Be it a paperwork snafu or a blatant disregard for a court order, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has found herself in the middle of some major some legal problems.
For continuing to collect student debt on a now-defunct for-profit school, Judge Sallie Kim is threatening to send DeVos to jail, Newsweek reports.
Can’t Collect Those Loans
The institution in question is the now-bankrupt Corinthian Colleges, Inc. After the company went belly up, it was ruled that any student owing debt due to enrollment in its programs would be released from their obligations.
The Department of Education (DOE) was supposed to stop collecting on these student loans as of 2018, but DeVos has apparently forgotten to put the proper controls in place to prevent these collections.
According to reports, more than 16,000 students were mistakenly told they owed money for these accounts, which has created quite a problem for these individuals.
Many of them had wages or their tax refunds garnished by the government for not making student loan payments.
Negligence or Ignorance?
Needless to say, DeVos is taking considerable heat over this. The ruling judge, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim, stated: “I’m not sure if this is contempt or sanctions. I’m not sending anyone to jail yet, but it’s good to know that I have that ability.”
Her decision is undoubtedly being delayed in order to see if DeVos simply made a mistake. In all, there are more than 300,000 former students believed to have debt on the books from this institution.
While the relevant order came down in 2018, this case has been in the works for several years, with a class-action lawsuit having been filed in 2017 on behalf of roughly 80,000 former students.
Somehow, even with all the requests for loan forgiveness and the initiation of the lawsuit, DeVos’s department only approved 10 student loans for debt forgiveness. “There have to be consequences for violation of my order 16,000 times,” Judge Kim said.
The judge has encouraged attorneys for the students to move forward with their lawsuit, saying at the very least DeVos is in contempt of the initial court order.
This could also hurt President Donald Trump moving into election season, with Democrats making student loan debt forgiveness a major focus of their campaigns. Only time will tell where DeVos ends up in all this.