U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ decision to appoint a new chief enforcement officer who formerly worked at a troubled for-profit college drew swift and scathing criticism Wednesday.
Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill and student advocates say Dr. Julian Schmoke, Jr. — who previously served as an associate program dean at DeVry University — represents another instance of the fox guarding the hen house at the education department. DeVry recently settled a case for making baseless claims.
“By hiring a former for-profit college executive to police for-profit colleges, the Trump administration is turning the Education Department from a defender of students and taxpayers to an accomplice in the fraudulent and predatory practices of for-profit schools,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment from Diverse.
Robert Shireman, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, where he focuses on for-profit college accountability and consumer protection, said Schmoke’s appointment is disturbing for reasons that transcend his former ties to DeVry.
“Schmoke’s appointment is alarming not because of his stint working at a for-profit college, but because of his complete lack of appropriate experience in law enforcement and consumer protection,” said Shireman, who served as deputy undersecretary in the Department of Education under President Barack Obama.
Shireman also is the architect of the Obama administration’s gainful employment regulations, which targeted for-profit colleges but which DeVos has put on hold as the department seeks to rewrite the rules.
“Further, the position has been downgraded,” Shireman said of Schmoke’s position, noting news reports that indicate Schmoke will report to the department’s compliance division — which he said deals with mostly minor issues — whereas his predecessor — Robert Kaye — reported directly to the head of the Office of Federal Student Aid, who at the time was James Runcie. Runcie resigned the post earlier this year after refusing to testify at the behest of DeVos at a Congressional hearing on improper financial aid payments.