Sweet v. DeVos

Overview

Who Is Involved In This Case?

On June 25, 2019, defrauded former for-profit college students filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seeking to force the agency to follow existing law and issue the debt relief to which the former students are entitled. The named plaintiffs are suing on behalf of a class of more than 158,000 former students who have filed applications for borrower defense to repayment.

 

What Is This Case About?

Under existing law, students and former students are eligible for federal loan cancellation if the college misled the students or violated state laws relating to the students’ education.

Since 2015, over 200,000 former students have asserted their right to a complete discharge of their federal student loans due to their schools’ misconduct. As it was legally obligated to do, the Department of Education started to adjudicate these borrower defenses, approving nearly 28,000 in the six-month period before January 20, 2017.

Since then, under Secretary DeVos’ tenure, the Department of Education halted all processing of borrower defense claims. The Department’s affirmative decision to keep these students in limbo—some for over four years—has destroyed students’ credit and limited their access to federal student aid. For students who have defaulted on their loans, the Department of Education has invoked extraordinary extrajudicial powers to garnish their wages or seize their tax credits (for many, their Earned Income Tax Credit).

With this lawsuit, the plaintiffs are demanding that the Department do its job and start adjudicating their borrower defenses immediately.

 

Where Was This Case Filed?

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

When Was This Case Filed?

This case was filed on Tuesday, June 25, 2019.

 

Why this case?

Over the past several decades, hundreds of thousands of students borrowed federal student loans to attend various for-profit colleges, including ITT Technical Institute, Corinthian Colleges, the Art Institutes, the New England Institute of Art, Salter College, Brooks Institute of Photography, and more. The schools falsely and deceptively promised students high-paying jobs, state-of-the-art vocational training, and long and fulfilling careers.

 

The law is clear: students who experienced fraud should not be required to pay back federal loans that should never have been made by the Department in the first place. Since Betsy DeVos continues to ignore these students’ legal rights, the only way they can have their voices heard is through the courts.

 

This lawsuit builds on past legal efforts to hold this administration accountable and protect students through court action. In the case of Williams v DeVos, students fought back against having their tax refunds stolen by the Department of Education, and won. In the case of Calvillo Manriquez v DeVos, students stopped the Department from using its illegal partial denial rule. And in Bauer v DeVos, a judge told the Department  of Education that it must implement the 2016 Borrower Defense rule.

Supporting Statements

To read statements in support of our case, click below.

Student Testimony

To read testimony submitted by defrauded former for-profit college students, click below.

“This has put my whole life on hold. I can’t sign for home, a car, anything because I don’t know what’s going to happen to this debt. It’s extremely stressful and impacts my whole family. It’s beyond disappointing. The Department of Education did nothing to stop these schools from doing this in the first place and now they are ignoring those of us who were cheated on their watch."

Jessica Jacobson, former NEIA student

"Students defrauded by for-profit colleges should not face financial ruin armed with only a hollow degree blessed by a passive Education Department. If Secretary DeVos believes there’s no urgency in granting these students the relief they are entitled to, then our legal system must fill the void. Every single day that this financial burden rests on students’ shoulders is another day of justice deferred."

Congressman Joe Kennedy III

Case Updates

For-Profit College Students File Lawsuit to Force Betsy DeVos to Follow the Law and Cancel their Student Loan Debt | Press Release

Today, 158,110 defrauded former for-profit college students filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos seeking to force the agency to follow existing law and issue the debt relief to which the former students are entitled.

My Student Loan Truth: Theresa’s Brooks Institute Story | Blog

When Theresa graduated from the Brooks Institute in 2006, she never imagined that she would find herself suing the U.S. Department of Education years later over her student loan debt. This is her story.

In Less than 24 Hours, More than 200 Students Submit Testimony In Lawsuit Against DeVos & Department of Education | Press Release

In less than 24 hours, more than 200 former students who were defrauded by abusive for-profit colleges and are seeking debt relief have already submitted testimony to be used as part of a new lawsuit filed yesterday.

Case Documents

Order Granting Sweet Class Certification

Order Granting Motion For Class Certification

Reply in Support of Class Certification

On October 1, 2019 the Plaintiffs filed a Reply in Support of the Motion for Class Certification.

Motion for Class Certification, Part 1

On July 23, 2019 Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, including almost 900 affidavits from class members.

Coverage

Lawsuit Accuses For-Profit Colleges of Deceptive Practices | Telegram

Growing up on a farm in Lunenburg, Jessica Jacobson dreamed of becoming the first in her family to go to college. She graduated from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg in 2002, and went on to get an associate degree in web design from Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner.

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So Deep in Student Debt, They’re Suing Betsy DeVos Over Delays in Loan Forgiveness | CBS News

Alicia Davis feels like she was scammed. As a student at Florida Metropolitan University from 2006 to 2008, she said she was told the cost of her online criminal justice program would be covered by Pell grants and scholarships. She was told her credits could be transferred to other schools. Graduating from the school, a subsidiary of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges, would lead to a job and a decent wage.

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At the US Education Department, Applications for Loan Forgiveness Languish | CNBC

When Morgan Marler’s 5-year-old daughter, Lilian, asks her why she doesn’t work anymore, Marler doesn’t know what to say. “I can’t explain debt to her,” Marler, 29, said. “And how I went to school and it was all for nothing.” Marler attended ITT Technical Institute, a now-shuttered for-profit school, between 2013 and 2016.

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