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DeVos overruled Education Dept. staff on student loan debt relief: report

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosNational reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Women set to take key roles in Biden administration America has a civic education problem — here's how to fix it MORE overruled officials within the department on the relief to which student borrowers defrauded by for-profit colleges were entitled to, according to documents obtained by NPR.

The internal memos show the department’s Borrower Defense Unit reviewed thousands of complaints against since-shuttered colleges such as ITT Technical Institute and recommended that the borrowers be granted full relief weeks before DeVos was sworn in in 2017.

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"Hundreds of unprompted student statements confirm that lack of value of an ITT education, as ITT students time and again report that their education was sub-standard and that their degree or affiliation with the school was an impediment rather than an asset as they sought employment," reads one such memo, dated Jan. 10, 2017.

Despite these recommendations, the department unveiled a new plan on Tuesday that would base relief on a calculation of how much value the defrauded students derived from their courses, comparing their median earnings to those of other students who attended similar programs at other colleges.

"If the earnings from the school in question under the [borrower defense] application are lower than the median for that program at all comparable schools, then they will be determined to have suffered harm and will receive student loan relief,” the new plan states, according to NPR.

A similar earlier plan was blocked by a district court in May 2018, with the court finding the department violated student privacy by collecting income data for defrauded students. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim fined DeVos $100,000 in October for contempt of court for continuing collections.

DeVos presented the plan as protecting taxpayer interests, saying Tuesday that it "treats students fairly and ensures that taxpayers who did not go to college or who faithfully paid off their student loans do not shoulder student loan costs for those who didn't suffer harm."