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Weil Files Amicus Briefs to Protect Students Against Predatory Lenders in For-Profit Education Industry

Weil and co-counsel the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed amicus briefs in Massachusetts, et al. v. U.S. Department of Education and Bauer, et al. v. DeVos, in the District Court of the District of Columbia, challenging the Department of Education’s decision to delay implementation of the Borrower Defense Rule to protect student loan borrowers from misrepresentations, fraud and abuse by for-profit institutions of higher education. This rule, approved in November 2016, established strong protections for students victimized by the predatory practices of these institutions including: adding new avenues for defrauded students to discharge their student debt; establishing procedural protections that enabled students to more easily obtain relief from student debt incurred; and also requiring for-profit colleges that have engaged in fraudulent practices to disclose such behavior plainly for prospective students.

After the Department of Education issued an indefinite stay of implementation of the Borrower Defense Rule under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Attorneys General of 18 states and the District of Columbia filed Massachusetts to challenge the decision to delay implementation of the Borrower Defense Rule. Two student borrowers filed similar claims in Bauer.

The amicus briefs filed by Weil and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law examine the implications that the delay in implementation of the Borrower Defense Rule has on students of color in particular. Weil was tasked with the bulk of researching and drafting this amicus brief and in a little over a month, drafted a brief that discussed (i) the history of for-profit institutions’ predatory practices towards minority and low-income communities, (ii) the promulgation of the Borrower Defense Rule and the remedies and protections it established, and (iii) the disparate harm the delay in the implementation of the Rule has on student borrowers of color. Ultimately, the briefs provide the court with details regarding the disproportionate impact predatory for-profit schools’ practices have on students of color and the long-lasting harm that delayed implementation of the Rule may have on these students and their communities.

For-profit colleges represent a growing industry in the United States, with enrollment increasing 223 percent between 2000 and 2012. This growth is facilitated by the investments made by for-profit schools in marketing and recruiting. A 2012 Senate report found that for-profit colleges dedicated 17.2 percent of revenue on instruction, spent more on marketing, admissions, and recruiting, and allocated more funds to profit than not-for-profit colleges. These marketing and recruiting efforts are often targeted specifically at non-traditional students, women, students of color, veterans, or single parents, who may believe the for-profit model is their only option.

The Weil team consisted of Irisa Chen, Dorian Simmons and Natalie Kennedy, and was supervised by Anish Desai.