Betsy DeVos' Education Department refused to allow advocates to live-stream a public hearing on predatory lending, preventing crucial information from reaching those most affected by the issue.
Weeks after announcing the Department of Education was delaying Obama-era protections for students defrauded by for-profit colleges, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday refused to allow live-streaming at a public hearing on the issue of predatory lenders.
Student advocates at the department’s negotiated rulemaking session were stunned when they were instructed to stop live-streaming the event, which was ostensibly open to the public.
Advocates were broadcasting the hearing so that students affected by predatory loans would have the ability to listen in on the discussion in real time.
Video from the beginning of the hearing captured an argument between a representative from the department and the advocates attempting to live-stream it:
At the Department of Education's Borrower Defense negotiated rulemaking, standing with students who've been cheated or defrauded by predatory colleges.
Posted by Higher Ed, Not Debt on Monday, November 13, 2017
Attendees tried to make sense of the ban:
ED rep says they don't want to allow livestreaming because there's no official livestream by ED and video can be edited. Seems odd since they are clearly transcribing, and a transcript can also be edited. And press is here. And I/others are live-Tweeting. #DefendStudents
— Clare McCann (@claremccann) November 13, 2017
"There are almost 90,000 people around the country who've been ripped off by predatory or for-profit schools and applied for loan forgiveness," stressed Charlotte Hancock, program director at Higher Ed, Not Debt, told Shareblue Media in a statement.
"It’s undemocratic that the DeVos Department won’t let the public — borrowers whose lives and finances are being negatively impacted daily — view, via a livestream, what is said around a table by representatives of the for-profit industry at a public meeting.”
The Obama administration's regulation, which was supposed to take effect in July 2017, would have allowed students to have their loans forgiven if their schools deceived them about their education and career prospects.
Eighteen Democratic attorneys general have sued DeVos over the delay. "It's another example of the Trump administration favoring these predatory for-profit schools at the expense of students, many of whom are vulnerable, and also at the expense of the federal government," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told the Associated Press.
Just as importantly, as the Associated Press notes, since DeVos took office the Department of Education has refused to act on a single one of the tens of thousands of pending loan discharge claims from students who claim they’ve been defrauded.
Banning live-streaming at a public hearing is all part of DeVos’ push to essentially destroy the department's reputation, to make it less transparent and less effective, and to signal whose side on which she truly stands.