The Education Department was also fined $100,000

By Ashley Boucher
October 25, 2019 10:19 AM

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was held in contempt of court on Thursday for violating a previous order to stop collecting on loans from students who attended the now-defunct Corinthian College. The Education Department was also given a $100,000 fine.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim found that DeVos and others in her department only showed “minimal effort” to comply with a preliminary injunction she issued in May of last year ordering the Education Department to stop collecting on the loans, according to Politico.

The outlet reported earlier this month that Kim said in a hearing that she was “extremely disturbed” and “really astounded” that DeVos continued to collect on the student loans even though she was ordered to stop.

Roughly 16,000 people were affected by the Education Department’s continued collections, The Washington Post reported. Money from the fine will go toward compensating those people, some of whom had their tax refunds taken by the federal government and others had their paychecks garnished, the outlet said.

Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

“There is no question that the defendants violated the preliminary injunction. There is also no question that defendants’ violations harmed individual borrowers,” Kim said in her ruling on Thursday, according to the Post.

“Defendants have not provided evidence that they were unable to comply with the preliminary injunction, and the evidence shows only minimal efforts to comply,” she continued.

A rep for DeVos did not immediately reply to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid Mark Brown said in a video shared on the Education Department’s Twitter that the 16,000 people were “mistakenly billed.”

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“Although these actions were not done with ill intent, students and parents were affected, and we take full responsibility,” he said in the video.

“We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling. We acknowledged that servicers made unacceptable mistakes,” the tweet said. “@BetsyDeVosED directed @FAFSA to take immediate action to help every impacted borrower. As of today, @FAFSA has taken the actions needed to make every impacted borrower whole.”

The Corinthian students are being represented by Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, and the project’s director Toby Merrill called Kim’s ruling on Thursday “a rare and powerful action,” according to Politico.

“And it reflects the extreme harm that Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education have caused students who were already defrauded by a for-profit college,” she added.