The Trump Administration has taken steps to make it harder for student loan borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit colleges or universities to erase their debt. United States Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, moved to make the process more difficult for students and roll back regulations set by the Obama administration.
The Obama administration took a particularly tough stance on for-profit colleges, creating rules that allowed similar claims against for-profit universities to be processed as a group. The Obama administration also created rules that prevented colleges from requiring students to sign an agreement that required them to arbitrate disputes with the colleges.
DeVos’s statement this week made it clear that student loan borrowers will now have to prove their claims on an individual basis and will be held personally accountable for their student loan debt – even if their decision to take out the loans was based on fraudulent information.
The U.S. Department of Education is seeking comments regarding what standard should be set for students to prove their case. The previous administration had used the “preponderance of the evidence standard” to win a case regarding their obligations. However, the Trump administration is considering going to the higher burden of proof of “clear and convincing evidence.”
The Department is hoping to publish a final rule by November 1, 2018. Any loans originating after July 1, 2019, will be affected by the new rule.
Consumer advocates have argued for a more aggressive stance against for-profit colleges. These advocates worry that this proposed rule will have a chilling effect on borrowers who seek relief from student loan debt. Borrowers would need to show that the college intended to mislead or defraud them. Proving intent on the part of the for-profit college can be nearly impossible. On top of this, a higher burden of proof would make winning their cases that much harder.
The proposed rules may also give borrowers less time to apply for relief. Students have six years from the date they discover a breach of contract to file a claim. The new rule limits that length of time to three years from when the borrower leaves school. Oddly enough, this time period coincides with the time period schools have to report how many students are not making payments on their federal student loans.
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