Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (White House Flickr)
The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to overturn a controversial regulation from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that her critics say hurts defrauded student loan borrowers.
Senate Democrats forced the vote under the Congressional Review Act, a law that allows Congress to overturn federal rules within 60 days after they’re finalized. The U.S. House in January also approved a resolution, led by Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, to reject the so-called borrower defense rule from DeVos.
The Senate voted 53-42 on Wednesday to rescind the rule. Ten Republicans broke ranks on the vote: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.); Susan Collins (Maine); Joni Ernst (Iowa); Cory Gardner (Colo.); Josh Hawley (Mo.); Martha McSally (Ariz.); Lisa Murkowski (Alaska); Rob Portman (Ohio); Dan Sullivan (Alaska); and Todd Young (Ind.).
The rule now faces an uncertain future. The White House has threatened to veto the resolution, and overriding that veto would require two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress. The votes in both chambers fell short of meeting that threshold (the House voted 231-180 to approve the resolution in January).
The White House said in its veto threat that upending the rule “would restore the partisan regulatory regime of the previous administration, which sacrificed the interests of taxpayers, students, and schools in pursuit of narrow, ideological objectives.”
But Trump told GOP senators on Tuesday that he was “neutral” on the measure, Politico reported.
The Trump administration’s borrower defense rule overhauled the Obama administration’s policy to forgive loan debt if students had been defrauded by their schools.
During Obama’s tenure, consumer protection claims began to pile up from students who had been enrolled in for-profit colleges. A big spike in claims came after the closure of Corinthian Colleges, which left hundreds of thousands of students in debt and with an education of little value.
The Obama administration set up a system of loan forgiveness in cases of institutional misconduct. But DeVos rewrote the Obama-era rule, which she said was too costly for taxpayers.
Critics say the new policy doesn’t provide sufficient protections for defrauded students and creates unfair hurdles for borrowers seeking relief.
“Secretary DeVos’ Borrower Defense Rule unfairly penalizes students for the actions of predatory for-profit colleges and makes it harder for them to access loan forgiveness,” Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement.
“For former students of Brightwood College and other shuttered for-profits in Nevada, this rule means they could be left out in the cold,” Cortez Masto said, referring to a Southern Nevada for-profit school that offered courses in the health care field and that closed down in 2018 after losing its accreditation.
“Here’s what it comes down to: Hundreds of thousands of federal student loan borrowers have been defrauded by their schools” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who led the Senate effort to torpedo the rule, said Tuesday.
But while those students are awaiting action from the Education Department, Durbin said, “they’ve not done anything, except come up with a new rule which says at this point it’s going to be harder for these students to prove fraud.”
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