Student Life

Secretary of Education Sued by 18 States over Student Loan Protections

Kathryn Knight Randolph

July 07, 2017

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Betsy DeVos, who is the current U.S. Secretary of Education under the Trump Administration, has been sued by 18 different states this week. According to USA Today, DeVos reneged on Obama-era student loan protections for students that had been scammed by for-profit universities, causing major outcry from victims of for-profit fraud. In 2016, President Obama and his administration put into effect final regulations for protecting students against “predatory institutions,” all of which came about as a result of the for-profit colleges investigations that left many graduates in crippling debt without degrees.
In addition to holding for-profit universities accountable to successful student outcomes after graduation, the final regulations included debt relief in the form of student loan forgiveness for students affected -- which became known as the "borrowers defense." As of October 2016, that debt relief totaled $247 million from over 15,000 claims, according to a press release by the U.S. Department of Education.
The regulations -- and student loan forgiveness -- were set to go into place on July 1; however, DeVos froze them. With that, 18 states lept into action and filed lawsuits against DeVos. Their complaints stated that “the Education Department canceled the 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,” as reported by USA Today.
Since May, DeVos has suggested that she would freeze the borrower defense. Her team has said previously that the rules are “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools,” as printed by The New York Times. Rather, she would like the opportunity to reassess the investigations, Obama administration response and possibly draft new rules and regulations. Whatever the case, her sudden freezing of the borrower defense has left thousands of victims of for-profit university fraud without the back-up option they had thought to put into effect on July 1. Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, told The New York Times, “Since day one, Secretary DeVos has sided with for-profit school executives against students and families drowning in unaffordable student loans. Her decision to cancel vital protections for students and taxpayers is a betrayal of her office’s responsibility and a violation of federal law.” Since the lawsuits were filed, other organizations have stepped up to stand behind the attorneys general that are suing. The National Education Association stated in a press release:
“It is simply wrong that the Department of Education would want to do away with regulations that would protect students. It is no surprise that these regulations have been strongly opposed by for-profit schools, which have saddled students with crushing debts for college degrees. If that weren’t enough of a burden, some of the degrees provided by these for-profit institutions have failed to prepare students with a viable pathway to getting a good job and are often not even worth the paper on which they’re printed.” DeVos has yet to comment on freezing these regulations and the 18 resulting lawsuits.

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