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House Democrats Charge Ed Dept. Concealed Actions

October 28, 2020

Top House Democrats on Tuesday released emails that seemed to contradict the Education Department’s public denials that it stopped the development of a tool on its website to make it easier for students who had been defrauded by for-profit colleges to apply to have their federal debt canceled.

An Education Department spokeswoman, Angela Morabito, had denied in a report from U.S. News & World Report that the Trump administration had halted the development of the tool, saying it made it too easy for the students to seek relief.

"Anyone who says that there has been any effort by anyone at the department to delay or obstruct the development of a new borrower defense form or website is lying," Morabito told the news site in June. "It's as simple as that."

However, education committee chairman Bobby Scott, of Virginia, and New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, chair of the oversight and reform committee, released an email an Office of Federal Student Aid program manager sent to the technology company Accenture Federal the previous month.

“FSA has made the decision to delay the implementation” and “all work on borrower defense … should stop for now,” said the May 21 email obtained by the committees.

Subsequently, in a July 1 email released by the committee, the Education Department authorized the contractor to begin the planning phase of the project. Maloney and Scott also said the project will cost $1 million and will not be finished until November.

“We are deeply troubled that the Department of Education halted a web tool to help simplify and streamline the process for defrauded students applying for relief,” Scott and Maloney said in a joint statement, noting the department’s denial of the large majority of claims from students. “Today, we are releasing further evidence that the Department of Education continues to undermine and harm these defrauded students at every turn. Regrettably, the Department lacks any credibility to carry out this program fairly for these borrowers and their families,” they said.

Morabito did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Kery Murakami

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