Democratic attorneys general from Washington D.C. and 18 states, including Delaware, New York, and Hawaii, are suing the Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over a recent decision to freeze Obama-era regulations that protect student borrowers from predatory for-profit colleges.
The rules, known as the Borrower’s Defense Regulations, were announced last fall and were intended to ensure “that students who are lied to and mistreated by their school get the relief they are owed, and that schools that harm students are held responsible for their behavior,” former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said in October. The protections, which included debt relief to students defrauded by higher education institutions, were supposed to take effect on July 1. Thousands of people have already applied, and many have been approved.
But the reform has stalled under DeVos, who chooses to protect billionaires over children who face discrimination. BuzzFeed News filed a Freedom of Information Act request and learned that, under DeVos, the Education Department has not approved a single fraud request and that some of those approved under the Obama administration are still waiting for loan forgiveness. In June, DeVos announced the department was putting a hold on the regulations as a “regulatory reset” and would hold public hearings on the policies.
The complaint argues that DeVos and the Department of Education are violating the Administrative Procedure Act—the law that regulates how federal agencies create and issue new regulations—by delaying an established law in order to work on its replacement, without meeting the “standards for a stay of agency action” established by the APA.
“Since Day 1, Secretary DeVos has sided with for-profit school executives against students and families drowning in unaffordable student loans,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement announcing the complaint. “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.”