Washington, D.C. (Nov. 23, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, issued the following statement after the Department of Education suspended a new web tool designed to simplify the Borrower Defense application process for individuals who were ripped off by their schools:
“We are troubled that the Department of Education removed a new web tool from its website that was designed to help students who have been defrauded. Last month, we released evidence that Department officials froze this same web tool despite their vehement and public denials to the contrary. Once again, the Department’s public explanations do not hold water, and it now appears that the White House may be interfering in this process. The Department should immediately put the tool back online and stop its continued and repeated efforts to undermine the Borrower Defense program.”
A press report last week indicated that the Department “has removed from its website a new tool designed to help defrauded students apply for loan forgiveness, amid a dispute with White House officials over approval of the online application.” According to this report, Department officials took down the portal “less than two weeks after launching the new website.”
The press report states that the Department did not obtain Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval required by the Paperwork Reduction Act. According to a Department spokesperson, the web tool was suspended because “OMB has requested technical edits to the form.”
However, under the Paperwork Reduction Act, if the OMB Director does not make a decision within 60 days, “the approval may be inferred.” The Department submitted its request to OMB on August 28, 2020, and suspended the website more than 75 days later on November 18, 2020.
A previous press report revealed that a whistleblower filed complaints with the Department’s Inspector General raising concerns that Principal Deputy Undersecretary Diane Auer Jones was “effectively killing” the web tool by preventing its launch. According to the whistleblower, Jones halted the web tool because it was “too user-friendly and would have helped too many borrowers complete the application correctly, without any disqualifying mistakes.”
On October 27, 2020, Chairs Maloney and Scott released new documents detailing how the Department of Education froze this web tool designed to ease the Borrower Defense application process. These documents directly contradicted vehement and public denials from the Department of Education.
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