The attorney general of New Jersey said on Thursday that federal education officials had stopped cooperating on issues involving fraudulent activities at for-profit colleges, and requested that the Education Department renew its investigations into the institutions or hand them over to the state.
Gurbir S. Grewal, who became attorney general in January, expressed frustration with the officials in a letter to Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.
Mr. Grewal said they had ignored requests from New Jersey to work with the state on behalf of students who were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges, a bankrupt for-profit chain. And he raised concerns about the status of investigations by the Education Department into large for-profit institutions like the DeVry Education Group, which paid $100 million in 2016 to settle a lawsuit alleging that it misled prospective students with ads about employment and salaries after graduation.
In an article this week, The New York Times reported that a special investigations team at the Education Department created in the final year of the Obama administration had been unwound under the Trump administration, effectively killing inquiries into DeVry and other schools where top hires of Ms. DeVos previously worked.
“If the federal government continues to pursue these investigations, let us partner with you,” Mr. Grewal wrote, citing The Times’s article. “If the federal government will not pursue these investigations wherever the facts and law take them, let us pick up where you leave off.”
Mr. Grewal said in the letter that his office would protect the confidentiality of investigative files shared by the department. A person with knowledge of the New Jersey effort said that the attorney general’s office was also exploring other legal routes to obtain any federal files on the suspended investigations if Ms. DeVos did not make them available.
The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The special investigative team was created in 2016 after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, which catalyzed a flurry of complaints from students about predatory activities at for-profit schools. The institutions had been accused of widespread fraud that involved misrepresenting enrollment benefits, job placement rates and program offerings, which could leave students with huge debts and no degrees.
The team expanded in the last months of the Obama administration to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators, according to former and current employees of the department. Since President Trump took office, the group has dwindled to three, and its mission has