Borrower defense to repayment is a type of federal student loan forgiveness where your loans can be discharged if your school did something wrong or illegal. For example, if your school misled you or engaged in other misconduct, you may be eligible.
To qualify, you’ll need to submit a claim explaining why you feel your school violated laws around your loans or education. Common reasons borrowers file a defense to repayment application include:
If the Department of Education approves your claim, you may be eligible for full or partial loan discharge. This means you won’t have to repay some or all of your federal student loans.
Here is an overview of what’s involved in the borrower defense to repayment application process:
First, figure out if borrower defense is a good fit for your situation. You must have federal Direct Loans or FFEL Loans that are not in default. Your school needs to have done something illegal or misleading linked to your loans or education.
Pull together evidence showing what your school did wrong. This may include advertising materials, enrollment agreements, student handbooks, emails, or other paperwork. Track down as much proof as possible.
The official borrower defense application form involves providing background on your loans, school, program dates, etc. You’ll also include a detailed explanation of why you feel your school misled you or violated laws around your education financing.
In addition to finishing the application questions, you must submit documentation supporting your claim. This evidence should clearly demonstrate how the school is at fault.
Once submitted, your claim goes through review and processing. This can take over a year in some cases. You can check the status online and may need to provide clarification or additional documents.
Eventually you will receive a written decision on your borrower defense application. If approved, it will outline discharge details and loan amounts forgiven. If denied, you can consider appealing or other repayment options.
As mentioned above, your school needs to have done something misleading or illegal directly related to their educational services or your loans. Some of the most frequent qualifying reasons include:
If your school made misleading claims about employment opportunities post-graduation or career earning potential, this counts as misrepresentation. For example, if they stated 90% of graduates get jobs within 6 months, but the actual numbers were much lower.
Schools cannot provide false or misleading information around program length, delivery method (online vs. in person), availability of internships/externships, transferability of credits, or other key details that influenced your enrollment.
If school representatives pressured you to take out loans above direct costs or made you feel you had no option but to borrow, this predatory lending may qualify. The same goes for not properly advising you on loan terms or alternative options.
Most states have consumer protection laws prohibiting false, deceptive, or misleading advertising and business practices. If your school broke these state laws in relation to your education financing, you may have a case.
Colleges and universities must be properly accredited per U.S. Department of Education standards. Loss of accreditation or offering programs that lack programmatic accreditation required for licensing could provide grounds for borrower defense.
The borrower defense application often requires detailed explanations of school wrongdoing plus documentation. Working with a lawyer experienced in student loan law can be extremely helpful. They can help you:
Non-profit legal aid groups also provide free assistance to student loan borrowers working through defense to repayment applications in many states. If you want professional legal support, don’t hesitate to explore low bono or pro bono attorneys in your area.
Assembling a borrower defense application takes time and organization. These tips can help you keep all the moving pieces in order:
Having your documents and information structured not only helps you put together a strong application, but also keeps you organized if your case involves appeals or legal action.
Documentary evidence is key for getting borrower defense discharge approved. The more proof you can provide backing up your claims, the better. Helpful documentation includes:
Having as much written evidence as possible, from multiple sources, lays the groundwork for a winning case.
Besides defense to repayment, several options exist for getting federal student loans forgiven in certain situations. These include:
In many cases, submitting a borrower defense to repayment application makes the most sense for getting student loans forgiven. But depending on your unique situation, it always helps to explore what other discharge or forgiveness programs exist.
When colleges, universities, or technical training programs mislead students or engage in misconduct around loans and program quality, borrowers can fight back. Filing a borrower defense to repayment application opens the door to full or partial federal student loan forgiveness.
The process involves detailed documentation and patience as applications take months or longer to get decided. Supporting evidence clearly demonstrating school wrongdoing is critical for approval. But with some organizational skills and potential help from a legal aid lawyer, borrowers have a good shot at qualifying for relief from overwhelming education debt burdens.
Don’t hesitate to explore borrower defense discharge as an option if your school did anything illegal or unethical related to your loans or education. There are paths forward to reduce or eliminate amounts owed if a case is made showing school misconduct contributed to debt burdens. Many borrowers have successfully argued for loan forgiveness – you may too with the right approach.
Video explaining borrower defense:
Article on gathering evidence for BDAR:
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