Home > Uncategorized > Betsy DeVos’s Message to Bilked College Students: Caveat Emptor

Betsy DeVos’s Message to Bilked College Students: Caveat Emptor

As noted in earlier posts, the USDOE under Betsy DeVos’ leadership seems ready, willing, and capable of throwing those students who enrolled in fraudulent degree programs under the bus in the name of the free market. Evidence of this reality was presented earlier this week when Ms. DeVos reinstated the so-called “watchdog” agency that accredited bogus educational enterprises. As reported in an article by Erica Green in yesterday’s NYTimes, Ms. DeVos used a flimsy bureaucratic procedural argument to distance herself from the decision to reinstate the formerly discredited “watchdog” group, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or Acics. As Ms. Green reported, this agency was stripped of its power in the waning months of the Obama administration:

Acics was stripped of its powers in December 2016 amid the collapse of two for-profit university chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, where students were encouraged to take on debt based on false promises, including jobs after graduation. The accrediting body was held responsible for allowing the schools to employ predatory recruitment practices.

The scandal rocked the for-profit college industry, which became a target of the Obama administration. And taxpayers are still covering the fallout as the DeVos Education Department manages more than 100,000 applications for debt relief totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. On Monday, a judge in San Francisco was set to hear arguments that the department should grant full loan relief to Corinthian students. On Wednesday, an Indianapolis court is set to approve a $1.5 billion settlementfor aggrieved ITT students.

But, according to her spokesperson, Ms. DeVos is powerless in this case because of a procedural snafu in the Obama administration’s decision to suspend Acics:

Education Department officials said that despite the March report (which condemned Acics), Ms. DeVos was obligated to reinstate Acics as an accrediting body for colleges and universities because of a federal court order that had faulted the process the Obama-era department had used to terminate its recognition. A federal judge sent the decision back to Ms. DeVos for reconsideration.

“The secretary did not make the determination to reinstate Acics,” Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This department can’t operate on or enforce a decision that was found invalid by the court.”

Many critics strongly disagree with this assertion:

Advocates say that Ms. DeVos is using the court order as a convenient excuse.

They note that the judge did not vacate the 2016 decision, and that Ms. DeVos was not compelled to reinstate Acics. The report provides the most up-to-date evaluation of the organization, which still oversees dozens of colleges. In March, Acics was accused by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, of accrediting “visa mills,” used by foreign students to come to the United States with minimal scrutiny.

“This report makes clear that Acics is a wholly unfit and unreliable evaluator of higher-education institutions,” said Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Obama Education Department official. “Betsy DeVos may be content with ignoring the overwhelming outside consensus on Acics’s performance, but she cannot deny the expert opinions of her own staff.”

If this was the only time Ms. DeVos saw fit to overlook experts it might be possible to accept her decision. But like her predecessors, she has ignored evidence that VAM is invalid, that test-and-punish reforms have not improved public education, and that equitable funding is needed to close the performance gap between students attending affluent schools and those attending poverty-wracked schools. In this case, Ms. DeVos appears to be acting in the best interest of for-profit diploma mills that issue worthless degrees. It may just be coincidental that the man who appointed her led such an enterprise.

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