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Senate Democrats Seek Answers on Falwell Panel

February 24, 2017
 
 

After a slow drip of news about a higher education task force to be led by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. -- with Falwell himself the source -- Senate Democrats are demanding details from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

Falwell has said in interviews that the task force would re-evaluate "overreaching regulation" by the federal government in areas such as accreditation, student recruitment and loan discharge for defrauded students. The Senate Democrats who signed a letter to DeVos -- Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire -- said those regulations provide important protections for students. And they told DeVos that a task force without a diverse membership could tilt its recommendations toward the interests of colleges and universities that receive large taxpayer subsidies. 

Falwell's own financial interest in regulation of higher education also concerned the Democrats. Last year Liberty University took in $766 million in revenue from federal Title IV aid and was the third-largest recipient of federal student loans in the country, they wrote. 

The senators asked DeVos to provide by March 9 answers to a number of questions about the task force, including the mission and scope of the task force as well as the process for identifying prospective members. 

Falwell himself has said in recent comments that he has not had discussions with the Trump administration about the specific aims of the task force. 

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