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Student Defense Policy Brief: Department of Education Not Utilizing Subpoena Power to Investigate Predatory Colleges, Universities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 28, 2022

MEDIA CONTACT:
press@defendstudents.org | 202-734-7495

Student Defense Policy Brief: Department of Education Not Utilizing Subpoena Power to Investigate Predatory Colleges, Universities

 The U.S. Department of Education has failed to use its statutory subpoena power to investigate predatory colleges and other participants in the student aid programs, a new policy brief released by Student Defense today shows. Congress gave this power to the Department as a mechanism to aid in investigating potential violations of the Higher Education Act. Yet records released by the Department establish that the Department has not issued a single subpoena to any individual or private company under President Biden or former President Trump.

“[T]he Department has — quite unfortunately and over a period of decades — allowed waste, fraud, and abuses to persist, while also failing to use the full extent of its law enforcement authorities,” the brief states. “As the Biden Administration took charge in 2021, this was poised for change. Unfortunately, more than one year later, it appears that many of these authorities remain untouched.”

In December 2018, Student Defense submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department asking for any subpoenas the agency had issued since 2010. The Department returned a single responsive document, a subpoena issued to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office issued during the Trump Administration. Student Defense sent a similar FOIA request in December 2021 again asking for any Department-issued subpoenas. The agency’s final response, provided on March 16, stated they were unable to locate any relevant documents.

“The Department should be doing everything they can to ferret out fraud and abuse in the student aid programs,” said Dan Zibel, Student Defense Vice President and Chief Counsel. “Congress correctly gave the Department robust investigative tools. Given the prevalence of predatory conduct in and around these programs, it is unfortunate that the Department has left those tools unused.”

Student Defense previously called for the Department to begin using their subpoena powers in a report as part of their 100 Day Docket.

A full copy of the new policy brief can be found on the Student Defense website.

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