Did your school mislead you, lie to you, or engage in other misconduct? Under the Borrower Defense to Repayment program, you may be able to have your loans canceled and get a refund if your college or university misled you, or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws.
Sometimes the Department of Education will automatically cancel loans for groups of students if it finds that a school or program at the school acted in a particularly bad way–this is called a “group discharge.” More information about the group discharges in effect are on our blog. In most cases though, you have to apply for Borrower Defense to Repayment by submitting an application to the Department of Education.
What Type of Misconduct is Eligible for Borrower Defense to Repayment?
Generally, you have to be able to show that:
your school made misrepresentations to you (lied or mislead you), or failed to tell you important information about something that was key to your decision to enroll in school in the first place; or
your school engaged in aggressive and deceptive recruitment (like telling you you had to enroll as soon as possible, or discouraging you to talk with friends or family before enrolling); or
your school broke its contract with you (like, for example, failing to fulfill a promise that was the basis for your decision to enroll).
You also have to show that the school’s misconduct caused you harm that warrants a full discharge of your loans.
These issues are common for students who attend for-profit schools, where they try to enroll as many students as possible to maximize their profits.
Some examples of false or misleading statements that could be eligible for Borrower Defense to Repayment include:
- guaranteeing that students would get a job after graduation,
- making false statements about whether the program would make a student eligible for licensure for a specific profession,
- making false statements about how much graduates earned with their degree
- telling students that they would be able to transfer their credits to another school,
- hiding the true cost of the program,
- failing to tell the student that they were signing up for federal loans, and
- misleading students about the program’s ability to meet requirements for a specific license or certification necessary for a job.
If you believe that your college or university engaged in these types of misrepresentations, you may be eligible for Borrower Defense to Repayment to have your loans canceled.
How Do I Apply for Borrower Defense to Repayment?
Before you apply, make sure to get together any documents you have to support your claim. These documents could include emails or other communications between you and your school, course catalogs, student handbooks, and advertisements from your school (such as web ads, social media ads, email ads, print ads, or links to tv ads). These documents may help refresh your memory about what your school did. If you do not have documents available–that’s OK! You should still submit an application.
When you fill out the application, include as many details as possible about the misrepresentations the school made to you. Make sure you explain and put in details to answer the following questions in your application:
- What exactly did the school say to you or fail to tell you (what was the misrepresentation), or what did the school do (what was the aggressive or deceptive recruitment)?
- Who told you this information (including the person’s name and title, if you know it)?
- When and where were you told this information (the approximate date or time of year, and whether it was during a campus tour or interview, in a meeting, in an advertisement, or over the phone)?
- How was the information communicated to you (for example via email, in person, through an advertisement)?
- How was this information deceptive or misleading and how did you realize you were misled?
- Why was this information important to you when you enrolled?
- How were you harmed by the school’s misconduct (Would you still have attended the program if you’d known the truth? Were you able to get a job using your degree? Did you default on your student loans)?
After you submit your application, it may be several weeks or months before you hear from the Department of Education. If your application is denied, you may be able to appeal it.
Need More Help?
The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) has created a free guide to help you apply for Borrower Defense to Repayment.