Oct. 23 (UPI) -- House Democrats are threatening to subpoena Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for documents concerning the department's role in predatory unaccredited schools lying to students and its dispersal of more than $10 million in federal aid to students at those institutions.
In a six-page letter released Tuesday, Rep. Robert Scott, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, said DeVos has failed to "substantively respond" to the committee's July 17 request for documents concerning an investigation into Dream Center Education Holdings, which owns Argosy University and The Art Institutes, purposely misleading students that two of its institutes were accredited.
Scott, D-Va., said the documents referenced in that July 17 request letter suggest that high-ranking department officials knew that Dream Center misrepresented that it was accredited, failed to immediately act and worked to secure retroactive accreditation for the unaccredited Dream Center schools.
"If the department continues to refuse to respond, the committee will then be forced to conclude that the department is purposefully frustrating Congressional oversight for reasons that are not in the best interest of the American taxpaying public," he said. "Therefore, the committee is left to consider utilizing the full power at Congress' disposal to obtain these critical documents."
Scott said DeVos had until Nov. 26 to provide the requested documents.
The letter is also accompanied by new documents uncovered by the committee that Scott said indicate that the department had disbursed $10.7 million in federal funds to two Dream Center institutions despite federal regulations barring unaccredited, for-profit schools from being eligible for federal student aid.
The documents also indicate that after the money was released, the department attempted to retroactively award the schools accreditation.
"This raises further questions about the dates of and extent of the coordination between department officials and Dream Center executives, across the period of Dream Center's misrepresentations," Scott said.
Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, accused the education and labor committee of "cherry-picking facts and lacking important context."
"The department maintains that it acted in the best interest of students and has continued to act in the best interest of students," she said in a statement.