In a press release on Wednesday, May 31st, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced the launch of DeVos Watch, a project aimed at monitoring Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ handling of the federal student loan program and the Department of Education overall.
Warren has expressed concerns over potential ethical violations by the Department of Education in the past. For instance, the Massachusetts Senator pressured DeVos and the Trump Administration to reinstate student loan protections and to shield student loan borrowers from unnecessary fees.
Warren said the following in a CNN op-ed: “We all have an interest in a well-run, fiscally responsible, corruption-free student aid program that puts students first. That is Secretary DeVos’ job — and it is Congress’ job to make sure she does it.”
In a video that can be reached from her press release, Senator Warren pointed to DeVos’ decision to hire Robert Eitel, a senior lawyer for a company that owns for-profit colleges that have been investigated by state and federal authorities.
Warren also highlighted Secretary DeVos’ hiring of Taylor Hansen, a top lobbyist for for-profit colleges. After Warren wrote to DeVos about the lobbyist’s conflicts of interests, Hansen resigned.
“The revolving door that shuttles people between government jobs and the corporations they police is corrosive — but it is rarely this brazen,” wrote Warren.
By starting DeVos Watch, Warren has continued her agenda of making student loans one of her top priorities. Compared to many Senators and Representatives in Congress, she has been especially proactive on the issue according to research from LendEDU.
In 2013, Senator Warren introduced legislation that was meant to allow students to take out federal loans at the same discounted rate that the Federal Reserve offers to banks. In the same year, she spearheaded a movement against a bipartisan bill that capped most student loan rates at 8.25 percent.
In the following year, Warren was nearly able to push through a legislative piece that would have allowed students to refinance their debt with the federal government; this would have allowed borrowers to keep various government protections instead of losing said protections when they refinanced with private, third-party lenders. In June of 2014, the bill fell four votes shy of overcoming a Senate filibuster.
Clashing with her own party in May of last year, Senator Warren fought with the Obama Administration for not pushing private student loan servicers, specifically Navient, hard enough when it came to implementing better business practices.
Senator Warren’s chief argument is that the federal government, which hands out hundreds of millions of dollars to private loan servicers, should use that monetary leverage to push for reforms within the student loans industry.
Since being nominated to the post of Secretary of Education, DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor married to the co-founder of Amway, has become a point of contention in Washington D.C.
As Secretary of Education, DeVos is in charge of the trillion dollar federal student loan program and the student loan servicers that handle the loans. According to LendEDU, this isn’t the first time that Elizabeth Warren (or the Senate and student borrowers alike) have expressed their issues and concerns with Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Secretary of DeVos has faced stiff opposition from Democrats and powerful groups on the left, such as the influential teachers unions.
During her Senate confirmation process, Democrats criticized DeVos as being terribly ignorant of the basics of education policy. Additionally, DeVos’ endorsements of charter schools and tuition vouchers has led to liberal groups labeling her as an opponent of public education.
The attacks on Secretary DeVos were enough to sway two Republican senators, Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), to vote against DeVos’ confirmation. A tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence pushed DeVos through the confirmation process.
Author: Mike Brown
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