Attorney General Shapiro Again Calls on U.S. Department of Education to Uphold Student Protections

July 13, 2017 | Topic: Peoples AG

AG Josh Shapiro: “If Secretary DeVos and her Department won’t protect our college students, I will.”

HARRISBURG —Attorney General Josh Shapiro and 20 other Attorneys General submitted public comments to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, calling a decision by the U.S. Department of Education to replace existing student protections a “waste of resources and a betrayal of students.”

The comments, submitted yesterday to Secretary DeVos, followed a lawsuit filed last week by Attorney General Shapiro and 18 other Attorneys General alleging the Department violated federal law by abruptly rescinding the Borrower Defense Rule, which was set to go into effect July 1. The Rule was designed to hold abusive higher education institutions accountable for cheating students and taxpayers out of billions of dollars in federal loans. Earlier this year, the Department announced its plan to delay large portions of the Rule without soliciting or receiving any comment from stakeholders or members of the public as required by federal law.

“This formal comment is the latest action step in our fight to get Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to follow the law. We will relentlessly petition the Department of Education to protect students, consumers and other borrowers,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “If Secretary DeVos and her Department won’t protect our college students, I will.”

The Borrower Defense Rule was created as a result of state and federal investigations into for-profit schools like the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, and finalized after a thorough rulemaking process with input from multiple stakeholders.

The regulations at issue provide protections for federal student loan borrowers against abusive practices by schools and colleges, including for-profit companies, and assist in enforcing state consumer protection laws. They also allow student loan borrowers to have their debt forgiven if they were victims of deceptive practices by their school or college, such as misrepresenting job placement rates at the school or other abusive practices.

“We are dismayed by the Department’s decision to cast aside all the hard work and progress achieved during its previous rulemakings, and disheartened the Department has decided to turn its back on the critical protections it promised to borrowers. This is both a waste of resources and a betrayal of students who count on the Department to protect them from abuse at the hands of predatory schools,” the letter states.

Pennsylvania has more than 200 colleges and universities and trade schools, and approximately 100 other for-profit educational institutions. The average student loan debt for a Pennsylvania college graduate is currently $34,798 – the third-highest average debt in the country.

“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,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We filed the lawsuit last week – and the comments yesterday – to protect students in our Commonwealth and country and hold these institutions accountable for deceiving students for their own gain.”

In addition to Attorney General Shapiro, the other attorneys general signing on to the public comments to Secretary DeVos are Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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