DeVos must testify in student loan forgiveness case
A federal judge has ruled that former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos must testify in a class action lawsuit about how the Department of Education handled some student loan forgiveness cases during her tenure.
On May 19, Judge William Alsup, District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, dismissed a joint claim by DeVos and the Biden administration, who joined the trial on DeVos’ behalf in February.
The lawsuit was brought by students who took out loans at universities that are now defrauded. In January 2017, before the Trump administration entered the White House and Dutch-born DeVos stepped into his role as chief education officer, DOE staff at the time of Obama recommended that students who paid for courses at fraudulent institutions, now defunct, be reimbursed for any loans they have taken out to assist them.
Corinthians Colleges was a for-profit university system that admitted guilt of systemic fraud following government investigations in 2015. The federal government ruled that the more than 300,000 students attending the now bankrupt Corinthians were taking out loans could see their debt cleared, as well as repay past payments.
But the DOE was slow to write off student debt, and in some cases provided no relief. The New York Times reported that the DOE did not approve a single request for federal student debt relief from June to December 2018.
In October 2019, a federal judge said the DOE continued to seek reimbursement from defrauded students, including seizing salaries and tax returns from borrowers who fell behind on their payments.
DeVos is no longer the defendant in the case, having resigned from his post on January 8 – days after the insurgency on the United States Capitol. A subpoena was issued on January 12 to request his testimony.
“Even assuming Secretary DeVos retains some measure of executive prerogative, she must respond to an appropriate subpoena,” Alsup wrote in her 12-page order. “The judicial process goes even to reluctant executives.”
Alsup said lawyers for the borrowers will have the opportunity to question DeVos as to why the department has delayed approving the pardon requests. He wrote that DeVos must sit for the deposition for three hours without a break.
“… Class counsel are authorized to investigate matters largely related to the actual cause of the disputed eighteen-month delay, to the development, approval and use of formal denial letters. and the secretary’s involvement in clearing the backlog of our group members. “Borrower’s defense claims,” Aslup wrote.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 3.