If student loans were issued in your name that shouldn’t have been, you may be able to have those loans canceled through a False Certification discharge.
You may be eligible for a False Certification discharge if:
you didn’t have a high school diploma or GED when you enrolled in college (Ability to Benefit); or
someone who worked at your college signed your name on your loan documents without your knowledge or authorization (Unauthorized Signature / Forgery by School); or
you were signed up for a college program to train you for a job you would not be able to get because of some type of disqualifying status (such as a criminal record or medical condition) (Disqualifying Status); or
someone else used your identity to take out loans in your name that you didn’t receive (Forgery – Identity Theft).
You have to apply for a False Certification discharge to get your loans canceled for one of the reasons above. There are three categories of False Certification: Ability to Benefit, Disqualifying Status, and Unauthorized Signature/Payment. If your identity was stolen to take out student loans you never received or benefitted from, you have to apply for a different discharge called a forgery discharge. Each of these categories has a different application, so you will need to fill out the application that applies to your situation.
Ability to Benefit
If you didn’t have a high school diploma or GED before you started your college program, your school has to “certify” to the federal government that you will still be able to benefit from college. The rules for how a college must show that you will be able to benefit from college have changed over time. Generally, the school cannot certify that you are eligible for federal aid unless you took an independently administered “Ability to Benefit” test.
You can apply for a False Certification discharged under the Ability to Benefit category if:
- you didn’t take an ability to benefit test before you started your program,
- your school allowed you to immediately retake the test until you passed,
- your school gave you the answers to the test, or allowed students to discuss the questions or share answers among themselves, or
- your school falsified your high school diploma or sent you to a high school diploma mill to get a diploma or GED
How to Apply Based on Ability to Benefit
The False Certification – Ability to Benefit application is available online to print and complete. When you fill out your application, include as many details as possible about what you remember about the test if you were given one, such as who gave it to you, where you took the test, what you were told about the test, whether you were given any answers or allowed to retake the test more than once. You will need to attach your high school transcript to show that you did not complete high school.
If you signed up for a college program to train for a specific job, but you have a disqualifying status that prevents you from working that job in the state where you are going to school, you may be eligible for a False Certification based on a disqualifying status.
A disqualifying status could include things such as:
- physical or mental condition,
- age, or
- having a criminal record.
For example, if you went to college to be a teacher, but you have a felony conviction that stops you from getting your teaching license in the state you are going to school, you may be eligible for a False Certification discharge based on Disqualifying Status. If you went to truck driving school, but you suffer from a medical condition that prevents you from getting your license, then you might also be eligible for a False Certification discharge.
How to Apply Based on Disqualifying Status
The False Certification – Disqualifying Status application is available online to print and complete. When you fill out your application, include information about the state requirements for employment that you could not meet when you started college. If you can, you should list the specific state law or regulation that prevented you from getting the job, or attach a copy of the law to your application.
Unauthorized Signature / Forgery by School
If someone who worked at your college forged your name on the loan papers and you never got the money from the loan, then you can apply for False Certification discharge based on an Unauthorized Signature. This is also called a Forgery by School discharge.
How to Apply Based on Unauthorized Signature
The False Certification – Unauthorized Signature/Payment application is available online to print and complete. Remember, you should only use this application if someone who worked at the college forged your name on the loans. If someone stole your identity to take out loans in your name, but they did not work for the school you attended, you have to use the Forgery application below.
Forgery (Identity Theft)
If someone else (other than a person who worked at your school) forged your signature on a loan document and you did not benefit from the loan, you may be able to apply to have your loans canceled through a Forgery discharge. This is commonly used for people who have had their identity stolen.
How to Apply for a Forgery Discharge
The Forgery discharge application is available online to print and complete. It is a good idea to include any evidence you may have to support your claim that your signature was forged or your identity was stolen, such as a police report. If you don’t have a police report or any other evidence, you can use the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website to create an Identity Theft report to attach to your application. This report will include an affidavit that you can sign and attach to your application about how your identity was stolen or misused.
Parent PLUS Borrowers, You Can Apply, Too!
If you have Parent PLUS loans, you can apply for a False Certification discharge if your child who you took out the loans for:
- lacked a high school diploma or GED and was not given a proper “Ability to Benefit” test, or
- had a Disqualifying Status that prevented them from getting the job they were being trained for in college.
You can also apply for a False Certification discharge if the college signed your name on the loan documents without your authorization.