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July 06, 2017

Massachusetts is leading 18 states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit against U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, challenging her plans to roll back regulations designed to protect students at for-profit colleges.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the regulations put in place in the last days of the Obama Administration are intended to protect students and taxpayers from predatory colleges. The regulations, which were drafted after the for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges collapsed, allow students to have their federal loans forgiven if a college defrauded them.

Last month, Secretary DeVos put the rules on hold, saying the loan forgiveness process is “unfair to students and schools and puts taxpayers on the hook.”

On Thursday, Healey and other state attorneys general – all Democrats – filed a lawsuit, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Education and Betsy DeVos, asking the courts to let the Obama-era rules go into effect.

"Unfortunately, Betsy DeVos has decided to side with those who profit at the expense of students and taxpayers rather than protect students and taxpayers," Healey said in an interview.

"DeVos abandoned these rules with no notice - no comment period - simply because she's more interested in siding with for-profit schools and the executives and investors of for-profit schools than she is with doing her job, which is to actually look out for students across this country," Healey added.

For-profit colleges have argued that the regulations targeted them disproportionately.

In a statement, the Education Department called the lawsuit "ideologically driven."

“The borrower-defense regulations suffer from substantive and procedural flaws that need to be considered before imposing new burdens on regulated parties that will come at a cost to taxpayers of $14.9 billion in the next ten years,” Education Press Secretary Liz Hill said. “That is why the Secretary decided it was time to take a step back and hit pause on these regulations until this case has been decided in court and to make sure these rules achieve their purpose: helping harmed students.”

Students and faculty, though, are applauding the lawsuit.

“These regulations are designed to protect students who have loans at for-profit colleges that have committed fraud and deceived students,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “It is simply wrong that the Department of Education would want to do away with regulations that would protect students. It is no surprise that these regulations have been strongly opposed by for-profit schools, which have saddled students with crushing debts for college degrees.”

LISTEN: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joins PRI's The Takeaway to discuss the lawsuit.

Related: Where Are The 40,000 Students ITT Tech Left Behind When It Closed?

Earlier: Students Brace for Corinthian Shutdown

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