Report: Top DeVos Aide Played Role In Helping Failing For Profit Colleges

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour / Public Domain

Artivia Tahir

Released emails and text correspondence show that a top Education Department official helped failing for-profit colleges

The relationship between top Education Department official Diane Auer Jones and Dream Center Education Holdings, which was denied by the federal agency on numerous occasions in the past year, was recently exposed through a series of text messages, emails, and letters between the two, according to The Washington Post.

  • Investigators found that Dream Center had been deceptively enrolling students by telling them their schools had accreditation status when they did not. The Trump administration had an interest in keeping the company from collapsing because the closure would give more students a path to getting hundreds of millions in federal loans forgiven.
  • The Post noted that a closure “also would have embarrassed an administration that has rolled back for-profit education regulations and filled the department with proponents.”
  • Emails were discovered by Congressional investigators last year that showed Dream Center executives saying between themselves that Jones would help soften the blow of the closure.
  • A slew of documents released Tuesday by the House Education Committee included text messages from 2018 between Jones and multiple Dream Center officials that show a far more extensive relationship than Jones let on.

As far back as June 2018, Jones sent and received more than 100 text messages from multiple officials at Dream Center, including company chief executive Brent Richardson, government liaison Shelly Murphy and legal counsel Dennis Cariello. Some messages discuss the accreditation problem, while others show Richardson pleading with Jones to release cash held in an escrow account as the company ran out of money.

  • Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Education Committee, said:

"The Education Department’s lack of transparency and the actions described in the documents raise serious questions that must be answered.”

  • Dream Center purchased the for-profit colleges in 2017, and as a condition of its approval of the purchase, the accrediting commission downgraded the accreditation status of two Art Institute Campuses until they could improve their quality of education.
  • The commission asked Dream Center to inform their students about the lack of accreditation status, which they did not. Instead, students continued to enroll and receive federal aid for degrees that were considered worthless due to lack of accreditation.
  • Former students of the Art Institute of Colorado and Illinois Institute of Art sued Secretary Devos and the Education Department in 2019 for unlawfully issuing them loans that they say they should not be forced to repay. The case was resolved after Devos forgave some of the debt, but it generated many emails and text messages that exposed Jones’ role in the matter.

Read the full report.

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