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How To Qualify For Debt Relief Through Borrower Defense Programs

By Spodek Law Group | February 20, 2024

How To Qualify For Debt Relief Through Borrower Defense Programs

What is Borrower Defense to Repayment?

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:

  • The school made misleading claims about job prospects post-graduation
  • They lied about their accreditation status or program quality
  • They pressured you to take out loans that weren’t needed
  • They violated state consumer protection laws

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.

Steps To Apply for Borrower Defense Discharge

Here is an overview of what’s involved in the borrower defense to repayment application process:

    1. Determine if you are eligible

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.

    1. Gather documentation

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.

    1. Complete the application

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.

    1. Submit documentation

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.

    1. Get updates on your case

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.

    1. Receive a decision

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.

Common Reasons Borrowers Qualify

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:

Misrepresented Job Prospects

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.

False Advertising on Program Quality

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.

Predatory Lending Practices

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.

Violations of State Consumer Protection Laws

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.

Accreditation Issues

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:

  • Determine if your situation meets the criteria
  • Gather the right documentation and evidence
  • Craft an effective application clearly stating your claim
  • Handle appeals if your application gets denied

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.

Getting Organized with Your BDAR Application

Assembling a borrower defense application takes time and organization. These tips can help you keep all the moving pieces in order:

  • Create a timeline documenting important dates like when you enrolled, key conversations, promises the school made, etc.
  • Set up filing system either digitally or in physical folders holding relevant paperwork.
  • Take detailed notes when gathering evidence and communicating with your school or servicers.
  • Keep a log of calls/emails to track who you contacted, when, and what was discussed.
  • Update your records with any new documentation around enrollment, finances, accreditation, career services, etc.
  • Consider an attorney who can independently review your claim to give feedback on your chances for approval.

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.

What Types of Documentation Help Support Borrower Defense Claims?

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:

  • Advertising materials: Brochures, website screenshots, direct mail offers showing misleading information the school published to recruit students.
  • Enrollment agreements: The contract you signed to attend can contain misleading clauses around program details, credit transfers, career prospects post-graduation etc.
  • Recorded calls: If school reps made verbal promises or claims over the phone, include transcripts or recordings.
  • Correspondence: Emails and letters to/from school officials demonstrating improper conduct.
  • Student handbooks: Policies published around credits, transfers, graduation requirements, or other standards that were not followed.
  • Legal/regulatory documents: If the school lost accreditation, got fined for violations, or faced other disciplinary action – submit documentation.
  • Sworn statements: Have other students write an affidavit swearing to also being misled by the school under penalty of perjury.

Having as much written evidence as possible, from multiple sources, lays the groundwork for a winning case.

Can I Get My Federal Loans Discharged for Other Reasons?

Besides defense to repayment, several options exist for getting federal student loans forgiven in certain situations. These include:

  • Closed School Discharge: If your school closes while you’re enrolled or shortly after you withdraw, you may qualify to have remaining federal loans discharged.
  • False Certification Discharge: This applies if your school falsely certified your ability to benefit from enrollment if you didn’t have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
  • Total and Permanent Disability Discharge: If you become totally disabled and unable to work, you can have federal loans discharged.
  • Bankruptcy Discharge: While rare, student loans can sometimes get discharged when filing for bankruptcy if you successfully prove undue hardship.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Those working full-time for government agencies and certain non-profit employers may qualify for federal loan forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments.
  • Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Forgiveness: If your income is low compared to debt levels, IDR plans can provide lower payments and loan forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments.

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.

The Bottom Line

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.

Resources

Borrower Defense to Repayment – Federal Student Aid

What Should I Know About the Borrower Defense Process? | Federal Student Aid

Video explaining borrower defense:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvh6Gq-YX_A

Article on gathering evidence for BDAR:

https://predatorystudentlending.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/How-to-Get-Evidence-for-BDAR.pdf

 

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