Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Calls On Education Secretary to Guard Against Conflicts of Interest Jerry Falwell, Jr., reported to lead higher education ‘task force,’ has repeatedly stated interest in rolling back so-called ‘overreaching regulation’ protecting students and loan borrowers from abuse
PoliticalNews.me - Feb 28,2017 - Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Calls On Education Secretary to Guard Against Conflicts of Interest
Jerry Falwell, Jr., reported to lead higher education ‘task force,’ has repeatedly stated interest in rolling back so-called ‘overreaching regulation’ protecting students and loan borrowers from abuse
Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joined Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to write to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos regarding reports that President Trump has asked Jerry L. Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University, to lead a new “task force” to recommend changes to federal regulations, policies, and procedures in higher education.
Such a task force could make recommendations on the federal requirements that colleges and universities must meet in exchange for nearly $150 billion in federal student aid provided to their students each year. Mr. Falwell has been quoted saying that he was selected to lead this task force in response to what he claimed was “overreaching regulation” by the Department of Education in areas such as accreditation, recruitment of students, and rules providing defrauded borrowers with loan discharges.
In the letter, the Senators write that these and other comments by Mr. Falwell raise serious concerns about this task force given that “many of the current laws and regulations in these areas have been put in place to protect students and taxpayers from abuse.”
It is also critical that Secretary DeVos guard against “conflicts of interests that may be created by taxpayer-subsidized entities writing the rules for their own access to federal dollars” wrote the Senators, given that last year alone Liberty University received $766 million in grants and loans under Title IV of the Higher Education Act and has grown rapidly by recruiting a substantial number of students to their online programs.
“Mr. Falwell’s personal and financial interests on issues affecting student loan debt, recruitment, and distance education are extensive, and his perspectives must be viewed appropriately in this context,” wrote the Senators.
The Senators are seeking for Secretary DeVos to provide a detailed explanation on how she will “set forth the scope of the task force’s responsibilities, balance the composition of the task force members, ensure compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and implement the 2011 Administrative Conference of the United States recommendations to enhance the transparency and public access of federal advisory committees.”
Questions (abbreviated) for Secretary DeVos requiring a response no later than March 9, 2017, include requests on topics such as:
Whether DeVos intends to form the aforementioned task force and have Mr. Falwell lead this task force.
The mission, scope, and agenda for the task force and the specific questions it will seek to answer.
The specific responsibilities of Mr. Falwell as the leader of the task force.
How many members the task force will have, the intended process for identifying prospective members, and the metrics for ensuring balance of viewpoints and expertise among all stakeholders in higher education, including students and consumers.
The process for collecting comments and