Beginning as soon as January, Congress could begin to undo the work the Obama Administration has put into reforming student loan regulations. Many of these regulations were designed to streamline the student loan forgiveness process for students who attended for-profit colleges and claim to have been defrauded.
These measures provide loan forgiveness options for students and were released by the Department of Education just days before the election. Because they are so recent, the new Congress would have the ability to disapprove them under a 1996 law known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress 60 legislative days to vote on reversing regulations.
Republicans were opposed to this rule, known as the Borrower Defense rule, when it was proposed. Lamar Alexander chairs the Senate committee on education and is said to be considering introducing a resolution to overturn the rule.
Even if the Republican-controlled Congress decides not to pursue overturning the Borrower Defense rule, president-elect Trump can instruct agencies to be restrictive in our they impose this rule. Trump ran on an anti-regulation platform and previously started his own for-profit college known as Trump University.
Trump is currently in the middle of civil lawsuits over his defunct university. Students that attended Trump University are not eligible for loan relief. After Trump won the election, stock in for-profit colleges rose immediately.
The borrower defense rule originated by the closing of Corinthian Colleges in 2015, which was followed shortly by the closing of ITT Technical Institute. The closing of these schools left many students in limbo, with no clear path for finishing their degree.
The law already offers loan relief to students that attended a struggling for-profit school, but the borrower defense rule offers an easier path to obtaining that relief. Students can make a claim that they were defrauded to the Department of Education and apply for a refund for the money they borrowed.
Republicans are opposed to the idea of students being given a refund when they have not proven that they were defrauded. They also are against students having the option to file class actions suits free of mediation first.
According to the Department of Education, $250 million in relief has already been given to over 15,000 borrowers that attended Corinthian and it is unclear how many more stand to benefit from the borrower defense rule.
In the past, congressional disapproval resolutions failed because Obama vetoed them; but with a Republican-controlled House, Senate, and White House all that is needed is a simple majority to reverse the rule.
Secretary John B. King Jr. has defended the rule and says his department conducted a thorough process for introducing the borrower defense rule.
The borrower defense rule is not the only higher education reform Republicans can overturn. A number of programs introduced under President Obama are subject to the discretion of the Department of Education Secretary.