The Education Department is going to miss a self-imposed deadline to deliver new rules governing how for-profit colleges and universities should deal with their students. But critics of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos say the delay is actually a good thing for students.
Last year, DeVos suspended an Obama-era policy that relieves students of all federal loans if a school used illegal or deceptive tactics to persuade students to borrow money to attend. The policy is known as the “borrower defense to repayment” regulation. It was supposed to take effect July 1, 2017, but DeVos delayed it and said her department would write its own rule by Nov. 1, 2018.
DeVos and the department last month lost a lawsuit that had been filed by the attorneys general of nearly 20 states and the District of Columbia, charging that she had improperly delayed implementation of the regulation. A judge is expected to rule next week on whether the Obama-era regulation should be reinstated, at least until the Education Department completes the rule-writing process and implements its own policy.
Bloomberg reported, however, that the Nov. 1 deadline for a final rule would be delayed. A Trump administration official confirmed that the Education Department had received more than 38,000 comments on the borrower defense rules and needs more time to review them.
The department is also missing a deadline for a final rule on what is known as “gainful employment.” It requires that action be taken — including possible expulsion from the federal student aid program — against vocational programs whose graduates leave with heavy student-loan debt. Ninety-eight percent of the programs with high rates of untenable student debt are offered by for-profit colleges.
The Obama administration put forth both rules largely to help students of color who disproportionately enroll in for-profit schools, take out loans, fail to graduate and default on the debt.
When DeVos first delayed implementation of the borrower defense rule last year, critics said she was caving in to for-profit colleges, which lobbied against the rules implemented under President Barack Obama. DeVos said the rules were misguided and promised the regulations from her department would protect colleges and students. Critics accused DeVos of selling out students to help for-profit colleges stay in business.
It is now appears likely that the Obama-era regulations will be reinstated, at least temporarily.
The delay is good news for students who attend for-profit colleges, according to Robert Shireman, senior fellow at the nonprofit Century Foundation and former deputy undersecretary of education in the Obama administration. He said in a statement:
The delay of DeVos’s proposed scrapping of the borrower defense and gainful employment rules means that, at least for now, predatory colleges won’t be able to rip off students with impunity. This is a victory for student borrowers, for American taxpayers, and for accountability. But let’s be clear: the Trump administration didn’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They were forced to — by advocacy groups that sued and won in federal court, by experts who voiced concerned over the unconscionable proposals, and by tens of thousands of Americans, many of them victims, who spoke up and submitted comments to the department in opposition.