AGs from 18 states and Washington DC sue education secretary Betsy DeVos

Susan Walsh  AP

Susan Walsh AP

A coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia sued the Education Department and Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday for rescinding Obama-era rules aimed at protecting students from predatory colleges.

DeVos's move to delay Borrower Defense "is a betrayal of her office's responsibility and a violation of federal law", said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Washington and demands implementation of borrower defense to repayment rules.

The "borrower defense" rule, which was scheduled to be effective on July 1, allow student loan borrowers to apply for loan forgiveness if they were defrauded by for-profit schools.

Toby Merrill, director of Harvard Law's Project on Predatory Student Lending, says that delaying the rule will affect hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers who have bona fide Borrower Defense claims but must navigate a byzantine and outdated system. While DeVos" plans won't erase the regulations, originally passed in the "90s, they halted stricter versions due to come into effect on July 1.

Attorney General Madigan has investigated numerous for-profit schools for fraud and repeatedly called on the U.S. Department of Education to immediately forgive federal loans of students who attended fraudulent for-profit schools.

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"These safeguards for students to protect them from abuse by for-profit higher education institutions are being abandoned by the very federal agency that should be enforcing them", Shapiro said.

A spokeswoman for DeVos declined to comment, telling Politico only that the education secretary is reviewing the suit.

In June, the Education Department said it was delaying the rule because a federal court was weighing a lawsuit brought by a California trade group made up mostly of for-profit colleges seeking to block the rules.

The Trump administration delayed the implementation last month, citing a legal challenge from an association in California that represents for-profit universities.

"B$3 oth the language of the Delay Notice and the circumstances of its announcement belie this rationale and make clear that the Department's reference to the pending litigation is a mere pretext for repealing the Rule and replacing it with a new rule that will remove or dilute", they alleged in the suit. "The result is a muddled process that's unfair to students and schools, and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs". They would also ban mandatory arbitration agreements, which have prevented many aggrieved students from suing schools that they believe have defrauded them.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of 17 other states and the District of Columbia. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, sent a letter to DeVos opposing the delay, saying the department had never used litigation as a reason to delay rules. "We are asking the court to order this administration to implement the rule now, as the law requires".

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