ICYMI: Records Show DeVos Saved Discredited Accreditor After Explicit Request From Top For-Profit College Industry Lobbyist

Washington DC (February 27, 2020) –  Newly surfaced internal Trump Education Department documents show a top for-profit college industry lobbyist had explicitly solicited aides of Secretary Betsy DeVos to restore federal recognition of ACICS, the chronically-troubled for-profit college accreditor, citing his organization’s support for Donald Trump during the 2016 election. DeVos made the controversial decision to save ACICS less than a year later, subjecting more students to its shoddy accreditation standards that can lead to crushing loads of student debt. Departmental emails revealed today also show CECU’s Steve Gunderson asked top DeVos aides to reverse another Obama administration policy by restoring access to federal aid to Globe University, a for-profit college chain that a Minnesota court had found engaged in fraud and deception – a wish DeVos granted in August 2019.

These records confirm what we’ve suspected all along: Secretary DeVos is willing to give the for-profit college industry anything they ask for even if it leaves student borrowers more vulnerable to predatory behavior,” said Derek Martin, director of Allied Progress. 

In December 2019, consumer watchdog group Allied Progress released records obtained via FOIA request that showed DeVos’ own department found ACICS was still demonstrating significant problems nearly a year after the Secretary answered the for-profit college industry’s call to put the discredited accreditor back in business.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

The For-Profit College Industry’s “Chief Lobbyist” Has Influenced Betsy DeVos’ Bad Decisions

Steve Gunderson, The For-Profit College Industry’s “Chief Lobbyist,” Has Influenced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ Decisions To Reinstate ACICS, “The Accreditor Of Predatory School Chains,” And To Restore Federal Aid For The Family That Owned Globe University, Which Had Engaged In “Consumer Fraud And Deceptive Trade Practices.”

The For-Profit College Industry’s “Chief Lobbyist” Is Steve Gunderson, CEO Of Industry Group Career Education Colleges And Universities (CECU).

The For-Profit College Industry’s “Chief Lobbyist” Steve Gunderson, CEO Of Industry Group Career Education Colleges And Universities (CECU) And A Former Congressman. “But at the outset of the administration, newly-released documents show, the industry’s chief lobbyist, Steve Gunderson, expressed increasing frustration over not getting something else he clearly wanted badly: a face-to-face meeting with Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos. Gunderson, a Republican former congressman from Wisconsin and now the CEO of the trade group Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU), made clear to DeVos aides that the for-profit school executives he represented deserved the meeting because they had supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.” [David Halperin, “For-Profit College Lobbyist Desperately Sought Face Time With DeVos,” Republic Report, 02/26/20]

In Early 2017, During Betsy DeVos’ First Weeks As Education Secretary, Gunderson Was Already Working To Have Her Department Reinstate ACICS, The “Accreditor Of Predatory School Chains” Like ITT Tech And Corinthian Colleges”— In 2018, Betsy DeVos Did Just That.

In Betsy Devos’ First Weeks As Education Secretary, CECU Was Trying To Have The Education Department “Reinstate ACICS, The Asleep-At-The-Switch Accreditor Of Predatory School Chains Including Corinthian Colleges And ITT Tech.” “The records also indicate that in the first weeks of DeVos’s tenure, CECU was aiming to get the Department to reinstate ACICS, the asleep-at-the-switch accreditor of predatory school chains including Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech.” [David Halperin, “For-Profit College Lobbyist Desperately Sought Face Time With DeVos,” Republic Report, 02/26/20]

“In 2018, Devos Reinstated ACICS, Giving Gunderson What He Sought.” “In 2018, DeVos reinstated ACICS, giving Gunderson what he sought. But the discredited accreditor is still struggling to do an adequate job.” [David Halperin, “For-Profit College Lobbyist Desperately Sought Face Time With DeVos,” Republic Report, 02/26/20]

In April 2017, Gunderson Asked The Department Of Education To Reverse The Obama Administration’s Decision To Cut Globe University Off From Federal Aid And Provide “Justice” To The Family That Owned The School—Two Years Later, DeVos’ Department Restored Eligibility For Some Of That Family’s Schools.

In April 2017 Steve Gunderson Emailed Betsy DeVos’ Aides Asking Them To Reverse An Obama-Era Decision To Cut Federal Aid For Globe University And “Provide Some Level Of Justice” For The Myhre Family, Which Owned Globe. “Gunderson’s April 12, 2017, email to the DeVos aides, where he pushed hard for a meeting with DeVos, also referenced his continuing concern about Minnesota-based Globe University, which he apparently had discussed at an in-person meeting with the aides the day before. Gunderson wrote that the Obama administration’s decision to cut off aid to Globe ‘represents one of the most blatant political/ideological decisions I’ve seen by any administration in all my years in government.’ He added, ‘My hope is that you take the appropriate actions to provide some level of justice to the incredible work’ of the family that owned Globe.” [David Halperin, “For-Profit College Lobbyist Desperately Sought Face Time With DeVos,” Republic Report, 02/26/20]

 

  • The Obama Administration Suspended Globe After A Minnesota Court Ruled It Engaged In “Consumer Fraud And Deceptive Trade Practices.” “In fact, the Obama education department’s suspension of Globe was hardly ‘political.’ It came after a Minnesota court ruled in 2016 that Globe had engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices by misleading recruits to its criminal justice program about the job opportunities they would have, and after Minnesota’s higher education agency moved to shut down the school.” [David Halperin, “For-Profit College Lobbyist Desperately Sought Face Time With DeVos,” Republic Report, 02/26/20]

In August 2019, Betsy Devos Education Department “Took Action To Keep Some Of The Myhre’s Schools, […] Eligible For Federal Aid, Reversing A Separate Obama-Era Decision.” “In August 2019, the DeVos Department took action to keep some of the Myhre’s schools, based in Wisconsin, eligible for federal aid, reversing a separate Obama-era decision.” David Halperin, “For-Profit College Lobbyist Desperately Sought Face Time With DeVos,” Republic Report, 02/26/20]

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