DeVos Loses On Student Loans; Bezos Funds Preschool

The new school year marches on, and so does our weekly roundup.

Tropical Storm Florence closes schools in the Carolinas

Rain measured in feet, not inches. Storm surges and power outages are the reality of this huge, slow-moving storm. Schools were closed Friday across coastal North Carolina and South Carolina. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, leaders made the controversial choice to keep nearly 150,000 students home under blue skies on Thursday to prep some schools as shelters.

DeVos loses court case on borrower forgiveness

A federal judge ruled this week that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' delay of a key Obama-era student borrower protection rule was unlawful. The judge is expected to order a remedy next week.

The rule — "borrower defense to repayment" — spells out how students can get their loans forgiven if the college they attended was predatory or otherwise fraudulent. The shutdown of the large for-profits Corinthian and ITT Tech led to tens of thousands of these claims for forgiveness, which are being processed — slowly — under the old, pre-Obama rule. The Associated Press reported last week that more than 165,000 borrower defense claims have been filed since 2015; since DeVos took over, the agency has reviewed more than 25,000 claims, approved 16,000, and fully forgiven only 1000, with partial forgiveness covering about 30 percent of outstanding loans on average.

A for-profit college association is simultaneously challenging the rule in court.

Who's minding the student loan store? Democratic senators want to know

A group of senators sent Mick Mulvaney, the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a letter demanding details on enforcement actions currently being taken against offenders within the $1.5 trillion student loan industry. This comes a few weeks after the Bureau's student loan ombudsman, an Obama-era appointee, quit, accusing the administration of "turning its back" on borrowers.

Mulvaney also made news this week for his comments to Republican donors about Texas Senator Ted Cruz. According to Mulvaney, Cruz could lose his re-election campaign because he's seen as not likeable.

Amazon chief to fund preschools, family housing

Jeff Bezos announced on Twitter that he will stake $2 billion of his approximately $163 billion fortune to fund food and shelter for families, and to open free, Montessori-style preschools in low-income neighborhoods. "The child will be the customer," Bezos said, indicating that his organization will be involved directly in running the schools on Amazon "principles."

Bezos joins Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates in the roster of tech billionaires who have chosen education as a philanthropic focus. Education technology critic Audrey Watters was one person who noted that early childhood education, in particular, is attracting the attention of many venture capitalists.

Department of Education reopens a civil rights case against Rutgers University for anti-Semitism

Under Secretary DeVos, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has narrowed its focus and moved to close investigations more quickly.

But last week the OCR's chief official, Kenneth Marcus, reopened a 7-year-old case against Rutgers University. In the case, a Zionist group accused the university of anti-Semitism. Marcus returned to OCR from a group he founded called the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which has argued that the pro-Palestinian group, Boycott, Divest and Sanctions, is inherently anti-Semitic.

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