Borrower defense, or defense to repayment (DTR), is a relief program that allows borrowers to have their federal student loan debt forgiven if they can show their school engaged in deceptive marketing, used strong-arm recruiting tactics, inflated enrollment numbers, violated state law, or misled them about tuition costs, graduation and job placement rates, and so on.
The program has been on the books since 1995, but it was rarely used until the Obama administration used it to wipe out the federal debts of borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges.
Since then, the Education Department has used the defense to repayment rule to erase over $15 billion owed by hundreds of thousands of borrowers, nearly all of whom attended for-profit colleges.
Ahead, learn what schools qualify for borrower defense and how to apply for cancellation of your federal loans.
Related: Student Loan Waivers
Borrower Defense School List 2022
Borrower defense — the one loan forgiveness program the federal government has to help former students defrauded and cheated by their schools — all but stopped functioning under President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos. More on that below.
But since President Biden took office, the Education Department has used the rule to discharge $7.9 billion in debt for 690 thousand borrowers. The department plans to erase another $6 billion once a federal judge approves a deal it struck with over 200 thousand people who applied for relief but whose applications were denied during the Trump administration.
Here’s a list of schools that defrauded students:
- ATI Career Training Center
- ATI College
- ATI College of Health
- ATI Technical Training Center
- Al Collins Graphic Design School
- All-State Career School
- Allentown Business School
- American Career College
- American Career Institute
- American College for Medical Careers
- American Commercial College
- American InterContinental University
- American National University
- American University of the Caribbean
- Anamarc College
- Anthem College
- Anthem Institute
- Argosy University
- Arizona Summit Law School
- Ashford University
- Bauder College
- Beckfield College
- Berkeley College
- Blue Cliff College
- Branford Hall Career Institute
- Briarcliffe College
- Brightwood Career Institute
- Brightwood College
- Brooks College
- Brooks Institute
- Brown College
- Brown Institute
- Brown Mackie College
- California College San Diego
- California Culinary Academy
- California School of Culinary Arts
- Capella University
- Career Point College
- Carrington College
- Center for Employment Training
- Chamberlain University
- Charlotte School of Law
- Chicago School of Professional Psychology
- Collins College
- Colorado Technical University
- Concorde Career College
- Concorde Career Institute
- Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago
- Court Reporting Institute
- Court Reporting Institute of St Louis
- Daymar College
- DeVry College of Technology
- DeVry University
- Devry Institute of Technology
- Dorsey College
- Empire Beauty School
- Everglades University
- Florida Career College
- Florida Coastal School of Law
- Florida Technical College
- Fortis College
- Fortis Institute
- Gibbs College
- Globe University
- Grand Canyon University
- Gwinnett College
- Hallmark Institute of Photography
- Harrington College of Design
- Harris School of Business
- ITT Technical Institute
- Illinois Institute of Art
- Independence University
- Institute for Health Education
- International Academy of Design and Technology
- International Technical Institute
- Kaplan Career Institute
- Kaplan College
- Katharine Gibbs School
- Keiser University
- Keller Graduate School of Management
- Kitchen Academy
- La’ James College of Hairstyling
- La’ James International College
- Le Cordon Bleu
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts
- Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts
- Lehigh Valley College
- Lincoln College of Technology
- Lincoln Technical Institute
- Marinello School of Beauty
- McCann School of Business & Technology
- McIntosh College
- Medtech College
- Miami International University of Art & Design
- Miami-Jacobs Career College
- Micropower Career Institute
- Miller-Motte Business College
- Miller-Motte College
- Miller-Motte Technical College
- Minnesota School of Business
- Missouri College of Cosmetology North
- Mount Washington College
- NUC University
- National University College
- New England College of Business and Finance
- New England Institute of Art
- Orlando Culinary Academy
- Pennsylvania Culinary Institute
- Pittsburgh Career Institute
- Purdue University Global
- Radians College
- Remington College
- Robert Fiance Beauty Schools
- Robert Fiance Hair Design Institute
- Robert Fiance Institute of Florida
- Ross University School of Medicine
- Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine
- Salter College
- Sanford-Brown College
- Sanford-Brown Institute
- School of Computer Technology
- Scottsdale Culinary Institute
- South University
- Southern California School of Culinary Arts
- Southern Technical College
- Star Career Academy
- Suburban Technical School
- Sullivan and Cogliano Training Centers
- Texas Culinary Academy
- The Art Institute
- Tucson College
- Ultrasound Diagnostic Schools
- United Education Institute
- University of Phoenix
- University of the Rockies
- Vatterott College
- Virginia College
- Walden University
- Washington Business School
- Western Culinary Institute
- Western International University
- Western School of Health and Business Careers
- Western State University College of Law
- Westwood College
- Wilfred Academy
- Wilfred Academy of Beauty Culture
- Wilfred Academy of Hair & Beauty Culture
- Wright Business School
- Wright Career College
How to apply for borrower defense
Anyone can apply for borrower defense, including parents who borrowed Parent PLUS Loans to pay for their child’s education at a sham school.
There’s no risk to applying. It makes sense to apply if you believe your school made misrepresentations about the program costs, job placement rates, educational services, and so on. But keep in mind that meeting the eligibility requirements for a full discharge is a high bar that’s difficult to clear — especially if you didn’t attend a for-profit college or suffer financial harm.
You can submit a borrower defense to repayment claim application on the Federal Student Aid website, studentaid.gov. You can also complete a PDF and mail it to: U.S. Department of Education, 4255 W HWY 90, Monticello, KY 42633.
