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Attorney generals sue Department of Education for abandoning student protections

Stephon Johnson | 7/13/2017, 9:21 a.m.
Eighteen state attorneys general, and one from the District of Columbia, have taken their grievances with Betsy DeVos and the ...
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Eighteen state attorney generals, and one from the District of Columbia, have taken their grievances with Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education to court.

Last week, the group of attorneys general filed a lawsuit against DeVos and the DOE for delaying a borrower defense to repaying loans that was signed into law by former president Barack Obama in November 2016. The law is designed to make it easier for defrauded student loan borrowers to obtain student loan forgiveness. The passage of the rule came as a result of the collapse of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges.

According to the memorandum in support of the state movants’ right to intervene, borrower defense regulations provide “that a successful enforcement action against a school by a state attorney general entitles borrowers to obtain loan forgiveness, and entitles the Department to seek repayment of any amounts forgiven from the school. By establishing a role for state agencies and attorneys general within the Department’s regulatory framework, the Borrower Defense Regulations enhance the effectiveness of the State Movants’ enforcement activities and provide critical assistance to the State Movants’ efforts to combat unlawful conduct by for-profit institutions within their respective states.”

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that DeVos and President Donald Trump’s administration are hanging students out to dry.

“These rules served as critical protections against predatory for-profit schools that exploit hardworking students—students who are simply trying to invest in their own education and future,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “Yet the Trump Administration continues to work against New York’s students—instead allying themselves with unscrupulous actors in the higher education industry. When Washington abdicates its responsibility to protect New Yorkers, we won’t hesitate to step in.”

In a separate statement, Massachusetts State Attorney General Maura Healey said DeVos is actively working against what the office of the DOE stands for.

“Since Day One, Secretary DeVos has sided with for-profit school executives against students and families drowning in unaffordable student loans,” said Healey. “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.”

Other state attorneys general involved in the lawsuit come from states such as California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Attorneys general involved in the suit also believe that DeVos violated the Administrative Procedures Act because she didn’t give the proper notice required for delay on a rule’s implementation and the proper time for public comment. In April, Schneiderman contacted New York State residents who attended certain programs at Corinthian College-affiliated schools to inform them that they were eligible to cancel their federal student loans.