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Call for Help: Borrower Defense to Repayment at For-Profit Law Schools

As some of you may have heard or read, a preliminary settlement in the case of Sweet v. Cardona has created the possibility that many former students of predatory for-profit colleges and Universities will receive loan forgiveness from the Department of Education.  The list of schools for which former students may be eligible for relief includes four for-profit law schools: the three former InfiLaw schools (Florida Coastal School of Law, Charlotte School of Law and Arizona Summit Law School), all of which are now closed, and Western State University College of Law, which has changed ownership and is now Western State College of Law at Westcliff University.  (See list of other eligible schools here.)   (Full disclosure - I taught at Western State from 2005-2010. This is well before the period when Western State was alleged to have defrauded any students, and I am not aware of any malfeasance that occurred while I was there.)

 The Plaintiffs in the case had sued the Department of Education for failing to process or unfairly denying their borrower defense to repayment applications.  Under the settlement, students at these schools who were part of the class action will receive full relief from their federal loan indebtedness.  The settlement also allows borrowers who were not part of the class to file a borrower defense application seeking relief.  I am working with a group of Florida Coastal alumni and former students who are trying to get the word out to other alumni and former students (including those who did not graduate) about this program and encourage them to apply while they still can get favorable consideration (before the final settlement is approved by the Court).  Former students who took out federal loans to attend can apply for full or partial discharge of their loans and may also be eligible for refunds of amounts paid and credit repair services.  For those borrowers who are not already part of the class, their applications must explain how they were financially harmed by the school due to misrepresentations by the school.    These misrepresentations could relate to employment rates or prospects and earnings potential, institutional selectivity rates or rankings and admissions information, availability about or nature of financial assistance available, availability of educational resources, bar passage rates, or any other false, misleading or deceptive information that induced a student to enroll or stay at a school.

So where do The Faculty Lounge readers come in?  First, please help spread the word to potential beneficiaries of this program and encourage them to apply.  They have nothing to lose.  Apply here. Second, if you are a former faculty member or employee of any of these schools, or are otherwise personally aware of any misrepresentations, or fraudulent or deceptive practices engaged in by these schools, now would be the perfect time to come forward and share what you know, and potentially help students with mountains of debt.  The applicants may believe that they have been misled or deceived, but it is difficult to prove without direct evidence or independent corroboration.  There have been many efforts to sue InfiLaw Schools under various theories of fraud, but InfiLaw has been very successful at fending off these lawsuits before they ever got to the discovery stage, so there is very little hard evidence in the public domain that the applicants can use to bolster their applications.

I am assisting FCSL students pro bono in gathering this information, so if you have any useful insights you could share about how these schools used misleading information to recruit and retain students, please contact me at [email protected].  Your information will remain confidential unless you authorize the information to be shared.  If you have other suggestions or tips for applicants, please place them in the comments.  Thank you. 

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