Lawsuit Probes Reason for Delay of Industry-Opposed “Borrower Defense Rule”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democracy Forward filed suit against the Department of Education (“the Department”) after the Trump Administration refused to disclose communications between Department officials and a for-profit college group that is suing to overturn the Department’s “borrower defense rule.” Democracy Forward’s suit seeks to probe the Administration’s delay of critical protections for student borrowers—a decision the Department justified on the basis of the for-profit college group’s legal challenge.

In May 2017, the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (“CAPPS”), a for-profit college lobbying group, filed suit against the Department to challenge the borrower defense rule. Three weeks later, in June 2017, the Department delayed certain of the rule’s key provisions, citing the CAPPS suit as the reason for the delay. That same day, CAPPS withdrew the preliminary injunction motion it had filed.

“The Trump Administration has a history of doing the bidding of industry lobbyists, despite the President’s repeated promises to ‘drain the swamp,’” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “America’s students and families deserve to know whether the Trump Administration coordinated with the for-profit college industry to roll back a rule that protects students and families from predatory lending practices.”

News reports have documented the significant ties between senior Trump Administration officials and the for-profit college industry. For example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has invested in for-profit colleges, and a former DeVry University administrator currently leads the Department’s student-aid enforcement unit. Today’s suit comes on the heels of former industry lobbyist and DeVos senior adviser Robert Eitel’s refusal to explain his role in ending the industry-opposed borrower defense rule.

Democracy Forward filed a Freedom of Information Act request in June seeking, among other things, communications between Department officials and CAPPS. The Department has not provided any substantive response.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the FOIA request.


Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy area,s represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

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