Eighteen states filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday, accusing her of delaying a regulation that would protect students from fraud committed by for-profit colleges.
Attorneys general from states including Massachusetts, New York, and California, along with Washington D.C., say that the Education Department’s delay in implementing the Borrower Defense Rule, the regulation put in place by the Obama administration that was supposed to go into effect this mointh, is illegal. The attorneys general are asking the federal district court to force the Trump administration to begin following the rule.
As NPR notes, the Borrower Defense Rule was created to make it easier for students who attended schools found to be fraudulent to get their loans forgiven.
DeVos said last month the Department of Education would hold public hearings on the rule for a regulation she called a “muddled process.”
“My first priority is to protect students,” DeVos said in a statement released in June. “Fraud, especially fraud committed by a school, is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, last year’s rulemaking effort missed an opportunity to get it right. The result is a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs. It’s time to take a step back and make sure these rules achieve their purpose: helping harmed students. It’s time for a regulatory reset.”
But the attorneys general—all of whom are Democrats—said in their suit that DeVos is trying to avoid public hearings while betraying college students who have been duped by for-profit colleges.
“Since Day 1, Secretary DeVos has sided with for-profit school executives against students and families drowning in unaffordable student loans,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. “Her decision to cancel vital protections for students and taxpayers is a betrayal of her office’s responsibility and a violation of federal law. We call on Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education to restore these rules immediately.”
DeVos said last month that almost 16,000 borrower defense claims are being processed by the Education Department and that some borrowers could have their loans discharged in “the next several weeks.”
The Borrower Defense Rule was originally put in place in the 1990s, but the Obama administration revised it after ITT abruptly closed its 150 campuses last September and the 2014 implosion of Corinthian Colleges. In both incidents, many students asked the federal government for debt forgiveness.
A department spokeswoman told Politico that DeVos was reviewing the suit and that she would not comment.