Eighteen states sue Betsy DeVos for suspending rules on for-profit colleges

Susan Walsh  AP

Susan Walsh AP

Washington, D.C., in conjunction with 18 states, filed a lawsuit Thursday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos regarding the secretary's suspension of student loan protections. The regulations, known as the "Borrower Defense Regulations", were set to take effect on July 1, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last month that the Department of Education would refuse to implement them as part of a "regulatory reset" while looking to develop alternative regulations that would likely leave victimized borrowers with far less protection.

Additionally, without the protections of the current Borrower Defense Rule, many students who are harmed by the misconduct of for-profit schools are unable to seek a remedy in court. Last month, Trump's education secretary, the eminently unqualified Betsy DeVos, took just such action when she put the kibosh on new Obama administration-drafted rules that were created to, as the New York Times reported, "speed up and expand a system for erasing the federal loan debt of student borrowers who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently".

In a statement, Healey accused DeVos of siding with for-profit school executives "against studnts and families drowning in unaffordable student loans". DeVos's decision was a "betrayal of her office's responsibility".

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A spokeswoman for DeVos told media the secretary would not immediately comment. The rules were designed to void student loan debt created by schools and colleges that cheated students with false claims such as exaggerated job placement rates.

The suit also criticized DeVos for saying a reason for the delay was a pending legal challenge to the regulations by the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools. On June 14, the Department announced its intent to delay large portions of the Borrower Defense Rule without soliciting, receiving, or responding to any comment from any stakeholder or member of the public, and without engaging in a public deliberative process. This is important because these clauses prevent students from suing the school in court and from joining their complaints together in class actions.

DeVos delayed these new regulations in mid-June.

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Besides Hawaii., the other states that joined the lawsuit are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

The lawsuit represents the latest effort by Democratic state attorneys general to police an Education Department they view as beholden to colleges and lenders.

A separate lawsuit against the Education Department was filed today on behalf of two former students of a Boston-area for-profit college. It accuses DeVos of using the delay as an illegally expedient way of repealing the Borrower Defense rule without going through the lengthy official process of doing so.

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The rules were finalized in the last days of the administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat who overhauled federal student lending.

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