DeVos Says Obama-Era Consumer Rule Was Akin to ‘Free Money’

Updated (9/25/2017, 1:40 p.m.) with response from the Education Department.

The education secretary, Betsy DeVos, took aim at the Obama-era borrower defense-to-repayment rule during a speech on Friday at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, according to The Detroit News.

While students should be protected from “predatory practices,” Ms. DeVos said, the system should also treat “schools and taxpayers” fairly. “Under the previous rules, all one had to do was raise his or her hands to be entitled to so-called free money.”

The Trump administration announced in June that the rule, created to give students a simplified process to have their student loans forgiven if they had been defrauded by their colleges, would be revised. “Fraud, especially fraud committed by a school, is simply unacceptable,” Ms. DeVos said in a written statement at the time, adding that her “first priority” is to protect students. “Unfortunately,” she said, “last year’s rule-making effort missed an opportunity to get it right.”

Of the more than 65,000 outstanding borrower-defense claims, however, the administration has not approved any since the inauguration of President Trump, in January.

Ms. DeVos further criticized the Obama administration’s general approach to education policy as “ineffective and inefficient,” according to The Detroit News. “The time of ‘Washington knows best’ is over,” she said. ”President Trump and I know our jobs: It’s to get out of the way.”

Ms. DeVos’s comments on borrower defense drew criticism, but a spokeswoman for the Education Department said that the secretary’s comments were “completely consistent” with what she “has said previously on this topic.”

“Fraud in our higher-education system is unacceptable, and students who have suffered harm should absolutely be made whole,” said the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Hill. “Unfortunately, the prior administration’s rulemaking led to a cumbersome and confusing process that’s unfair to students and schools, and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant cost.”

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