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Rep. Courtney Votes to Support Defrauded Students and Veterans, Overturn DeVos Rewrite of ‘Borrower Defense’ Rule

January 16, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02) voted to pass H.J.Res. 76, a resolution that would reverse the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos’s harmful 2019 rewrite of the Borrower Defense rule, which would deny debt relief to students who have been defrauded by predatory colleges. The resolution was brought up under the Congressional Review Act, enacted in 1996, which gives Congress 60 legislative days to overturn a final rule once it has been submitted to Congress. H.J.Res. 76 marks the House’s first use of the Congressional Review Act to reverse a Trump Administration rule.

“The new so-called ‘Borrower Defense’ rule rewrite crafted by Secretary DeVos does little to protect the hundreds of thousands of American students and veterans who have played by the rules, worked hard to seek higher educations and college degrees, and who have been let down and defrauded by predatory, for-profit colleges,” said Congressman Courtney. “For years, for-profit college chains like Corinthian and ITT Tech, and smaller institutions like Ridley-Lowell right here in eastern Connecticut, have been shutting their doors without warning on enrolled students who have paid their tuition. One of the primary opponents to Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration in this battle is the American Legion; America’s oldest and largest veterans’ organization. Our student veteran population is one of the primary targets of these predatory for-profit colleges – thousands of them have been ripped off by these shady institutions, and have lost precious G.I. Bill benefits as a result. The new Borrower Defense rule submitted by this Administration is fundamentally rigged against defrauded borrowers of student loans, depriving them of the opportunity for debt relief that Congress intended to afford them under the Higher Education Act. On behalf of the American Legion, our student veterans, and all students in eastern Connecticut, I was proud to vote in favor of this resolution.”

On Tuesday, Rep. Courtney spoke from the well of the U.S. House of Representatives to highlight the impact that predatory, for-profit colleges have had on the student-veteran population, and on students across eastern Connecticut. Click here to view his full remarks.

In his remarks, Rep. Courtney noted that the American Legion strongly opposes Secretary DeVos’s 2019 rewrite of the Borrower Defense rule. In a December 2019 letter to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the American Legion stated that veterans who have applied for student loan forgiveness deserve fair and timely decisions, and that “the rule that the Department of Education has promulgated flagrantly denies defrauded veterans these dignities, and The American Legion calls on Congress to overturn this regulatory action.” Click here to read the American Legion’s full letter.

Students defrauded by predatory, for-profit colleges are often left with crushing amounts of debt, useless or incomplete degrees, and none of the job opportunities they were promised upon admission. Under the 1993 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, student borrowers who are defrauded by predatory colleges are entitled to relief from the loans they took out to attend that school. However, this provision remained in obscurity until federal oversight of for-profit colleges weakened in the early 2000s. In 2016, following the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute – two major for-profit college chains that routinely defrauded students – President Obama issued a comprehensive, updated Borrower Defense rule, creating a streamlined process to help defrauded borrowers access relief and to move forward with their lives. The Obama-era rule was slated to go into effect on July 1, 2017.

Since taking office, Secretary Betsy DeVos has refused to implement a strong Borrower Defense rule, leaving hundreds of thousands of defrauded student borrowers waiting for relief. The Department initially attempted to prevent the Obama-era rule from going into effect. Then, after a federal court ordered the rule to be implemented, the Department finalized a newly crafted Borrower Defense rule that forces future defrauded students to navigate a complex process to get relief, severely restricts how much relief they can receive, and shifts the cost of providing debt relief from predatory schools to taxpayers. According to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), the share of eligible loan debt forgiven under Secretary DeVos’s new Borrower Defense rule will drop from 53% using the Obama-era standard, to just 3% under the DeVos rule.

H.J.Res. 76 would reverse Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration’s new Borrower Defense rule, and marks the first instance that the House has used of the Congressional Review Act to reverse a Trump Administration rule. In doing so, it allows time for the House to advance the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674), a bill Congressman Courtney co-sponsored and which would crack down on predatory schools, and restore the 2016 Obama-era protections for students and taxpayers. In October, Rep. Courtney and his colleagues on the House Education and Labor Committee voted to approve H.R. 4674 during a three-day legislative markup session.