U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was on the receiving end of some harsh words from a judge this Monday during a hearing in San Francisco, after she was found in contempt for continuing to collect on the loan debt of former students at bankrupt Corinthian Colleges Inc., Bloomberg reports.
“I’m not sure if this is contempt or sanctions,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim told DeVos’s lawyers. “I’m not sending anyone to jail yet but it’s good to know I have that ability.”
DeVos and her department violated a June order to stop collecting the debts from students, who had been promised refunds of the tuition they’d paid.
“At best it is gross negligence, at worst it’s an intentional flouting of my order,” Kim said, according to Bloomberg.
Corinthian, once among the largest for-profit college chains in the country, faced a flood of government investigations and lawsuits alleging systemic fraud before filing for bankruptcy protection from creditors in 2015.
In the aftermath, the federal government declared that as many as 335,000 former students could erase their loans by checking a box and signing their names on a simple form, under penalty of perjury. Doing so, the former students were told, would void their debt and prompt a refund on past payments.
In 2017, a group of former students of the college sued the Education Department for continuing to collect on the debt that had been forgiven. Around 80,000 students were named as plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr