Investigators recommended in 2013 that the department have Sallie Mae return the estimated $22.3 million owed, but the company denied any wrongdoing. Navient, which assumed Sallie Mae’s liabilities when the companies parted ways, continued to fight the audit and appealed to the Trump administration.
Zais, who took over when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned last month, has held the company liable to repay the money.
Navient spokesman Paul Hartwick said the company is assessing its options in the wake of the decision.
“We are disappointed with this ruling because we believe these practices were consistent with Department of Education guidance,