TEN MONTHS INTO HER TERM as Secretary of Education, it’s time to check on how Betsy DeVos is doing. Besides keeping our nation’s children from grizzly attacks, Ms. DeVos has been spending an inordinate amount of time on the road visiting America’s elementary and secondary schools. That is: she visits the schools run by for-profit charter operations. DeVos, if you don’t already know, is a huge fan of charter schools, vouchers, corporate education and reducing teacher salaries too. Like every other member of the Trump team, she believes heart and soul that if we deliver the future of young people into the grasp of Big Corporations, we’ll get “business efficiency” in our schools. And all the young people will live happily ever after.
And all the Big Corporations will profit happily ever after, as well.
In fact, the Secretary of Education has also been working diligently to keep students in higher education safe from the predatory practices of for-profit college crooks. She’s done this by making it harder to hold those very same crooks accountable for those very same predatory practices.
Her handpicked choice to guard against fraud in the for-profit college industry is Julian Schmoke Jr. What was Mr. Schmoke’s previous job, which fit him to ferret out fraud? He worked for DeVry University, which settled a $100 million lawsuit in 2016 for perpetrating fraud upon students.
Robert Eitel is another top DeVos aide. His experience with for-profit colleges includes working with another pirate organization, one forced to refund $23.5 million to students related to bogus loan deals.
None of this crookery is to be confused with Trump University, of course (ordered to repay $25 million to bilked students).
NOR ARE WE TALKING about Corinthian College (fined $30 million for deceptive business practices and now defunct, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $183 million in student loans that must be forgiven).
Here, we do not intend in any way to link the lax enforcement policies of the new Secretary with stories about Education Management Corporation (forced to pay a $95.5 million fraud settlement; and later forced to offer $103 million in restitution in a second case). We do not wish to muddy the waters with the tale of Career Education Corporation (which paid a $10.25 million fine) or the saga of Ashford University (fined $7.25 million after recruiters lied to students).
We do not mean to hint that DeVos might turn a blind eye on the misdeeds of the vultures that picked student bank accounts clean at Charlotte School of Law (forced into bankruptcy in the wake of a fraud scandal). She wouldn’t just ignore the outlaws who operated Chester Career College (fined $5 million after students complained courses were a “sham”) would she? Or the bandits at ITT Educational Services (forced to close 130 locations after students filed a class action lawsuit alleging predatory lending practices). Or the brigands who cooked the books at Le Cordon Bleu (a culinary school hit with a $40 million settlement in a suit filed by students).
We do not mean to imply that Ms. DeVos would wink the skullduggery at Lincoln College Online (required to repay $2.3 million for lying about job placement numbers), or Stratford University (graduation rate: 8%), or the University of Phoenix (fined twice, $20 million combined) or Westwood College. (Westwood was fined $7 million in 2009, taken to court again in 2012 and ordered to pay $4.5 million in fines and restitution. The school was nailed a third time for $15 million in a case involving misleading students about job placement results). And who could ever possibly dream that a woman whose family fortune was raised on a sleazy Amway foundation would countenance business corruption in the for-profit college ranks?
We cannot say definitively that DeVos and her pro-business pals are doing their best to make it easier for profiteers to bilk young Americans.
It just seems that way.
SO LET’S FINISH with a for-profit bang! Consider the trials (many) and tribulations of Alejandro Amor, founder of FastTrain College in Florida. Business was good for a time. Amor bought a 54-foot yacht. He had his own private plane. He could afford a $2 million home on the beach.
What went wrong at his fine institute of higher learning?
Investigators found FastTrain had enrolled 1,300 students who lacked high school diplomas. So the school lied about their eligibility to win federal loans. My favorite part of the story comes by way of the Miami Herald:
Ex-employees told investigators that Amor boosted enrollments by hiring former strippers as recruiters, some of whom wore “short skirts and stiletto heels” to work. Amor told one employee to “hire some hot mommas” and “hire the sluttiest girls he could find.”
So, as they say, it came to pass.
The courts ruled. FastTrain went off the trestle and smashed up at the bottom of a deep ravine. The school closed. Amor went to jail. The slutty recruiters, one must assume, went back to doing what they did best.
AND THAT IS EXACTLY the kind of proof we need to show that less business regulation will truly “Make America Great Again” one Big Corporations run all our schools, K-12 and up.
I, for one, can hardly wait.
According to DeVos and her ilk, with business methods, we’re sure to see vastly improved achievement in our classrooms!
Plus, we’ll get strippers!
For additional evidence of what young Americans can expect once business regulations are dead see: Corporate Education: What Did You Expect?