WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today, in letters to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Veterans’ Affiars Denis McDonough, called on the Department of Education and Department of Veterans’ Affairs to take additional steps to protect students and taxpayers in light of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) vote to withdraw accreditation from the Center for Excellence in Higher Education’s (CEHE) Independence University (IU).

In their letter to Secretary Cardona, the Senators highlighted a November 2020 inquiry they sent to then-Secretary Betsy DeVos after a Colorado State court found CEHE and it’s executives had defrauded students. DeVos did not provide a response—nor take action to protect students and taxpayers. Instead, the DeVos Department of Education continued to provide Title IV dollars to CEHE.

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“As you know, in order to be eligible to participate in Title IV, an institution must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association. But, ACCSC’s recent decision was not the first event to raise serious questions about IU’s Title IV eligibility—and that of other CEHE-affiliated schools, including CollegeAmerica and Stevens-Henager College. On August 21, 2020, a Colorado State court found that CEHE defrauded students and violated Colorado’s consumer protection law,” the Senators wrote. “While we appreciate the action the Department took on April 26 to issue a suspension order against Mr. Juhlin, we ask you for a response to our original letter and questions—including the borrower defense eligibility of CEHE students. In light of ACCSC’s recent decision related to IU, we urge you to take additional steps to protect students and taxpayers.”

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On August 21, a Colorado state court found that CEHE defrauded students and violated Colorado’s consumer protection law. CEHE’s Chairman Emeritus Carl Barney and CEO Eric Juhlin were found individually liable. The court found that institutions run by CEHE used deceptive trade practices to make “false and misleading representations about the potential wages and types of employment” a student could expect after completing a program at these institutions. Earlier this week, the Department of Education issued a government-wide suspension order against CEHE CEO Eric Juhlin.

In their letter to Secertary McDonough, the Senators highlighted that CEHE’s IU received nearly $7 million in GI Bill funds and enrolls more than 700 veterans. The Senators urged the Department to take steps to protect student veterans and taxpayers.

“Examples of the kinds of fraud identified by the court included: advertising potential wages twice that of CEHE graduates, intentionally withholding data showing CEHE graduates earnings were lower than national averages, and advertised programs such as training for X-Ray Technicians, which would not be acceptable for a state licensing exam, or a sonography program that never existed. In this case, CEHE—itself and its executives—were judicially determined to have committed fraud,” the Senators wrote. “What steps will VA take to protect student veterans and taxpayers in light of these troubling developments—including to fulfill its statutory responsibilities under 38 U.S.C. § 3696(a)”

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