Allied Progress Analysis: Betsy DeVos’ Family Has Given U.S. Senators Nearly $2 Million

Secretary DeVos Heads Back to Capitol Hill Ahead of Key Senate Vote to Overturn Her Rule Gutting Borrower Defense Protections

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Washington DC – Billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faces questions in the Senate today about her ideologically extreme FY2021 departmental budget. It will likely be senators’ last public facetime with the Secretary before an expected vote on a resolution to reverse the Trump Education Department’s rule that guts protections for student loan borrowers who were victims of fraud. Ahead of today’s hearing, consumer watchdog group Allied Progress released a new analysis that found Betsy DeVos and her family have donated over $1.9 million to current members of the Senate – including $322,200 to members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee On Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Reportedly, at least eight Republican senators are “undecided or declined to say where they stand” on the resolution that already passed the House with bipartisan support and has the backing of major veterans groups including the American Legion. A top official for a for-profit college trade group even admitted the resolution is “‘in play’” despite conservative control of the Senate.

At issue is the costly and corrupt rule Secretary DeVos advanced in August 2019 that made it next to impossible – apparently by design – for student borrowers who were scammed by shady colleges to cancel their loans and receive full restitution (also known as a Borrower Defense Claim). There are now over 217,000 backlogged Borrower Defense Claims. Under powers outlined in the Congressional Review Act, the resolution before the Senate would restore the 2016 “Borrower Defense to Repayment” rule, the Obama-era protection that provides a path to debt forgiveness for students ripped off by predatory higher-ed institutions, oftentimes for-profit colleges.

DeVos’ fatally-flawed borrower defense rule was the natural result of the Secretary surrounding herself at the topwith former lobbyists and executives from the for-profit college industry. By the Education Department’s own estimates, the DeVos rule shortchanges fraud victims by over $500 million a year compared to the current Obama-era protections — a boon to the for-profit college industry that has given over $8 million to Republican campaigns. The original Obama Borrower Defense Rule was projected to recoup over $17 billion in losses for harmed students by 2020, and was designed to protect taxpayers.

“Senators soon face a choice: either vote to ensure defrauded student borrowers can be made whole — or rubberstamp the Trump administration’s scheme to protect the profits of crooked diploma mills,” said Derek Martin, director of Allied Progress. “Senators can either stand with the students who were robbed of the quality education they continue to pay for — or with Secretary DeVos, one of the least popular administration officials, and her money. No one is buying Secretary DeVos’ claims that her unreasonable requirements for student debt relief are about saving taxpayer money. If that were true, the Secretary wouldn’t have systematically let the for-profit college industry off the hook for bad behavior, which only invites more incidents of fraud against student borrowers and American taxpayers.” 

In February, Allied Progress released results of a national poll that found Secretary DeVos’ approval rating has plummeted to 28 percent, and that there is strong support across the political spectrum for Congress to investigate her recent misconduct.

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