Seven borrower defense applicants sued the U.S. Department of Education because it has not issued a final decision on any borrower defense application since June 2018. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Questions About Class Membership
Questions About the Case
Questions about Loans and Borrower Defenses
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, you are automatically a member of either the Sweet v. DeVos or the Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos lawsuits. You do not need to do anything to join these cases.
You are a member of the class in Sweet v. DeVos if:
- You have a pending borrower defense application (about any school), 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 determination 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?
Log in to the National Student Loan Data System at https://nslds.ed.gov/ and click on MyStudentLoan Data (at the bottom of the page). Any loans listed in that system are federal student loans; all of your federal student loans should appear in that system.
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.
8. What will happen next?
The students have asked the court to order the Department of Education to grant or deny all pending borrower defense applications within a set period of time. The Department of Education denies the students are entitled to this relief.
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.
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?
Yes. The Department can decide borrower defense applications at any time.
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?
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.
QUESTIONS ABOUT LOANS AND BORROWER DEFENSES
17. Can you tell me what the Department of Education is doing with my Borrower Defense?
No. We do not have information about what the Department of Education is doing with each individual 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.
18. Will the payment status of my federal student loans change while my borrower defense application is pending?
No—it should not. If your loans were not defaulted when you applied for borrower defense, they should stay in forbearance unless you asked to continue making payments. Your loans should stay in forbearance while your borrower defense application is pending, and should not go into default.
If your federal student loans were in default when you applied for borrower defense, the Department of Education should stop collecting and attempting to collect money from you. This is called a stopped collections status, and it should continue while your borrower defense application is pending.
For information on what to do if your loans do go into default even though you have submitted a Borrower Defense, please contact us using the form below.
19. Can you tell me what my best loan repayment options are?
Repayment decisions depend on an individual’s circumstances. For more information on loan repayment and cancellation options, please visit the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance website at https://www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org/ and the Department of Education’s website.
For information about your options while you wait for your borrower defense to be decided and options after the Department of Education has issued a decision, please see our Borrower Defense Decision FAQ.
20. What happens if the Department of Education denies my borrower defense application?
If the Department denies your borrower defense application, you have the right to challenge the Department’s decision. You would do this by bringing a separate lawsuit challenging the denial of your application.
Our Borrower Defense Decision FAQ has more information about what to do after receiving a decision from the Department of Education.
To learn more about your options while you wait for the Department of Education to decide and to learn more about what you can do after the Department of Education decides, please see our Borrower Defense Decision FAQ.