Calif. sues over student debt relief claims

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed another lawsuit against the Trump administration, this one to provide student loan debt relief to eligible students. (Photo: AP file/Rich Pedroncelli)

The federal Department of Education is refusing to process debt relief claims from tens of thousands of students who had federal loans to attend Corinthian Colleges, California’s attorney general has claimed in the latest lawsuit against the Trump administration.

More than 50,000 relief claims are pending since the for-profit college collapsed, including 13,000 from Californians, according to the lawsuit Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed in federal court in San Francisco. Attorneys general in Illinois, Massachusetts and New York are filing a separate similar lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which also names Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is the latest in a series by California and other states challenging Trump administration policies on issues ranging from immigration to the environment.

The latest lawsuit says students are eligible for relief after courts ruled that they were defrauded by Corinthian in violation of California’s consumer protection laws.

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw said he could not immediately comment.

Education department officials earlier this week began negotiating to change federal rules meant to protect students from fraud by colleges and universities.

A 1994 rule allowed loans to be forgiven if a college deceived students, but it was rarely used until the end of the Corinthian and ITT Tech for-profit chains. The Obama administration revised the rule in 2016 to add more protections for students, but DeVos froze those revisions until new rules can be written.

Pressing to protect students

Becerra previously sued U.S. education officials for alleged illegal delays in regulations to protect against misconduct by for-profit schools.

He noted in a teleconference with reporters that the lawsuits were filed the same day President Donald Trump touted his administration’s efforts to roll back federal regulations. Federal rules can be helpful on many levels, Becerra said, saying Trump should instead tell DeVos to “to get off the couch and do something to protect these students.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said education officials are worsening the problem by garnishing wages and seizing tax refunds from students who qualify for debt relief, a development she called “absolutely shocking.”

Before DeVos acted, the department had granted relief to 28,000 students whose claims were similar to those that now are pending, Becerra said.

ED urged to resume loan cancellations

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