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States Sue US Education Department Over Student Loan Debt Relief

FILE - Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at the Council of the Great City Schools Annual Legislative/Policy Conference in Washington, March 13, 2017.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia are suing the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos over a recent decision to delay protections for student loan borrowers attending for-profit colleges.

In a filing Thursday, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and 17 other states claimed the Department of Education broke federal law in announcing the delay without public comment.

"By delaying the Rule, the Department effectively canceled a duly promulgated regulation 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 complaint argued.

The rule was designed to protect student loan borrowers from for-profit schools engaging in "misleading and predatory practices" by creating a process to discharge their loans in cases of institutional misconduct and school closings.

DeVos announced last month that implementation of the rule would be put on hold, saying it created a muddled process that "put taxpayers on the hook for significant costs."

The Borrower Defense Rule was finalized during the last days of the Obama administration and was set to take effect July 1.

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