(NEXSTAR) – As Americans await a decision on widespread student loan forgiveness from the Biden administration, some have already been able to have some or all of their debt erased. Among those are roughly 690,000 borrowers that have had $7.9 billion in federal student loans canceled after attending schools that defrauded them.
Federal student loan borrowers who were misled by their school, or attended a school that engaged in misconduct may qualify for borrower defense to loan repayment, otherwise known as borrower defense. According to the Department of Education, this means some or all of your federal student loans would be forgiven.
While any borrower that believes they’ve met the criteria for forgiveness, the Education Department has already approved loan discharges for those who attended certain schools.
The Education Department’s most recent borrower defense discharge canceled $5.8 billion in loans for 560,000 borrowers that had attended Corinthian Colleges. All former students who attended any campus owned or operated by Corinthian Colleges Inc. since the company was founded in 1995 through its closure in 2015 are included in forgiveness.
Impacted borrowers will receive a letter from the Department of Education, if they haven’t already, with loan discharges expected in the coming months. If you are included in this group discharge, you won’t have to take any action to receive relief. Corinthian faced numerous investigations and lawsuits for defrauding students out of millions in federally backed loans.
In April, roughly 28,000 former students of Marinello Schools of Beauty had federal student loans amounting to $238 million discharged by the Education Department. Students who attended Marinello between 2009 and its closure in 2016 are included as, during those seven years, the school engaged in “pervasive and widespread misconduct.” According to the Education Department, Marinello students have struggled to pass state licensing tests. Class-action lawsuits have already been filed against Marinello in Nevada and California, accusing the school of using salons as profit centers and students as unpaid laborers.
Roughly 1,800 borrowers who attended DeVry University are expected to receive more than $71 million in loan discharge. In February, the Education Department revealed an investigation that found that between 2008 and 2015, DeVry misled prospective students with a national advertising campaign claiming that 90% of graduates got jobs in their field of study within six months of graduation. The actual number was about 58%.
Former students of Westwood College who attended between 2002 and its closure in 2015 – about 1,200 borrowers – will see $53.1 million in federal student loans discharged. Like DeVry, the Education Department found Westwood had “grossly inflated” its job placement rate, and didn’t follow through on a promise that if a graduate didn’t find a job within six months of graduating, they would receive help to pay their bills.
In total, the Education Department has approved about 4,100 claims for $130 million in loan discharge for students who attended Westwood. Other reviews of the school found that it misrepresented the ability for students to transfer credits and that criminal justice program students in Illinois would be able to find jobs as police officers.
Borrowers that attended the criminal justice programs at the Minnesota School of Business and Globe University have also been approved for borrower defense discharges. After a Minnesota judge found both schools misled students because the programs lacked certifications and accreditation for graduates to become police, parole, or probation officers in the state, the Education Department approved roughly $3 million in loan dicharges for 270 students. Another 921 students have received more than $23 million in relief as of January.
From July 2007 to its closure in 2016, the Education Department said ITT Technical Institute also misled prospective students about the school’s nursing program, which lacked the accreditation necessary for students to later get a nursing job. ITT had previously been found to have lied about employment prospects and ability to transfer credits and made false claims about employment to California students. In total, about $660 million in federal loans have been discharged for 23,000 that had attended ITT’s nursing program.
If you believe your school misled you or engaged in misconduct, you can apply for borrower defense with the Federal Student Aid office online. Borrower defense discharge will only apply to Direct Loans you have received, not any other loans from the federal government or private loans.
Last month, the Biden administration agreed as part of a lawsuit to erase roughly $6 billion for 264,000 borrowers who claim they were defrauded by their college and their applications for relief from the Department of Education were delayed for years. The proposed agreement still needs to be approved by a judge before debt relief can occur. Of those members, about 200,000 attended certain schools that the Education Department believes may have engaged in misconduct.
Alex Gangitano contributed to this report.