Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is unlikely to go to jail, but the internet might have you think otherwise.
The furor online stems from a case involving the now-defunct Corinthian College, a for-profit college that closed in 2015. The U.S. Department of Education had been ordered to stop collecting on the federal loans of students who attended the school. But the department disclosed it had continued to garnish wages and seize tax returns of hundreds of borrowers. Others had erroneously paid money toward the loans when they didn't have to.
The judge's order is part of a lawsuit by former students at Corinthian College, who are suing the department with the hope of discharging their student loans.
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Sallie Kim, a federal magistrate judge in California, admonished the department on Monday during a hearing. Among her remarks, she said: "I am not sending anyone to jail yet, but it’s good to know that I have that ability.”
In a written order issued Tuesday, Kim wrote the court would consider if “a finding of contempt, or monetary sanctions, or both are warranted.” Her order does not mention jail time.
Contempt of court can end in fines or jail time, but people usually obey the court's rule before that. It's hard to see DeVos doing otherwise.
In fact, the judge has already given DeVos an out. In her Tuesday ruling, Kim asked both the Education Department and the former Corinthian students to submit responses to the possibility of a contempt order. She also asked them to give some ideas of how the department could "remedy" its illegal collection of student loan payments from the former students and ensure it didn't happen again.
Angela L. Morabito, the press secretary for the Education Department, said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation, and that "we are working to faithfully comply with the judge’s orders in this case."
And in previous court filings, the department wrote it was letting borrowers know about the error and issuing refunds.
During her tenure as President Donald Trump's education secretary, DeVos has always attracted fierce controversy. She has become especially reviled by critics on the left for her support of school choice and for rolling back federal regulations in higher education.
Education coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation does not provide editorial input.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Betsy DeVos: Donald Trump's education secretary is not going to jail