Nearly 160,000 former for-profit college students are suing the Department of Education and its Secretary Betsy DeVos for failing to cancel their debts, CNN reported.
On Tuesday, the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard’s Legal Services Center, along with Housing & Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), filed a lawsuit on behalf of the students in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The suit alleges the Education Department of not processing the claims of loan forgiveness under the Obama-era Borrower Defense Regulations, aimed at providing relief to debt-ridden students defrauded by higher education programs. The plaintiffs have accused the department of “intentionally” ignoring students’ claims, not taking action to resolve them, and forcibly collecting loans that may not be valid.
“The law is clear: students who experienced fraud should not be required to pay back federal loans that should never have been made by the department in the first place,” Toby Merrill, the director of theProject on Predatory Student Lending, said. “Since Betsy DeVos continues to ignore these students’ legal rights, the only way they can have their voices heard is through the courts.”
Last year, ruling in favor of 19 states and two former students, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss alleged DeVos of “improperly” postponing the borrower defense rules.
I’m glad students cheated by shady for-profit colleges are fighting back against @BetsyDeVosED in court. If she doesn’t care about helping defrauded students, then let’s hope a federal judge will make her care. https://t.co/nJp0mwbw4S
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 25, 2019
The rules were supposed to become effective in July, but were delayed after a consortium of for-profit colleges from California sought to block them by suing the department.
Another set of higher education rules, announced in July, received sharp criticism from various groups who feared they would constitute a reversal from the strong protections issued under the Obama administration. However, the department maintained that the new regulations would protect student borrowers, hold higher education institutions accountable for misrepresentation and fraud, and provide financial protections to taxpayers by at-risk institutions.
Over 4,000 Michigan students were scammed by for-profit colleges. Under current rules, they are entitled to loan forgiveness.
Why isn’t Secretary DeVos standing up for them? https://t.co/UXQSNJ52Ac
— Senator Gary Peters (@SenGaryPeters) June 26, 2019
“The Department of Education has knowingly enabled for-profit colleges to defraud students,” Eileen Connor, legal director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending, said. “It recklessly continued to act as a loan broker for disreputable schools despite clear records of abuse and misconduct, and now the Department refuses to acknowledge the damage it has done by issuing these predatory loans to students, at taxpayers’ expense. With this lawsuit, we will hold Betsy DeVos accountable and deliver justice for those students awaiting debt relief.”
In August 2018, a similar lawsuit was filed by a group of students and educators for delaying rules meant to protect students studying in online programs.
The plaintiffs challenged the department’s delay of requirements for online universities to inform their students that the programs they were enrolled in may fail established licensing standards or may face unfavorable action from an accreditor or the government.