LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Democratic attorneys general in 19 states and the District of Columbia are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to suspend rules meant to protect students from abuses by for-profit colleges.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas Thursday joined the coalition of states in suing the U.S. Department of Education and DeVos.
Federal protections for students were set to go into effect on July 1, 2017. On June 14, DeVos announced the rules would be delayed and rewritten, saying they created "a muddled process that's unfair to students and schools."
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges the Department of Education violated federal law by abruptly rescinding its Borrower Defense Rule, designed to hold abusive higher education institutions accountable for cheating students and taxpayers out of billions of dollars in federal loans. It asks the Court to declare the Department's delay notice unlawful and to order the Department to implement the Borrower Defense Rule.
Balderas' office said the rule was finalized by the Obama administration in November 2016 after nearly two years of negotiations, following the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, a national for-profit chain.
"President Trump and Secretary DeVos are failing hardworking New Mexico students and families with their rollback of critical protections from abusive and predatory for-profit colleges," said Attorney General Balderas. "I will not stand by while New Mexico students fall victim to predatory, out-of-state education companies that seek to harm them and drown them in unnecessary debt."
Balderas further stated, "Thousands of New Mexicans are still suffering the effects of these predatory practices from for-profit institutions we have already shut down, and our office continues to seek and secure financial relief for those students."
Without the protections of the current Borrower Defense Rule, many students who are harmed by the misconduct of for-profit schools are unable to seek a remedy in court, Balderas' office said in a news release.
The Borrower Defense Rule limits the ability of schools to require students to sign mandatory arbitration agreements and class action waivers, which are commonly used by for-profit schools to avoid negative publicity and to thwart legal actions by students who have been harmed by schools' abusive conduct.
The coalition involved in the lawsuit includes the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.