On Thursday, the Education Department selected two firms to help collect unpaid student loans.
But if there is one thing we have come to understand the past year about this department under Secretary Betsy DeVos, it’s that partisan ideology and personal financial gain are at the forefront of policies her agency is charged with enforcing.
Thursday’s decision was no different.
One of the debt collection agencies chosen is Performant Financial Corp., which once had financial ties to DeVos.
According to The Washington Post, the Education Department claimed the proposals Performant and another firm, Windham Professionals, offered were “the most advantageous to the government.”
DeVos invested in both before steeping into her role as the nation’s education leader.
The Education Department states it selected Windham because of its “exceptional” rating.
Todd Canni, an attorney for one of the bidders, Continental Service Group, reported to the Washington Post:
“It simply does not make sense that the agency would choose to work with lower-rated [companies] with marginal ratings that do not have an exceptional past performance record.”
Losing bidders in the firm selection process objected after the Department chose seven firms, one of which was Windham.
Of nearly 40 debt collection firms, the deal with Performant and Windham could be worth $400 million.
“While we continue to await more facts, we are deeply troubled by the optics and appearance issues associated with the agency’s award decisions.”
Nathan Bailey, spokesperson for the Education Department, told the Washington Post DeVos had “no knowledge, let alone involvement” in the new deal with Windham and Performant.
Yet an Office of Government Ethics ethics report released January 20, 2017–inauguration day–delineates 102 companies that pose potential conflicts of interest for DeVos and exposes DeVos’s investments in the very companies from which former president Obama’s student lending policies were meant to protect.
In the report, DeVos agreed to divest from an extensive list of companies posing conflicts of interest. Among these companies is LMF WF Portfolio, a company which helped finance a $147 million loan to Performant Financial.
When DeVos was nominated, the Republican-controlled Senate made the unprecedented move of advancing her confirmation hearing before the requisite paperwork about her potential conflicts of interest was complete.
Upon assuming her role as the nation’s education advocate, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decided to rescind support requiring the U.S. Education Department to investigate loan servicing companies’ past conduct before the government awards lucrative contracts. Interestingly, these are the very companies in which DeVos and her family have vested business interests.
Then she reversed Barack Obama’s directive requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that conform to their gender identities.
She also scrapped Obama-era guidelines on investigating college and university campus sexual assault.
Then in November, the agency DeVos was chosen to lead decided it was no longer going to protect American students’ civil rights.
This lends new significance to the U.S. Education Department’s initials–USED.
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