Update | Borrowers Raise Concern over Borrower Defense Denials

September 3, 2020

On August 31, 2020, the court overseeing the Sweet v. DeVos class action held a hearing on the Department of Education’s recent wave of borrower defense denials. The borrowers who brought the case had requested a hearing the week before.

At the hearing, the borrowers shared their concerns with the judge that the Department of Education is issuing blanket denials of borrower defenses, and that the borrower defense decision notices do not make sense and do not fairly inform people of the reason for the Department’s decision, and what evidence it considered. The judge agreed that the notices are hard to understand, saying he himself did not understand the notices the borrowers included in their request for hearing.

After hearing from both parties and asking questions, the judge ordered the Department of Education to file information about the denials by September 9, 2020. Specifically, of the borrower defense decisions issued since the Department re-started its decision-making process in December 2019:

  • How many decisions were denials, and how many granted relief?
  • Did any of the denials include more or clearer explanations of their reasons than the notices already submitted to the court?

The judge invited the borrowers to file another motion, more fully addressing problems with the denials. These issues will be discussed again at the “fairness hearing” (the hearing at which a court decides whether to approve a class action settlement) on October 1, 2020.

The judge also extended the deadline for both parties to respond to class members’ comments and objections on the settlement until September 17, 2020.

The Department of Education cannot use this settlement agreement as an excuse to refuse to consider the evidence submitted, or to refuse to explain its decisions on borrower defense applications. We will continue to fight with students until they receive the justice they are owed.