Democrats blast education secretary over partial debt relief for defrauded students

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was accused of trying to destroy public education and of inflicting serious harm on students during a heated hearing Thursday.

House Democrats on the Committee on Education and Labor blasted DeVos’ decision not to give full debt relief to students defrauded by for-profit colleges.

Democrats said DeVos is shortchanging students from now defunct schools like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute who are left with worthless degrees and mountains of debt.

“Why has every decision you’ve made harmed students instead of empowering them?” Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) said. “You’re the most unpopular person in our government."

"I have a hard time thinking that a defrauded borrower would think that you are in their corner,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) said.

DeVos is pushing for a loan forgiveness plan based on earnings.

"Simply discharging all of these loans, as some on this committee suggest be done, is not fair to taxpayers nor to those who have paid or are paying their loans,” DeVos said.

The move came despite internal Department of Education memos that show her own staffers pushed for full debt relief in a story first reported by NPR.

Democrats pressed DeVos on the memos.

“Not having the document in front me, I’m not going to continue to comment,” DeVos said when asked about the memo by Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Connecticut).

“Did you not know you were coming here today?” Hayes replied.

“Congresswoman, there are hundreds of documents written,” DeVos responded.

House Republicans came to the secretary’s defense.

"I just commend you for trying to do the right thing,” Rep. Mark Walker (R-North Carolina) said.

“You’re the one stuck cleaning up the mess,” Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin) said.

But Democrats lashed out throughout the hearing, at times pointing to the improper payment collections from defrauded students despite a court order stopping it.

“Are you deliberately violating this court order because you are too corrupt to uphold the law or because you’re too incompetent to do your job?” Rep. Josh Harder (D-California) said.

“I took great personal offense to everything you just said,” DeVos said. “I come to my job every day on behalf of students. I don’t need to sit and listen to what you just spewed out of your mouth."