Sweet v. DeVos

Information for Class Members

To learn if you are a member of the class, and to find out more information for class members, click the link below.

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

NEW DATA: 96% of Students Defrauded by For-Profit Colleges Report their Lives are Worse Now than Before they Went to School | Press Release

Nearly 900 Former For-Profit College Students Submitted Testimony Explaining the Harsh Impact of Federal Student Loan Debt on their Lives.

Student Loan Truth: Jessica’s Art Institute Story | Blog

I’m beyond disappointed about the fact that the government isn’t doing anything to stop these schools from defrauding students in the first place. The fact that there is no protection for a vulnerable 21 year old signing a loan for the first time and being taken advantage of isn’t fair or responsible. You shouldn’t need a lawyer to be able to go to college.

My Student Loan Truth: Lyndsie’s Art Institute Story | Blog

Lyndsie attended the Art Institute of California, where she was pressured into signing up for a design program and significant student loans. She soon realized that the school was a “joke” and her degree was worthless.

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

Seeking Answers on Loan Relief Claims | Inside Higher Ed

Lawyers for student borrowers have filed myriad lawsuits against Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education. They’ve successfully argued that the Education Department should be required to carry out a 2016 borrower defense rule. And they managed to block a plan to offer partial loan cancellation to former Corinthian College students who previously were approved for debt relief. Now those lawyers are aiming to force the department’s hand on a massive backlog of claims from borrowers who say they were misled by their colleges.

Read More

Student Loan Borrowers Who Say They Were Defrauded Sue Betsy DeVos for Failing to Cancel Their Debt | CNBC

More than 150,000 former students of for-profit colleges filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, claiming the agency is depriving them of the student debt relief to which they’re legally entitled.

Read More

Betsy DeVos Is Getting Sued Over Student Debt | Teen Vogue

When Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questioned then nominee for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a confirmation hearing in 2017, DeVos — often cited as the richest member of Donald Trump’s cabinet — seemed to have no personal experience with the federal student-loan application process. “Have you ever taken out a student loan from the federal government to help pay for college?” Warren asked DeVos, to which the billionaire replied, “I have not.”

Read More