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- Borrowers who went to one of the schools named in the Sweet v. Cardona lawsuit have until Nov. 3, 2022, to apply for student loan forgiveness.
- A student loan expert says the key to getting your application approved is to use the exact language from your school’s specific lawsuit.
- Your student loans will be canceled while your application is being processed.
In August, a federal judge granted preliminary approval in the Sweet v. Cardona class action lawsuit, setting the stage to wipe out about $6 billion in student loan debt for more than 200,000 borrowers. If you went to one of the 150 schools named in the class action lawsuit, you may qualify for full or partial student loan forgiveness under a program called “defense of the borrower until repayment of the loan.”
To receive loan forgiveness, you must complete a borrower defense application by November 3, 2022.
“It’s a scary process,” says Sonia Lewis, AKA Student Loan Doctor, which has helped over 20,000 people manage their federal student loans. “We have class on demand to help people through this process, but everyone can do it themselves,” she adds.
If you filed for borrower defense before June 22, 2022, you are already part of the class. But if you attended one of the schools listed and haven’t yet applied for borrower defense, there’s still time.
Your loans will be placed on hold while you await a decision
Those who file for borrower defense between now and November 3 will receive a decision from the Ministry of Education in three years. “Once the application is received and processed,” Lewis says, “borrowers will be placed on administrative hold while the government reviews the application.”
While your loans are being repaid, interest will accrue and may be capitalized at the end of the repayment period (meaning your interest will be added to your principal balance and any new interest will accrue on that larger balance). Paying only the interest during the repayment period will help you avoid this.
Lewis encourages people to apply for other forgiveness programs and “be ready to repay in January 2023.” She says borrowers usually receive correspondence saying their borrower defense application has been received. After that, administrative patience begins and you don’t have to make any payments until they make a decision. “Borrowers should continue to make payments on their loans while they await a response that their application has been received.”
Here’s a simple three-step process that Lewis recommends to help you get your borrower defense application approved faster.
1. Start filling out the Borrower Defense Application at studentaid.gov
First, you must begin filling out the Borrower Defense Application, which you can find at studentaid.gov. You will need the following information:
- Your name, address, date of birth, social security number and other contact information
- The name and address of the school you attended
- All relevant documents, such as:
- Enrollment Agreements
- Promotional materials from your school
- Communication with school officials or employees
- Student Handbook
- Course catalog
- Legal documents and more
Lewis says most people get lost when the form asks for a reason why you deserve a refund in the first place.
2. Google ‘[your school name] in relation to the Ministry of Education’
“This part is like taking a test,” says Lewis. “Type in Google search for ‘[your school name] vs. Department of Education.'” From there, an official statement from the Department of Education will list all the reasons why the school is being sued.
For example, for ITT Tech, the Website of the Ministry of Education says: “ITT has engaged in widespread and pervasive misrepresentations regarding students’ ability to obtain employment or transfer credits, and lies about the program accreditation of ITT’s associate degree in nursing.”
3. Copy the exact language provided in the complaint into your application, if applicable
After 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 10, this applies to most of the students who graduated from those schools because it was a universal thing.”
Section 4 of the Borrower Defense Application has several places where you can paste this information. Section 4 has 10 parts:
- Reception selectivity: Relevant if the school you went to made false claims about the number of people they accepted, or how difficult it was to get into the school, to name just a few examples
- Representations to a third party: Relevant if the school you went to has misrepresented or misrepresented its ranking on any “Top Schools” list
- Enrollment urgency: If the school has told you that you have a limited time to enroll in your program
- educational services: If your school has misrepresented or lied about your teachers’ qualifications or the institution’s accreditation status
- Employment prospects: If your school misrepresented or made false claims about their placement rates
- The price of the program and the nature of the loan: If your school has not explained the total cost of the program and what kind of loans you take out to pay the tuition
- Credit transfer: If your school provided false information about your ability to transfer credits to and from another school
- Career Services: If your school hasn’t provided the career services you were promised
- Judgment (these last two sections only apply to borrowers who received a direct loan between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2020)
- Breach of contract
Within each section there are also text boxes where you can explain your situation. For the ITT Tech example, you would write “ITT lied about ITT’s associate degree in nursing program accreditation” in the text box under Educational Services, and “ITT engaged in widespread and pervasive misrepresentations regarding students’ ability to obtain employment or transfer credit ” in the columns under the sections of the service for employment and loan transfer.
Lewis says, “You’re going to take that information and retype it because it’s probably happened to you,” adding that accurate language could make it easier for people processing applications to process your responses.
If you’re skeptical about starting an app, Lewis says, “These schools have been in disrepute with illegal practices. They give refunds for many of these schools, like a check in the mail if you attended.”