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October 17, 2017

Democratic attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia are suing U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over an Obama-era rule meant to protect students and taxpayers from being defrauded by for-profit schools.

The rule is called gainful employment and it's designed to make sure for-profit college students get an education that both helps them land a job and earn enough to pay off their student loan debt. It was supposed to go into effect last summer, but DeVos froze it, saying it unfairly targets the for-profit college industry.

The lawsuit alleges that the Education Department violated federal law by refusing to enforce the rule, which requires all for-profit schools, vocational schools and non-degree programs to “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation” under the Higher Education Act.

The suit asks the courts to declare the Department's delay as unlawful and to restore the rule, which requires schools to provide information about each program’s average debt load, the percentage of students who graduate and the average earnings of graduates.

“The Gainful Employment Rule cuts off access to government loans for under-performing schools that cheat their students and leave them with burdensome debt. It makes sense to everyone except Secretary DeVos,” Massachusetts Attorney Maura Healey said in a statement Tuesday. “Once again, we have challenged the U.S. Department of Education for refusing to enforce the law and protect American students.”

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the Education Department dismissed it as an attempt to "score quick political points," adding that DeVos is planning to fix what she sees as a broken rule.

The lawsuit, led by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Pennsylvania Attorney General Joshua Shapiro, was also joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

This is the second lawsuit the same group of state attorneys general has filed against DeVos this year. In July, they challenged her effort to rollback regulations drafted after the for -profit college chain Corinthian Colleges collapsed, that allowed students to have their federal loans forgiven if a college defrauded them.

Earlier this year, DeVos put that rule on hold, saying the loan forgiveness process is “unfair to students and schools and puts taxpayers on the hook.”

Earlier: Loan Limbo – While For-Profit College Students Wait, Trump Administration Stalls

for-profit, betsy devos, higher ed, Maura Healey

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