advertising, coercive recruiting, financial aid fraud — are well documented and have been the subject of numerous law enforcement probes.
But the school owners are consistent givers to Republican politicians, as well as a small group of Democrats, and they spend big to hire the best-connected revolving-door lobbyists in Washington. So they often get their way, and especially so with the grotesquely corrupt Trump administration, and a sheltered billionaire education secretary who ignores all the evidence of school fraud and instead insinuates, with zero evidence, that it is the students who are the scam artists.
The issuance of the gainful employment rule already has had a strong, positive effect by helping convince schools to lower prices or to shut down programs that weigh down students with overwhelming debt. But for-profit college owners felt they were entitled to a permanent flow of taxpayer dollars without any accountability or inconvenience. So bye-bye gainful employment rule.
There are no words left to describe the disgracefulness of this latest DeVos action; this website may have exhausted them over seven and a half years. But we can remain hopeful because, despite the complicity of the Trump-DeVos gang in for-profit college waste, fraud, and abuse, the industry remains under fire, exposed by law enforcement and media probes, and more bad schools shut down every month. The most sophisticated scam artists are finding new schemes to keep getting taxpayers dollars to ruin the lives of students, but we won’t stop fighting until only honest, effective schools are entitled to federal aid.