The New York Legal Assistance Group has created a guide to help student loan borrowers fill out each section of the borrower defense application. You can also find more information about the application process at The Debt Collective. The Student Debt Collective forums have a wealth of information and personal anecdotes from student borrowers navigating the process. Similarly, the Borrower Defense - Student Loan Relief Facebook group is filled with people sharing tips to help others get debt relief from these sham for-profit schools.
Once your application is received, the department will place your account in administrative forbearance. The process should be automatic but check with your loan servicer to make sure it applied the temporary pause to your account.
Application process and the borrower defense settlement
- Your school is listed above, and you’ve submitted a BDR application: Your student loans will be canceled — even if your claim was denied — once the settlement is approved.
- Your school is listed above, and you never applied for BDR: To get your loans canceled, you must submit a BDR application either online or via mail.
- Your school is not listed above, and you applied for BDR: The department will review your application within three years from the day the settlement is approved.
- Your school is not listed above, and you never applied for BDR: To get your loans canceled, you must submit a BDR application either online or via mail.
Note: The Education Department says borrower defense applies only to Direct Loans, including Direct Consolidation Loans that paid off Federal Family Education Loans or Perkins Loans. The FFEL loan program has other borrower defense rights, but the department hasn’t yet explained how borrowers can apply for relief.
How to check application status
Some borrowers have waited several years to get a decision from the department about their borrower defense application. But the delays they experienced can mostly be attributed to former education secretary Betsy Devos’s resistance to the relief program. Under the Biden administration, the department has approved hundreds of thousands of claims, discharging billions of federal loans.
Moving forward, the borrower defense process should move quicker. But still expect to wait several months to get a final decision. After applying, you can get a borrower defense claim status update by checking the status online or by calling the customer contact center at 1-855-279-6207.
If your account is in “pending status,” the department is still processing your claim. Your account will remain in forbearance with no student loan payments due, but interest will continue to accrue.
What to do if your borrower defense application is denied?
You may be able to ask the Department of Education to reconsider your borrower defense application if you disagree with their findings.
When you make this request, you’ll need to explain:
- Which decision(s) that you disagree with.
- Why you believe the decision(s) were made incorrectly.
- Any other evidence you have to support your claim (related specifically to the offense(s) you outlined in your original request).
Not all denials are eligible to request reconsideration. To find out if your case qualifies for reconsideration, log into the Status Center and navigate to Case Details. Eligible cases will have a “Request Recommendation” button available.
You can also mail your reconsideration request to the U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 1854, Monticello, KY 42633.
This reconsideration applies only if you disagree with the Department of Education’s decision about the allegations made in your initial application. If you add new misconduct allegations to your reconsideration request, your request will be denied.
Borrower defense to repayment timeline
- June 8, 2015: President Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, announced the Education Department would forgive the federal loans of tens of thousands of students who attended Corinthian Colleges.
- Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump is sworn in as president of the United States. The next month, Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor with little experience in public education, was sworn in as the nation’s education secretary.
- July 7, 2017: In response to a request from Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Education Department said in a July 7 letter that no borrower defense claims had been approved since President Trump was sworn in.
- Dec. 8, 2017: The department’s inspector general issued a report revealing the department hadn’t approved a single borrower defense claim since the Trump administration took office.
- Dec. 12, 2019: Secretary DeVos introduced a sliding scale that would fully forgive debts only if students in a particular program earned far less than those from similar programs at other schools.
- Jan. 20, 2021: President Biden is sworn in as president of the United States. After two decades of experience in public education, Dr. Miguel Cardona was sworn in as secretary of education a few weeks later.
- Mar. 18, 2021: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona shares that the department is replacing DeVos’s sliding scale with a streamlined approach that will bring full relief faster to eligible borrowers.
- June 16, 2021: The department granted full discharges to 18 thousand borrowers who attended ITT Technical Institute, wiping out $500 million in federal loans.
- July 9, 2021: The department erased nearly $60 million in loans for 1,800 former students of Westwood College, Marinello Schools of Beauty, and the Court Reporting Institute.
- Aug. 26, 2021: Secretary Cardona announced that another 115 thousand former ITT Tech students would have their applications approved and get student loan discharges totaling $1.1 billion.
- Feb. 16, 2022: After an investigation by the FTC and attorneys general in Colorado, Illinois, and New Mexico, over 16 thousand borrowers receive $415 million in borrower defense discharges. The borrowers all attended for-profit schools, including DeVry University, Westwood College, the nursing program at ITT Technical Institute, and the criminal justice programs at Minnesota School of Business/Globe University.
- June 1, 2022: Secretary Cardona announced the department is implementing a group discharge for all remaining federal student loans borrowed to attend any Corinthian College from its founding in 1995 through its closure in April 2015. The tax-free forgiveness is automatic.
- June 23, 2022: The Department of Education struck a deal to settle borrower defense claims denied during Betsy Devos’s time as education secretary. Once a federal judge approves, the settlement will bring the class action lawsuit Sweet v. Cardona to a close and provide $7.5 billion in debt relief to 264 thousand borrowers who attended one of the 150+ schools listed above. Along with student loan forgiveness, eligible borrowers will receive refunds and have the loans deleted from their credit reports. The settlement covers borrowers with Direct Loans and FFEL Loans.
- Aug. 16, 2022: The Education Department announced it will discharge the remaining federal student loans borrowers received to attend ITT Technical Institute from Jan. 1, 2005, until its closure in September 2016. Based on internal records, ITT manager and recruiter testimony, and borrowers' accounts, the decision will automatically result in 208 thousand borrowers receiving $3.9 billion in loan discharges. Every former ITT Tech student is eligible — even those who never submitted a borrower defense claim.
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