Seven borrower defense applicants sued the U.S. Department of Education because it did not issue a final decision on any borrower defense application from June 2018 until December 2019. The lawsuit ONLY challenges the Department’s refusal to make final decisions on borrower defense applications for over a year, NOT whether the Department must cancel the loans of any specific applicants.
The case is Sweet v. DeVos, No. 19-cv-3674, in the Northern District of California.
The seven people (“plaintiffs”) bringing the Sweet case all have pending borrower defense applications. They bring the case on behalf of every person who—like them—is waiting for the Department of Education to make a decision on their borrower defense application. On October 30, 2019, the judge agreed that the lawsuit could continue on behalf of a group of people (the “class”), defined as:
All people who borrowed a Direct Loan or FFEL loan to pay for a program of higher education, who have asserted a borrower defense to repayment to the U.S. Department of Education, whose borrower defense has not been granted or denied on the merits, and who is not a class member in Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos, No. 17-cv-7210 (N.D. Cal.).
If the student loan borrowers win, the Department of Education will have to make a decision on borrower defense claims in a reasonable amount of time. The case will not force the Department of Education to grant any claims. Additionally, this case does not involve damages, because damages are not available under the law invoked in this case.
Questions About Class Membership
Questions About the Case
Questions about Class Membership
1. Am I a member of the class? Do I need to do anything to be a class member?
If you submitted a borrower defense application and have not received a decision, or received a form denial in or after December 2019, you are a member of either the Sweet v. DeVos or the Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos lawsuits. You may have previously read on this website that the cut-off to be a member of the class was April 7, 2020, however recent developments in this case have made it such that all borrowers with pending applications (or denials after December 2020) are members of the class. You do not need to do anything to join these cases, you are a member if you fit the definition. You cannot opt out of the class.
You are a member of the class in Sweet v. DeVos if:
- You submitted a borrower defense application about any school and have not received a decision, or received a form denial in or after December 2020, and
- You are not a class member in Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos (see below—only certain borrowers who attended Corinthian, Heald, Everest, and Wyotech schools are class members in this case).
You are a member of the class in Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos if:
- You have a pending borrower defense application, and
- You borrowed to attend specific programs at Heald College, Everest Institute, and WyoTech campuses during specific periods of time. You can determine whether your campus, program, and dates are included in this class using this tool.
If you are a member of the class in either case, you don’t need to sign up or join—you are a member because you meet the definition.
If you’re not sure whether you submitted a borrower defense application, call the Department of Education’s Borrower Defense Hotline at 1-855-279-6207 between 8 AM and 8 PM eastern time.
2. I don’t see my school listed. Am I still a class member?
The Sweet v. DeVos case includes students from all schools who submitted a borrower defense. If you meet the conditions above, you are a member of the class. You do not need to do anything further.
3. What does it mean to be a class member?
If you are a class member in this lawsuit, your rights can be affected by the outcome even if you do not participate directly in the case. The lawsuit can help you get a faster decision on your borrower defense application.
This case does not stop you from challenging the Department’s decision on your borrower defense application.
4. How can I check whether I submitted a Borrower Defense? How can I check the current status of my Borrower Defense?
Call the Department of Education’s Borrower Defense Hotline at 1-855-279-6207 between 8AM and 8PM eastern time.
5. How can I tell if I have federal student loans?
If you are not sure if you have Federal Student Loans, you can look up this information at the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) website or by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID. There is also a separate section of the Department’s web site on servicing and collections.
You can follow these steps to get a copy of your NSLDS loan summary information:
1. Go to the Federal Student Aid Website: studentaid.gov
2. Click “Log In”
3. You are now on the Login page. Input your FSA ID Username and Password and then click Log In.
4. If you have an FSA ID, skip to step number 6. If you do not have a FSA ID, click create an account.
5. You are now on the Create an FSA ID page. Fill out the form and click Continue. This will take you through a series of steps to set up the security of your profile.
6. Once you have accessed your account, you will be directed to the Account Dashboard page.
7. You will see “My Aid” to the left above the blue and green circle(s) with your loan and/or grant amounts. Click “View Details” to right of the circles.
8. You will now be at the “Aid Summary” screen.
- Scroll toward the bottom of the “Aid Summary” page to “Loan Types”
- Expand each Loan Type to see how many and what kind of loans you have.
Questions about the Case
6. Where can I see the case documents?
Important filings, including the complaint and the order certifying the class, are posted on our case document page.
7. Has the court decided who is right?
No. The case is ongoing. Class members will receive a notice about the outcome of the case, and we will post updates here.
8. What will happen next?
The students have asked the court to order the Department of Education to present borrower defense applicants with reasoned decisions on the merits. In many cases, borrowers have been waiting for years for their decisions. The students recently also asked the Court to issue a preliminary injunction stopping the Department of Education from issuing any denials, and making sure applicants’ loans are in forbearance, until the Court has decided the merits of the case.
9. Does this case affect my private student loans?
No. This case is only about the Department of Education’s failure to decide federal borrower defense applications.
10. When will this case be decided?
We do not know—litigation can take a long time. We will post updates on this website. You will also receive a notice via email or postal mail when the case ends.
11. How can I help in this lawsuit?
Right now, we do not need additional information from class members. However, please bookmark this page—when we do need your help, we will post updates here.
12. Can the Department of Education decide borrower defenses even as this case is ongoing?
Students have asked for the Court to enjoin the Department of Defense from issuing denials until the Court has decided the case on the merits. And the Department of Education, as of October 30, 2020, has said they will stop issuing denials until the case concludes.
13. If students win this case, will the Department of Education give me money?
No. If students win, the court will order the Department to make decisions on borrower defense applications.
14. If students win in this case, will the Department of Education grant my borrower defense?
No, not necessarily. This case is only about the Department’s failure to issue decisions: it will not determine which borrower defense applications are granted or denied.
15. Who are the lawyers representing the class? How can I contact them?
The class is represented by two non-profit legal services organizations that provide free legal services, the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Housing & Economic Rights Advocates.
16. How can I contact the attorneys representing the class?
You should complete the form below. If you cannot fill out the form, you may call 617-390-2574, but please be advised that we may not be able to respond quickly.
Please note, we cannot provide individual legal advice. We receive a large number of calls and emails, and our response may be delayed.
17. Will interest accrue while my loan is in administrative forbearance and my borrower defense is pending?
Please see the Borrower Defense FAQ Question 5.
18. Do I need to continue making payments on my loans while this case is ongoing?
Please see the Borrower Defense FAQ Question 3 for information about payment options while your borrower defense is pending.
Questions about Loans and Borrower Defenses
We do not have information about what the Department of Education is doing with individual borrower defense applications or what is going on with your loans. For all questions about the individual status of your borrower defense, you should call the Department of Education’s Borrower Defense Hotline to ask about the status of your application at 1-855-279-6207 between 8 AM and 8 PM eastern time.
Our Borrower Defense FAQ provides information about what to do while you are waiting for a borrower defense decision, credit reporting, repayment options, and more.
If you have questions that are not answered by this webpage or by our Borrower Defense FAQ webpage please use the form below. Please note, we can only respond to questions about this case and will not respond to requests for individual legal or repayment advice. We receive a large number of calls and emails, and our response may be delayed.