Readers Ask About Borrower Defense Rules

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Corinthian Colleges accounts for the majority of borrower defense claims, according to one report.
 
The Department of Education developed guidelines in 2016 for processing borrower defense claims. (Getty Images)
Federal student loan borrowers who attended a school that misled them about the quality of their education may qualify for loan forgiveness under the borrower defense to repayment rule.
The rule is based on a regulation that has existed since 1995 but was not widely recognized until 2015 when Corinthian Colleges filed for bankruptcy and closed.
A year after Corinthian Colleges closed, the Department of Education invoked the never-before-used provision for the federal direct loan program, developing guidelines for borrower defense claims.
The rule releases borrowers from their federal direct loan obligations if they can prove their school defrauded them under state law. “Because each state’s laws are distinct, the state of jurisdiction may impact whether the claim is accepted or denied,” according to a November 2017 document by the Department of Education.
If borrowers are able to demonstrate fraud under state law, the rule instructs the Education Department to obtain reimbursement for loan discharges from the school.
 
Although we’ve discussed this topic before, the Student Loan Ranger still receives numerous questions about discharging federal student debt under borrower defense. While private student loans aren’t covered under the rule, borrowers still might be able to obtain relief from their lender.
 
Here are a few questions on borrower defense we’ve addressed recently. Letters have been edited for clarity and to protect readers’ privacy.
Q: I’ve seen articles and posts that say 95 percent of borrower defense claims filed during a recent year were for 15 schools. Where can I find that list? Also, I’d like some real advice about how to receive a discharge for federal and especially private loans from having attended an institution during a period in which they weren’t accredited and failed to disclose such information.
The Department of Education found in an analysis last year that 95 percent of borrower defense claims were against 15 schools, but the agency didn’t disclose the names of these schools.
While the Department didn’t include the names in its report, The Century Foundation obtained this information through the Freedom of Information Act. According to The Century Foundation’s report based on its FOIA request, Corinthian Colleges accounted for more than three-quarters of all claims, but several other for-profit education companies received a high number of claims. Here are the top 10 generators of borrower defense claims other than Corinthian:
ITT Educational Services Inc. (ITT Tech and Daniel Webster College)
 
American Career Institute.
Education Management Corporation. (The Art Institutes, Argosy UniversitySouth University and Brown Mackie College)
Adtalem Global Education Inc. (DeVry University, DeVry College of New York, Carrington College-SacramentoChamberlain College of Nursing, Keller Graduate School of Management and Ross University)
Career Education Corporation. (American InterContinental University, Briarcliffe College, Brooks Institute, Colorado Technical University, Harrington College of Design, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Missouri College and Sanford-Brown College)
 
InfiLaw Corporation. (Charlotte School of Law, Arizona Summit Law School and Florida Coastal School of Law)
 
Alta Colleges Inc. (Westwood College and Redstone College)
Graham Holdings Inc. (Kaplan University, Kaplan College, Kaplan Career Institute and TESST College of Technology)
Globe Education Network. (Globe University, Minnesota School of Business, Duluth Business University, Broadview University and the Institute of Production and Recording)
As for how to apply for borrower defense, you should visit the Federal Student Aid websitefor more information. On the site, you will find the application, guidance on who qualifies and how to submit all the necessary information. If you have questions about borrower defense, you can call the Department of Education’s borrower defense hotline: 1-855-279-6207.
Q: If a school falsely stated it was accredited, can federal student loans for the student who attended be discharged? I have been contacted by a company that states my loans can be discharged because the school I attended was not federally accredited. 
 
They charge a fee for their service, so I want to know if this is legitimate.
 
Yes. If a school falsely stated their accreditation, borrowers may be eligible for forgiveness of federal student loans because that school misled them. While you may be eligible for student loan discharge, we urge borrowers to exercise caution when considering working with companies that charge a fee. In many cases, companies offering student loan debt relief are only after your money. If you qualify for a full or partial discharge due to fraud, you can apply for free through the Department of Education under the borrower defense to repayment process.
Q: I’m seeking some assistance on whom to contact regarding a borrower defense to repayment on my student loan. I submitted an application some time ago, and I don’t know the status of my application. 
 
My school was successfully sued by the Department of Education for misleading students. I applied for borrower defense because my admissions representative misled me regarding student success and job assistance. Whom should I contact?
The Department of Education has established two methods of contact for checking the status of a borrower defense claim. First, you can call the borrower defense hotline at 1-855-279-6207. 
 
The Student Loan Ranger has called the hotline and discovered that there can sometimes be up to a 24-hour wait time for a response.
 
Sending an email to borrowerdefense@ed.gov is another option for submitting an inquiry about the status of a claim. Responses may take some time depending on the volume of requests. One important point to remember is that you’ll need to provide your case number to get the fastest response.
For federal student loan borrowers who are filing a borrower defense claim, the Student Loan Ranger recommends keeping meticulous records, especially the claim number. Having detailed information will help as you interact with the Department of Education.