United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, recently failed to win a suit brought against her by the District of Columbia–as well as 19 states in the union–known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Education. The lawsuit brought forth accusations against her and her department, alleging that she wrongfully delayed the implementation of regulations created during the Obama era that were designed to protect students who obtained college loans through those using predatory tactics. This was commonly known as the “Borrower Defense Rule.”
On September 12, 2018, a Washington, DC, Federal court judge ruled that the postponement implemented by the department was improper, stating that the department did not correctly follow standard procedures.
The rule was created during the Obama administration after sources revealed that certain for-profit universities lured students to enroll with promises of degrees and an education that would lead to career opportunities in their chosen field. The reality of the matter, however, was that most of the diplomas and certificates given were not recognized by the employers from whom many of the students planned to seek work, leaving a high percentage of them with the burden of student loans they could not reasonably hope to repay.
The Borrower Defense rule revamped the regulations concerning student loan forgiveness in all cases where misconduct was committed by the learning institutions. The latter were dubbed “financially risky institutions” and were forewarned that they should prepare to cover government losses in cases where they were not forthcoming regarding what students could expect upon graduation. These and other statements were made in the 57-page ruling of United States District Judge, Randolph Moss.
Moss stated that because the Education Department postponed the effective date of the aforementioned Borrower Defense rule, students were deprived of significant benefits. The relief sought in the lawsuit was the instant implementation of these regulations, which would immediately make those benefits available.
Moss, a 2014 appointee of then-president Barack Obama, wrote that he did not wish to further delay matters and stated that he planned to schedule a hearing to consider various remedies. The Department of Education has not yet responded to the LA Times or other news sources despite requests for a comment.
The Borrower Defense rules were supposed to have been put into effect on July 1, 2017, but the validity of the rule was challenged in June, 2017, by the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools.
DeVos stated that protecting students was her first priority and said that the rule-making effort of the Obama administration missed the chance to get it right. In October, the Department of Education, under DeVos’ direction, postponed the effective date of the new rules a full year, to July 1, 2018. It was again provisionally reset in February, 2017, pushing it out another full year, to July 1, 2019.
Moss declared all the postponements invalid, and rejected a series of arguments from government attorneys, calling them unhelpful and unpersuasive. Moss’ ruling also covered claims by two students encumbered with loans who had suits filed by Public Citizen on their behalf. The latter is a consumer advocacy group. These suits were later consolidated with the major lawsuit involving the 19 states and District of Columbia.