In March, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a statement that announced the Department of Education’s position on state regulation of student loan servicers. In her announcement, DeVos claimed that state governments were not authorized to regulate these loan companies. Many state governments had issued additional oversight to loan servicers, many of which have been accused of mismanagement and misleading business practices. While her announcement does not directly evoke any legal justifications, many critics expressed concern that DeVos was favoring corporations at the expense of consumers.
Unsurprisingly, Democratic congressmen were sharply critical of this move – Democrats have opposed DeVos since her initial nomination as Secretary of Education in 2016. These Democrats were joined by two unlikely supporters – Utah Representatives Mia Love and Rob Bishop, both members of the Republican Party. Love and Bishop drafted a letter with two Democratic Reps, arguing that the Department’s statements could harm the 70 percent of college students who graduate with student debt. Love said, “I’m concerned that this move will only result in less transparency and accountability from the servicers, and in turn, will result in ever worse service for our students.”
By publicly opposing DeVos’ plans to gut state regulation, Love and Bishop have advocated for the needs of Utahns. As student debt figures balloon and millions of Americans fall behind on their payments, accountability and consumer protections are more necessary than ever. DeVos’ statement appears to have no legal backing, and the Department’s attempt to meddle in state regulations would leave students at greater risk for exploitation. If DeVos continues to protect student loan companies at the expense of borrowers, then Congress and state governments must be vigilant in monitoring and investigating possible cases of abuse.
In the past, Love has demonstrated a willingness to stand up to the Trump administration. Before the election, Love refused to endorse President Trump, stated that she would not vote for him and called on him to step aside. Later, she openly criticized Trump’s comments about immigration from Haiti and Africa and also announced her opposition to a Trump proposal to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. In these statements, Love has shown that she will defend her personal values and the interests of her district over loyalty to the party.
However, Love’s stated convictions have not clearly translated to her role as a Congresswoman. During the Trump administration, Congress’ performance has been particularly abysmal — characterized mostly by ineffectual bickering and incoherent proposals to reverse key legislation of the Obama era. Love has demonstrated no clear plan to reverse this trend or to address her party’s problems in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, her own track record on consumer protections is murky at best. A recent editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune pointed out that she voted to weaken financial regulations while in Congress. As November quickly approaches, Love should take the opportunity to prove that her time in Washington has been more than business as usual. A good start would be a continued appraisal of the student debt crisis, an issue that requires innovative, aggressive solutions from both sides of the aisle. This kind of practical policymaking may not make Love popular in the White House, but it would certainly prove that Love’s recent statements are not just curious anomalies — they are bold steps in the right direction.