A federal judge found U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in contempt of court and imposed a $100,000 fine after she violated a court order and continued to collect on student loans owed by students of a shuttered for-profit college, Politico.com reports.
In rendering her decision, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim wrote that DeVos showed “only minimal efforts to comply with the preliminary injunction.”
As ESSENCE previously reported, in 2017, DeVos stopped processing Borrower Defense to Repayment applications, a program created during the Obama Administration to “allow federal student loan borrowers to request loan forgiveness on the basis that their school engaged in unfair, deceptive, or illegal practices,” Forbes reports. This, for all intents and purposes, ended the program.
Consumer advocates filed suit against DeVos and the Education Department—and won. Subsequently, Judge Kim ordered DeVos and the Department to cease collections and activities on federal student loans from Corinthian Colleges, a collapsing for-profit college chain, because students would likely be eligible for the Borrower Defense to Repayment program.
DeVos did not comply, going so far as to garnish people’s wages and take their federal tax refunds with flagrant disregard of the judge’s order. Consumer advocates, again, took DeVos to court.
Judge Kim said that she was “astounded” by DeVos’ actions, telling Department of Education lawyers, “At best it is gross negligence, at worst it’s an intentional flouting of my order…I’m not sure if this is contempt or sanctions. I’m not sending anyone to jail, yet; but it’s good to know I have that ability.”
In a video statement, the Department of Education said that it was “disappointed” in the court’s ruling. “We acknowledged that servicers made unacceptable mistakes.”