President Donald Trump’s administration plans to put a former dean of a for-profit college in charge of the Department of Education unit that investigates fraud in higher education.
Julian Schmoke Jr., a former dean at DeVry University and current community college administrator, is expected to head the Student Aid Enforcement Unit, according to a Politico report.
Who is Julian Schmoke?
Julian Schmoke is the executive director of campus operations at West Georgia Technical College, a two-year public institution. Previously, he worked at the for-profit DeVry University, where he was the associate program dean for the College of Engineering and Information Sciences from 2008 to 2012.
Now he reportedly has been tapped by the Trump administration to run the Student Aid Enforcement Unit, which was created by the Obama administration. It investigates allegations of illegal actions by institutions of higher learning.
According to an email obtained by Politico, A. Wayne Johnson, the head of the Federal Student Aid Office, made a number of appointments, including Schmoke.
Here’s what Johnson said about Schmoke in an internal email: “Julian possesses over 16 years of experience in higher education leadership with extensive knowledge in the development and implementation of strategies for achieving student success, higher education policy, and evaluation of academic programs.”
Not everyone is so sanguine about Schmoke’s appointment, however.
“It concerns me that someone associated with for-profit colleges in the past would be put in a position like this,” said Jay Fleischman, a consumer advocate and lawyer specializing in student loans.
Fleischman is especially concerned that DeVry, Schmoke’s former employer, is among the for-profit colleges that have been involved in settlements for the types of fraudulent practices he will now be in charge of investigating.
What is the Student Aid Enforcement Unit?
The Student Aid Enforcement Unit was formed by the Obama administration in 2016 to combat illegal practices by higher education institutions.
The practices the unit is expected to take aim at include inflating graduation rates and overstating job prospects, which take advantage of vulnerable students who might pay outsize costs based on promises of a better life.
The Student Aid Enforcement Unit consists of four divisions that focus on investigations, borrower defense related to Direct Loans, administrative actions, and compliance with campus security and crime disclosures.
“When Americans invest their time, money, and effort to gain new skills, they have a right to expect they’ll actually get an education that leads to a better life for them and their families,” said former Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a release related to the unit’s formation. “When that doesn’t happen, we all pay the price. So let me be clear: Schools looking to cheat students and taxpayers will be held accountable.”
DeVry University settlements
In 2016, DeVry University agreed to a $100 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. In February 2017, DeVry reached a settlement with the state of New York for more than $2.25 million. DeVry also settled with the state of Massachusetts for $455,000.
Much of the settlement money is expected to go toward refunding students and forgiving former students’ student loans. The settlements are mostly the result of misleading advertisements related to job placement.
The FTC lawsuit alleged that DeVry counted graduates as working in their field when they weren’t. One example: a rural mail carrier with a degree in technical management.
In the case of the state of Massachusetts, an investigation found that certain DeVry programs had job placement rates in their field as low as 52 percent within six months of graduating — not the 90 percent DeVry claimed.
In May 2017, with these settlements behind it, DeVry University moved to change its name and branding to Adtalem Global Education Inc.
Policing for-profit colleges
DeVry isn’t the only for-profit university caught up in the recent furor over allegations of deceptive practices.
The Obama administration cracked down on for-profit colleges, resulting in the reduction or withdrawal of federal aid to some of what the administration deemed to be the worst offenders. Many borrowers are looking for student loan forgiveness and other relief in the wake of closings.
“In light of DeVry’s past and the fact that some of these indiscretions happened while he was working at DeVry, it’s disappointing that Schmoke might be leading an office that is likely to investigate his former employer,” Fleischman said, “especially since he will now be playing a major part in deciding what happens with the claims of more than 1,800 former DeVry students who have filed complaints about the university.”
Although students and taxpayers deserve protection from colleges looking to cheat them, concerns exist about whether Schmoke is the man for the job given his past at DeVry.
For more information on the Department of Education and student loan developments, check out the following articles:
- New Federal Rules Help Students Get Forgiveness in Cases of Fraud
- Betsy DeVos Just Got Sued. The Decision Could Affect 68,000 Student Borrowers
- Betsy DeVos Rolls Back Obama-Era Student Loan Protections
- DeVos Announces Huge Overhaul of Federal Student Loan System
- 550,000 Borrowers Still Unsure if Department of Education Will Honor PSLF
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