Education Dept. Hires Exec From Scandalized For-Profit School To Run Enforcement Division

Image courtesy of Jason Cook

Dedicated and effective government employees can come from many prior walks of life, it’s true; the path through any career can be winding and complex. But choosing someone with major ties to a for-profit college that engaged in questionable behaviors to head up a division tasked with investigating for-profit colleges that engage in questionable behaviors seems like a bad sign.

There’s a new hire coming to the Department of Education, Politico reports: Julian Schmoke, currently a high-ranking director at a community college in Georgia, will be taking over as head of the Department’s Student Aid Enforcement Office.

What’s the job?

The Student Aid Enforcement Office was formed in early 2016, “as part of the Obama Administration’s aggressive action to protect students and taxpayers.”

The Enforcement Office basically works with other divisions within the Department of Education to investigate instutitions’ shady actions around student lending. Basically, it’s the gorup that handles alleged fraud on the part of for-profit colleges and universities.

What’s the problem?

The first head of the Enforcement division came from the FTC, where he had previously worked on consumer protection issues; that follows. But the same cannot be said of the new nominee: Prior to his current role as a college administrator, Schmoke spent several years working for DeVry University.

Yes, the same for-profit DeVry University you’ve probably seen commercials for — and the same DeVry University that just finished paying out $49 million in refunds to more than 17,3000 students after it reached a $100 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over those ads in late 2016.

In short, the Department of Education has now hired a guy who spent much of a career at a for-profit school busted for fraud… to head the department that helps determine which for-profit schools need to be busted for fraud.

Part of a pattern

The new hire is just one of many recent signals from the Trump Administration that the Department of Education is making a 180 on issues related to for-profit education.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos herself has financial ties to a student loan refinancer.

In June, DeVos named the head of a private, for-profit student lending company to run the Department’s Office of Financial Aid. That same month she also promised to “reset” rules that regulated for-profit colleges and held them more accountable.

And in July, it came out that the Education Department had not approved a single loan forgiveness claim since the start of the new Administration on Jan. 20.

So while it is theoretically possible that Schmoke’s ties to DeVry don’t mean he will be anything other than a stalward defender of students’ rights… probably best not to hold your breath.

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