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- Borrowers who went to one of the schools listed in the Sweet v. Cardona suit have until November 3, 2022 to apply for student-loan forgiveness.
- A student loan expert says the key to getting your application approved is using the exact language from your school's specific lawsuit.
- Your student loans will go into forbearance 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 roughly $6 billion in student-loan debt for more than 200,000 borrowers. If you went to one of the 150 schools listed in the class action, you may qualify for full or partial student-loan forgiveness under a program called "borrower defense to loan repayment."
To get your loans forgiven, you must fill out 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 navigate their federal student loans. "We do have an on-demand class to help people through this process, but anyone can do it themselves," she adds.
If you submitted a borrower defense application before June 22, 2022, you are already a part of the class. But if you attended one of the named schools and have not yet applied for borrower defense, there's still time.
Your loans will be put in forbearance while you wait for a decision
Those who submit borrower defense applications from now until November 3 will receive a decision from the Department of Education in three years. "Once the application has been received and processed," says Lewis, "borrowers will be placed into an administrative forbearance while the government reviews the application."
While your loans are in forbearance, interest will accumulate, and may capitalize at the end of the forbearance period (meaning your interest will be added to your principal balance and any new interest will grow on that larger balance). Making interest-only payments during the forbearance period will help you avoid this.
Lewis encourages people to apply to other forgiveness programs and "be prepared for repayment come January 2023." She says borrowers typically receive correspondence saying that their borrower defense application has been received. After that, administrative forbearance kicks in and you don't need to make any payments until they reach a decision. "Borrowers should continue to pay on their loans while waiting for 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 on studentaid.gov
- Your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other contact information
- The name and address of the school you attended
- Any relevant documents, such as:
- Enrollment agreements
- Promotional materials from your school
- Communications with school officials or employees
- Student manual
- Course catalog
- Legal documents, and more
Lewis says that where most people get lost is when the form asks for the reason you deserve a refund in the first place.
2. Google '[your school name] vs. Department of Education'
"This part is like passing a test," says Lewis. "Type in a Google search for '[your school name] vs. the Department of Education.'" From there, the official Department of Education announcement will list all the reasons the school is being sued in the first place.
For example, for ITT Tech, the Department of Education website says, "ITT engaged in widespread and pervasive misrepresentations related to the ability of students to get a job or transfer credits, and lying about the programmatic accreditation of ITT's associate degree in nursing."
3. Copy the exact language listed in the lawsuit to your application, if it applies
Once you've Googled 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 students who graduated from those schools because it was a universal thing."
Section 4 of the borrower defense application has a few places where you can paste this information. There are 10 parts to Section 4:
- Admissions selectivity: Relevant if the school you went to made false claims about the number of people they were admitting, or how hard it was to get into the school, just to name a few examples
- Representations to third party: Relevant if the school you went to misrepresented or falsely stated their ranking on any "Best Schools" list
- Urgency to enroll: If your school told you that you had limited time to enroll in your program
- Educational services: If your school 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 job-placement rates
- Program cost and nature of the loan: If your school failed to explain the total cost of the program and what kind of loans you were taking out to pay for tuition
- Transferring credits: If your school gave false information about your ability to transfer credits to and from another school
- Career services: If your school failed to provide the career services that 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 the programmatic accreditation of ITT's associate degree in nursing" in the text box under educational services, and "ITT engaged in widespread and pervasive misrepresentations related to the ability of students to get a job or transfer credits" in the boxes under the employment services and transferring credits sections.
Lewis says, "You're going to take that information and retype it because that's probably exactly what happened to you," adding that the exact language might make it easier for the people processing the applications to process your responses.
If you're skeptical about starting the application, Lewis says, "These schools were in contempt for illegal practices. They're giving back money for a lot of these schools, like a check in the mail if you attended."