Vendetta: The Department of Education Begins its Assault on Private Schools

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The Left’s Weaponizing of Law to Control Education

It is no secret that the current Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, is no friend of free education. With the fiasco that was his hearing on the budget, which became a 1619 worship meeting, the Secretary of Education is building a case for government-controlled schools. Now he has taken his first step in doing so. Cardona and his team at the Department of Education (DOE) have taken a major step in government control of schools by weaponizing Title IV loans against the largest remaining for-profit law school in the country, Florida Coastal School of Law (FCSL).

Early this year, the DOE revoked FCSL’s federal student loan eligibility. Without student loan eligibility, many of FCSL’s students have become victims of this crusade by the DOE to keep government control over schools. During the Obama regime, the DOE targeted FCSL and its sister schools in Arizona and South Carolina, but FCSL survived the assault. Biden’s regime does not seem to be willing to take the same chance. They are looking to kill off the nation’s largest for-profit law school before the mid-terms to ensure that the school cannot be saved by level-headed legislators.

The reason given for the revocation is that type of procedural smoke and mirrors that Washington uses to crush those whom it does not support. The three reasons that were given are: 1. Failure to meet financial responsibility standards 2. Failure to meed fiduciary standards of conduct, and, 3. Failure to meet standards of administrative capacity.

Claim: Failure to Meet Financial Responsibility Standards

The DOE’s claim that FCSL did not meet the Financial Responsibility Standards required to be a school is based on a “do as I say and be punished” situation. Earlier this year, the DOE asked FSCL to have Sterling, the investment firm which owns the school, to sign off on the program. Sterling could not do so because the fund that oversaw FCSL was nearing it’s end and the school was going to be a stand alone school within the term of the loan application. The DOE informed FCSL that either Sterling had to sign off on the program or renounce ownership.

Sterling renounced its ownership of FCSL this spring, allowing the school to be stand-alone. In retaliation, the DOE mismanaged the budget review looking at the removal of Sterling’s capital value as a loss for the school. This made it appear as if the school had lost $16 billion in value over the last year. As a result, this lowered the schools financial composite score to -1.0, the lowest possible score. This error shows either malicious intent by the DOE, gross incompetence, or both.

When this “error” is removed, then the school is shown to be financially competent and running at a rate that is better than most public schools, which usually run at a loss. Herein lies the rub: If FCSL is allowed to function as a stand alone school- outside the scope of an investment firm, then as the endowment grows, the school could give loans based on the endowment and remove federal control from the equation. This would weaken the Department of Education’s student loan cash cow, cutting billions of lobbying dollars to politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Claim: Failure to Meet the Fiduciary Standards of Conduct

Once again, we see smoke and mirrors to undercut the school. The Department of Education is claiming that the ownership did not not let the DOE know about ownership structural changes and accreditation issues. For a novice in education, this looks like a valid claim. However, with an understanding of the structure of the Title IV program, this is an invalid claim.

As to the accreditation issue, this was a problem during the last dean’s tenure, not the current dean. The current dean, C. Peter Goplerud, has overseen increases in student numbers and bar scores since he returned to FCSL. These increases have been very strong because of strong leadership at the school. Programs to increase employment, bar passage rate, and competitive advantage for students have led to increases in the school’s national reputation. For the DOE to fault the school for problems from the previous administration (going back to the Obama administration) is simply a case of retaliation for being private sector.

As to the ownership issue, the DOE told FCSL they had a choice: Sterling could sign or renounce ownership. Sterling chose the later and the schools is being punished for it. This is akin to saying, you can have apple pie or cherry pie, but if you choose the cherry pie you will be murdered (and not disclosing this till after the choice). The DOE wanted Sterling to sign off to make them liable for another round of loan forgiveness programs by the government, plain and simple. When they chose to quitclaim the school, this rocked corrupt plans in Washington and forced them to attack the school another way.

Failure to Meet Standards of Participation

Of the three, this one has the best sheen to it, but like a reproduced piece of furniture, the sheen is not real. Basically the same as the previous issue but with extra steps, the American Bar Association (ABA) states that the school is back in good standing. This means the claims against the school are based on issues from the last two administrations. Ironically, because the DOE was so efficient and was having FCSL re-up its participation in the program every year, these problems would be on previous claims.

As for the claim that FCSL hid their problems with the ABA between 2012-2016, this shows gross incompetence on the part of the DOE. By ABA rules, FCSL published an announcement of all problems on its website- which is open to the public. If their DOE handler missed this, then there is a serious management/personnel issue at the DOE, not FCSL.

Why It is Not A Bad School

FCSL is not Harvard. No one who applies there thinks that it is. There are 204 accredited law schools in the United States. There are also 32 unaccredited law schools in the United States. Of these laws schools, FCSL moved up in rank from 197 to 147 over the last two years- this takes them from one of the worst schools in the country to a school that is outside the bottom 25%. They did this in two years under the new dean.

The school also has a tuition of about $39,790 per year, or $19,750 per semester. With an average law school price of $41,000 a year, or approx $20,000 per semester, FCSL costs less than half of the law schools in the country. Since all students graduate with an ABA accredited degree- FCSL is providing the same product at a lower cost. And that scares anyone in government.

Another metric is whether students are finding jobs or not. FCSL has improved its record greatly in this regard with almost all of its students getting full-time employment (long term). According to the ABA disclosure, of 64 students in 2020 (pandemic year), 50 received long-term, full-time employment. Three received full-time short-term employment. There were also four students who were working part-time (2 long-term and 2 short-term). Full employment is a pretty good stat.

Overall

As a nation, we cannot allow the DOE to pick favorites based on the political machinations of the current president. Just because Elizabeth Warren and AOC, both of whom Biden is afraid of, want to eliminate for-profit and private colleges, is is not a reason to destroy colleges that are helping students. At a lower cost and an improving record, FCSL is showing that the private sector can contribute to education- we should not allow the DOE to destroy student’s lives playing politics.

Lucas Collins

Lucas Collins

Lucas Collins is a writer for NRN. He strives to write timely, thought-provoking articles and looks forward to your thoughts and comments.

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