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Just When You Thought DeVos Was as Bad as It Gets for Education, Trump Outdoes Himself


Don’t look now, but our president has just outdone himself on the whole Betsy DeVos thing. He has appointed Julian Schmoke, Jr. as the education department’s new chief enforcement officer for higher education. It’ll be Schmoke’s job to head up the part of the DOE that protects Americans against fraud by colleges and universities. Reminder: the biggest issue regarding fraud by colleges and universities is for-profit colleges swindling students with deceptive practices to get them to plunk down student loan money. The problem became so significant that in 2016, the Obama administration created an “enforcement unit” to investigate misconduct at colleges, impose administrative actions against colleges and resolve student loan debt relief claims linked to fraud.

According to Politico, Schmoke has been tapped as the new sheriff in town over at the DOE. And you’ll never guess what Schmoke did at one of his last jobs. He was a dean at DeVry University. Yes. That DeVry. The one that agreed to pay over $100 million last year to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Education that it committed the exact kind of fraud that Schmoke’s department will be in charge of policing. In an administration characterized by appointing people diametrically opposed to the mission of federal agencies to run those very agencies, this appointment is one of the worst ones yet. It’s not just that Schmoke is philosophically opposed to the mission of the fraud unit of the DOE—it’s that he has been actively involved with one of the worst offenders. Schmoke was the Associate Program Dean for the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry from 2008 to 2012.

According to the language in the press release by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman after its $2.25 settlement with DeVry last January (oh, yes, there was a state case against the “school” too), the company’s wrongdoing was about as bad as it gets:

“DeVry used misleading claims to lure in students who were simply seeking a college degree, greatly exaggerating job and salary prospects for graduates” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I’m pleased that this settlement provides much-deserved restitution to students who were misled, and requires DeVry to stop its false advertising.”

None of this, of course, should be much of a surprise. The Trump Department of Education, run by Amway Heiress-to-be Betsy DeVos, has already been clear that it is far more interested in helping private companies line their pockets with federal student loan funds than it is in protecting students from fraud. Back at her confirmation hearing, DeVos refused to commit to actively enforcing existing rules against waste, fraud, and abuse from for-profit colleges.

In July, eighteen states and the District of Columbia took a stand against the DeVos Department of Education for its absurd sheltering of these for-profit schools, and filed a federal complaint for DeVos’ delay of implementation of the Borrower Defense Rule. That rule shelters defrauded students from obligations to repay federal student loans, and shifts that burden to the corrupt institutions themselves. In that context, a choice to put Schmoke on the payroll doesn’t seem odd at all; it’s more like a rounding-out of a department that’s hell-bent on funneling tax dollars to enormous corporations masquerading as schools.

Or, as one Tweeter suggested, maybe it’s just good planning:

Well, I never thought I’d miss the days when grizzly bears were our greatest educational concern.

Editor’s Note: This piece was updated to include Julian Schmoke’s full title while employed at DeVry.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos