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- Borrowers who attended any of the schools listed in Sweet v. Cardona’s lawsuit have until November 3, 2022 to apply for student loan forgiveness.
- One student loan expert says the key to getting your application approved is using the exact language from your school’s specific court case.
- Your student loans will be on hold while your application is processed.
In August, a federal judge granted preliminary approval to the class action lawsuit Sweet vs. Cardona, paving the way to paying off about $6 billion in student loan debt for more than 200,000 borrowers. If you attended one of the 150 schools listed in the class action lawsuit, you may qualify for full or partial student loan forgiveness under a program called Loan Repayment Borrower Defense.
To have your loans forgiven, you must complete a Borrower Defense Application by November 3, 2022.
“It’s a daunting process,” says Sonia Lewis, aka The Student Loan Doctor, who has helped over 20,000 people manage their federal student loans. “We have an on-demand course to help people with this process, but anyone can do it themselves,” she adds.
If you filed a Borrower Defense Request before June 22, 2022, you are already part of the class. But if you attended one of the schools mentioned and haven’t filed for a borrower defense yet, there’s still time.
Your loans are being deferred while you await a decision
Those who apply for borrower defenses between now and November 3 will receive a decision from the Department of Education in three years. “Once the application is received and processed,” says Lewis, “borrowers are placed on an administrative moratorium while the government reviews the application.”
While your loans are in forbearance, interest accumulates and may be capitalized at the end of the forbearance (meaning your interest will be added to your principal balance and any new interest will accrue on that larger balance). Only making interest payments during the deferral period will help you avoid this.
Lewis encourages people to apply to other forgiveness programs and “be prepared for January 2023 payback.” She says borrowers typically receive correspondence stating that their borrower defense request has been received. After that, administrative forbearance kicks in and you don’t have to make any payments until they make a decision. “Borrowers should continue to pay their loans while awaiting a response that their application has been received.”
Here’s a simple three-step process Lewis recommends to help you get your borrower defense application approved faster.
1. Begin completing the Borrower Defense Application at studentaid.gov
First, you must begin filling out the Borrower Defense Application, which can be found at studentaid.gov. You need the following information:
- Your name, address, date of birth, social security number and other contact information
- Name and address of the school you attended
- All relevant documents such as
- Enrollment Agreements
- Promotional materials from your school
- Communicating with school officials or staff
- student manual
- Course catalogue
- legal documents and more
Lewis says most people get lost when the form asks why you deserve a refund in the first place.
2.Google'[your school name] vs. Ministry of Education’
“This part is like passing an exam,” says Lewis. ‘Enter a Google search for ‘[your school name] against the Department of Education.’” From there, the official announcement from the Department of Education will list all of the reasons the school is being sued in the first place.
For example, for ITT Tech, the Department of Education’s website states: “ITT engaged in widespread and pervasive misrepresentations regarding student’s ability to get a job or transfer credits and lies about the programmatic accreditation of the associate’s degree from ITT in Nursing.”
3. Copy the exact language listed in the complaint into your application, if applicable
Once you google the details of the lawsuit, Lewis says you need to copy and paste that exact wording into the application. “Nine times out of ten, that’s true of most of the students who graduated from those schools because it was a universal thing.”
Section 4 of the Borrower Defense Application contains a few places where you can include this information. Section 4 consists of 10 parts:
- Admission selectivity: Relevant if the school you attended gave incorrect information about the number of people admitted or how difficult it was to get into the school, just to name a few examples
- Representations to third parties: Relevant if the school you attended misrepresented or misrepresented its ranking on a “Best Schools” list
- Urgency to register: If your school has informed you that you have limited time to register for your program
- Educational Services: If your school has misrepresented or lied about the qualifications of your teachers or the accreditation status of the institution
- Employment prospects: If your school has misrepresented or misrepresented its placement rates
- Program cost and type of loan: If your school has not explained the total cost of the program and the type of loan you took out to pay for tuition
- Transfer credits: If your school has misrepresented your ability to transfer credits to and from another school
- Career service: If your school has not delivered the promised career services
- judgement (these last two sections only apply to borrowers who received a Direct Loan between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2020)
- breach of contract
Each section also has text boxes where you can explain your situation. For the ITT Tech example, you would write “ITT lied about the programmatic accreditation of the ITT associate degree in nursing” in the text box under Educational Services, and “ITT has adhered to widespread and pervasive misrepresentations regarding the ability of students involved in getting a job or credits” in the fields under the Employment Service and Credits sections.
Lewis says, “You’re going to take that information and re-enter it because that’s probably what happened to you,” adding that the precise language might make it easier for people processing the applications to process your responses.
If you’re skeptical about starting the application, Lewis says, “These schools have disregarded illegal practices. You return money to a lot of these schools, like a check in the mail, when you’ve attended.”