Trump administration officials keep causing controversy.
This time, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed new student debt rules on Wednesday that critics have lambasted as a move to protect fraudulent schools instead of students, The New York Times reported.
If approved, the guidelines present a lot of challenges for vulnerable students, particularly those of color who are frequently targeted in advertising by for-profit colleges. The Devos-recommended, Trump-approved proposal limits loan forgiveness for students defrauded by those colleges — guidelines that go against Obama-era protections.
Did the Trump administration somehow forget that there is a full-blown student debt crisis raining down hellfire on borrowers of color?
Borrowers are also being challenged to meet a higher burden of proof, providing extensive evidence of “deep financial distress” to file for debt relief.
There’s also more invasion of privacy that students will have to deal with in seeking debt forgiveness: The department could require that they disclose personal information that may have “impacted their job prospects” after college such as any drug test results, health issues or work-related performance evaluations.
Students also will have to make a stronger case against higher education institutions guilty of having misled them if the proposal moves forward. There would be a federal standard introduced about what constitutes “misrepresentation” concerning the institutions, with student fraud claims against schools being required to show “reckless disregard” through false or deceptive means. However, failing institutions, including those with increases in student loan defaults or court judgments, would face some penalties.
The proposal could go into effect in July 2019 with the department set to take public comments for 30 days. The department would also save about $700 million annually with not having to honor as many loan forgiveness claims.
Major damages would be incurred by students, including having no real recourse against schools who use predatory recruitment tactics, critics said. Those schools would be able to review student claims of fraud themselves and have the chance to provide evidence in their defense under the proposal.
“The Department of Education is turning a blind eye to widespread fraud and abuse at for-profit schools that left thousands of students in debt without a meaningful education,” Suzanne Martindale, a senior attorney for Consumers Union, an advocacy nonprofit, said. “Instead of helping defrauded students cancel their debts and move on with their lives, these proposed rules would shield poor-performing schools from being held accountable for their misconduct.”