Some 200,000 students who claim they were defrauded by educational institutions in the United States are set to have their student loans canceled after the Biden administration this week settled a $6 billion class-action lawsuit.
The 2019 lawsuit against the Department of Education made by seven plaintiffs on behalf of student loan borrowers asked for loan cancellation, also known as borrower defense applications. The claims were allegedly ignored by both the Trump and the Biden administrations.
According to the lawsuit, the department sent out tens of thousands of rejection letters to borrower defense claimants in 2020, in which many former students were denied relief due to a "lack of evidence" according to the lawsuit.
Students in the lawsuit had attended various for-profit colleges, including ITT Technical Institute, Corinthian Colleges, The Art Institutes, the New England Institute of Art, Salter College, Brooks Institute of Photography, and more.
They claimed that they were defrauded by their institutions which had falsely promised students "high-paying jobs, state-of-the-art vocational training, and fulfilling careers" and that the department should discharge their student loans because of alleged misconduct, according to the lawsuit.
Automatic CancelationSpecifically, the settlement states that the department will immediately approve the borrower defense applications of approximately 200,000 individuals who took out federal student loans to attend certain schools, meaning those students will automatically see their loans completely canceled and will receive refunds for loan payments previously made, and have their credit repaired.
A second group of approximately 64,000 students who took out federal student loans but did not attend a school on the list included in the settlement will have their loan cancellation applications considered within "rolling deadlines" and get a decision based on how long their application has been pending.
Those applications will be reviewed using a "streamlined" process that is "favorable to borrowers" and students will be able to revise and resubmit their applications if they are not approved under the initial review.
If the department fails to meet any of the deadlines included in the settlement agreement, the affected individual will automatically receive a full settlement relief, according to the settlement.
The department said in the proposed settlement it determined that attendance at the schools "justifies presumptive relief, for purposes of this settlement, based on strong indicia regarding substantial misconduct by listed schools, whether credibly, alleged, or in some instances proven, and the high rate of class members with applications related to the listed schools."
'Cheated And Ignored'Student loan debt in the United States totals $1.762 trillion, according to educationdata.org, and around 43 million Americans have federal student loan debt. The average American with a federal student loan has a debt balance of $37,014.
"It will not only help secure billions of dollars in debt cancellation for defrauded students, but charts a borrower defense process that is fair, just, and efficient for future borrowers," Connor added.
Wednesday's settlement comes as President Joe Biden continues to consider canceling hundreds of millions of dollars of federal student loan debt across the country, having promised during his 2020 presidential campaign that he would cancel $10,000 debt for each borrower.
Biden previously approved $25 billion in student debt forgiveness for about 1.3 million borrowers.
However, with inflation at 40-year-highs in the United States, some experts are concerned that such a mass cancellation of student debt could further harm the economy.