A group of Democratic attorneys generals from 17 states and the District of Columbia is suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to delay the full implementation of the gainful employment regulations.
The group filed its lawsuit on Tuesday, saying DeVos's delay of the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In delaying the rule, the complaint says, the Department of Education (ED) "failed to engage in notice and comment rulemaking, failed to provide a justification for its actions, acted arbitrarily and capriciously and in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right, and withheld or unreasonably delayed agency action," all of which violate the APA.
"The Department of Education is again eliminating crucial protections for student borrowers," said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, in a statement. "Students seek higher education degrees to get better, higher paying jobs. When predatory institutions fail to deliver the education and training they promise, students are saddled with burdensome debt, and their employment prospects are not improved."
DeVos in June announced her plans to halt and rewrite both the gainful employment and borrower defense rules – two contentious higher education regulations put into place during the Obama administration. At the time, ED said it would convene a second rulemaking committee on the gainful employment regulation because during the implementation process "it became clear that, as written, it is overly burdensome and confusing for institutions of higher education."
ED has since held two public hearings on both regulations. At a hearing held in Washington, D.C., Megan Coval, NASFAA vice president for policy and federal relations, said NASFAA "support[s] defining the term, but wish[es] to point out that given the widespread ramification on program and institutional eligibility, it is our strong preference that Congress weigh in on what it deems appropriate to measure whether a program leads to students being ‘gainfully employed.'"
"There has been significant burden on schools to implement this regulation and re-adjudicating it — both in the courts and with new administrations — just adds to more administrative costs, unpredictability, and a diversion of institutional resources away from students," she said.
ED also announced in August that colleges will now have until February 2018 to file appeals of their graduates' earnings data under the gainful employment rule. ED has also made several changes to original deadlines for certain parts of the regulation. For example, in July, ED announced in the Federal Register that it is allowing additional time, until July 1, 2018, for institutions to comply with certain disclosure requirements in the gainful employment regulation.
An ED spokeswoman told Politico that the new lawsuit is "just the latest in a string of frivolous lawsuits" filed by Democratic attorneys general "who are only seeking to score quick political points." She went on to say that "these legal stunts do nothing more than divert time and resources away" from efforts to re-work the regulation.
Publication Date: 10/18/2017