Those who pay attention to Donald Trump’s rhetoric are led to believe the president is a champion of working-class Americans who are too often ignored by a system stacked against them. Those who pay attention to the president’s actions know he and his administration too often side with those doing the stacking.
The New York Times published a striking report along these lines overnight.
Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.
The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.
This is surprisingly straightforward: in the wake of the Corinthian Colleges fiasco, the Obama administration put together a team that closely scrutinized dubious claims from for-profit colleges, including DeVry.
Then Donald Trump was elected, Betsy DeVos took over the Department of Education, and she tapped a dean from DeVry to lead the group of investigators, among other officials from for-profit schools whom DeVos hired for the cabinet agency.
And wouldn’t you know it, the team that was responsible for protecting students from potential fraud changed course.
What’s more, this isn’t the only step DeVos has taken to assist the industry. NBC News reported last month that Donald Trump’s education secretary has also “frozen Obama-era regulations that would have increased protections for students,” and “reduced loan forgiveness relief for some former students defrauded by their schools, meaning that the for-profit industry could be on the hook for less.”
It’s easy to get the impression that protecting students from predatory practices isn’t exactly Team Trump’s top priority at the U.S. Department of Education.
And while that’s discouraging, it’s also consistent with the administration’s broader m.o. The similarities between DeVos’ work at Education and Mick Mulvaney’s work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau aren’t subtle.