Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today joined a coalition of states in suing the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos for refusing to enforce the Gainful Employment Rule, a federal regulation designed to protect students from predatory for-profit schools.
"The U.S. Department of Education under Secretary DeVos has set out on a path to strip any and all protections for student borrowers from predatory, for-profit schools," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Time and again, these for-profit institutions promise students good paying jobs with opportunity for career advancement, but it comes at a steep price, a price often too steep for students to climb when they graduate with a limited certificate and very few opportunities for gainful employment. This is exactly why states have successfully held for-profit colleges accountable for their failed promises. Now, it seems they have found an ally in Secretary DeVos who has been all too willing to let them off the hook."
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the Department of Education violated federal law by refusing to enforce the Gainful Employment Rule, which implements the requirement in the Higher Education Act that all for-profit schools, all vocational schools, and non-degree programs at all other schools "prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation." The Gainful Employment Rule has two important aspects. First, it empowers prospective students to make informed decisions by requiring schools to provide information about the program's average debt load, the loan repayment rate of all students who enroll in the program, the percentage of students who graduate from the program, the number of graduates who obtain employment in a field related to the program, and the average earnings of graduates. Second, the Gainful Employment Rule assesses whether schools' programs provide education and training to their students that lead to earnings that will allow students to pay back their student loan debts. If the programs fail the objective metrics, federal student loans and grants would no longer be provided to those programs.
On July 5, 2017 and August 18, 2017, the Department announced its intent to delay large portions of the Gainful Employment Rule without soliciting, receiving, or responding to any comment from any stakeholder or member of the public, and without engaging in a public deliberative process. The Department has also publicly stated that it has no plans to calculate the necessary metrics to determine whether programs are failing the Gainful Employment Rule's minimum requirements. State attorneys general argue in their lawsuit that the delays have no legal justification and the Department's actions are "arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion."
Today's complaint asks the Court to declare the Department's delay notices unlawful and to order the Department to implement the Gainful Employment Rule.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington