Robert Eitel Serves As DeVos Advisor, Formerly Employed by For-Profit College Group That Has Been Accused of Defrauding Thousands of Students
DeVos, Eitel Have Stonewalled Congress on Questions About His Role in Rollback of Rule That Benefits His Former Employer While Putting Families At Risk
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Newly released internal records obtained by Democracy Forward indicate that Robert Eitel, Senior Advisor to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, played a direct role in overseeing the Trump Administration’s delay of the Borrower Defense to Repayment rules, which are aimed at providing debt relief to students defrauded by for-profit colleges such as Eitel’s former employer Bridgepoint Education Inc.
“The documents we’ve obtained show how, with the regulation of for-profit colleges, the Trump Administration has put the fox in charge of the henhouse with exactly the results you’d expect,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “Like so many others in this administration, Mr. Eitel appears to be using his government perch to roll back regulations at the behest of industry cronies — in this case rules that protect students from institutions like his former employer.”
The Trump Administration delayed the borrower defense rules less than three weeks after a for-profit college lobbying group, the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (“CAPPS”), challenged the rules in court. Eitel’s former employer, Bridgepoint Education Inc., strongly opposed the rules, noting in a 2017 SEC filing that the rules would “have a material adverse effect on…[Bridgepoint’s] revenues, financial condition [and] cash flows.”
Despite Eitel’s and DeVos’s refusal to account for Eitel’s role in delaying the rules, documents that the Department of Education released in association with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Democracy Forward reveal that:
- CAPPS sent a notice of intent to sue over the rules to only two people at the Department of Education on May 22, 2017: the Acting Under Secretary of Education and Mr. Eitel;
- Four days later, the Department sent the Office of Management and Budget a draft rule delaying the regulation, citing the CAPPS lawsuit;
- Mr. Eitel circulated the first draft of a statement on the delay to other senior staff at the Department and directed Department staff as to when the statement’s embargo could be lifted; and
- Mr. Eitel personally briefed Secretary DeVos on the delay on June 13, 2017, the day the delay was finalized.
For more information about the documents, please contact Democracy Forward.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.