With Brightwood College Closed, How Can I Get a Refund?
Another one bites the dust! On December 5th, 2018, Brightwood College announced that it would be closing campuses nationwide, leaving thousands of students wondering how they’d be able to finish their degree programs.
On Wednesday, 12/5/2018, Brightwood’s CEO emailed students to let them know their campuses would close down Friday, 12/7/2018, giving them just two days notice before the impending closure date, and leading to a great deal of stress, confusion and misery for students of the now-defunct school.
Students were not informed how to request transcripts, whether or not their credits would transfer to other schools, or what sorts of options they had for continuing on with their education and training programs, they were simply left in the lurch.
Fortunately, this post walks through your options for dealing with the aftermath of Brightwood’s closure, explaining exactly how you can get your Brightwood-related student loan debt discharged and completely forgiven.
The Closed School Loan Discharge Program
The good news here is that there is a path for getting your Brightwood-related debt discharged entirely, via the Closed School Student Loan Discharge Program.
This program was created to help borrowers in the situation you’re now faced with, when the school shuts down before you’ve been given the chance to finish your education program.
Fortunately, Closed School Discharges aren’t even all that difficult to apply for, and unlike controversial programs like the Borrower’s Defense to Repayment Program, are basically an automatic approval from the Department of Education, as long as you satisfy the eligibility requirements.
Let’s look at those requirements, so you can determine if you’ll be able to receive forgiveness on your Brightwood loans.
How to Qualify for a Closed School Student Loan Discharge
I cover the full details of the Closed School Student Loan Discharge program here, but the basic tenets are that as long as you were still enrolled in the school around the time it shut down, you may qualify for a complete debt discharge.
The specific requirements state that you qualify for forgiveness if your school closed under one of the following circumstances:
- The school shut down while you were still enrolled, and before you could complete your education program because of the closure
- The school shut down within 120 days after you withdrew from their education program, meaning you weren’t even an active student at the time of the closure
One other really interesting facet to the Closed School Discharge Program is that you can still qualify for it even if you were on a leave of absence from the school when it shut down, as the Federal Government still counts those on approved LOAs as being “enrolled”.
If you qualify for the Discharged under the conditions above, I would highly advise that you strongly consider pursuing it.
Why? Because transferring credits to another school (which may sound like a great idea, since you probably want to finish your program), sounds like a good idea, but oftentimes doesn’t work out, especially after a school like Brightwood closes because it’s Accreditation credentials were stripped!
Benefits to Closed School Discharges
The biggest reason to consider applying for the Closed School Discharge from Brightwood is that your student loans will be forgiven entirely, meaning that you won’t have to pay ANYTHING back that was borrowed for your attendance at the school.
Another big benefit to this specific Discharge program (as opposed to say a Borrower’s Defense to Repayment Discharge, or some of the other more traditional forms of Federal Student Loan Forgiveness), is that you don’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt!
Yet another huge positive note about the whole situation is that Closed School Student Loan Discharges are awarded automatically, without any sort of subjective review from the Department of Education. If you satisfy the conditions of the program, you get the discharge. End of story.
And finally, keep in mind that Closed School Discharges have already been awarded for tens of thousands of students attending other for-profit colleges who also shut their doors without warning, and there are several similar programs already on offer for much bigger schools than Brightwood, so there’s a great precedent for this program actually working the way it’s intended.
Conditions that Ruin Eligibility for Closed School Discharges
Unfortunately, even if you were enrolled at Brightwood when it shut down, there are several conditions that could prevent you from being approved for a Discharge, including:
- If Brightwood closed more than 120 days after you withdrew from its courses
- If you’ve already transferred your Brightwood credits to another school and are attending a similar education program there
- If you’ve completed all the coursework required to graduate from your Brightwood program, and simply haven’t received your official diploma or certificate of completion yet
Basically, if you were still in courses at Brightwood, or if you had withdrawn from them less than 3 months before the shutdown on December 7th, 2018, then you should qualify for the discharge.
The Downside to Closed School Discharges
The big downside to Closed School Discharges are that they require you to sacrifice all the time and effort you’ve put into your education program, since getting one requires you to give up hope of transferring your credits to another school.
And that can mean that you’ve basically just written off several YEARS worth of work put toward earning a college degree or other education credential, but for many students, this may still be worth sacrificing since the reality of the employment market these days is that most students have trouble paying back their student loans.
And that’ll be especially true if you were attending a program that doesn’t have a lot of demand for employees (like something in Social Studies), or which pays small salaries (like Social Studies).
If you were a STEM student, a Nursing student or studying some other high-demand field, then you might want to consider options for transferring credits and completing your program, but if you were studying something fluffy in the Social Sciences, then I’d highly advise reconsidering finishing that program, and looking into options for getting into trade programs or something else that won’t saddle you with huge debt, and may lead to a high-paying, or at least reliable employment.
What is the Closed School Discharge Application Process?
The process for applying for a Brightwood discharge is simple, as the Department of Education has refined it over the years whenever huge schools shut down, so you’ve got that going for you too!
All you need to do is contact your loan servicer to let them know what happened, and request that they start the process of issuing your Closed School Discharge.
It works like this:
- Your school shuts down, and you determine that you are eligible for a Closed School Discharge because you were still attending within 120 days of the closure
- You contact whoever services your loans, informing them that your school shut down and that you need to know what they require to process a Closed School Discharge application
- Your loan servicer provides you with the requisite paperwork, which you fill out and return to them for processing
- They process the paperwork, work with the Department of Education, and once it’s all complete, your Federal student loan debt is entirely forgiven
That’s literally all it takes to get your Brightwood loans discharged!
One thing to keep in mind here is that you need to keep issuing monthly payments until the discharge paperwork is finalized and it’s all done and settled.
While that sucks, you should be entitled to a refund for any money spent, so just consider it a temporary thing that’ll come back to you when the Discharge gets processed.
Look Into State Tuition Recovery Fund Refunds
In addition to eligibility for the Closed School Discharge Program, you may also be able to tap into something called “State Tuition Recovery Fund Refunds”, which are essentially a way that your state or residence pays you back for tuition and expenses that you incurred at the school.
To see if you’re eligible for these funds, you need to contact your state’s Postsecondary Education Agency, which is the group that oversees higher education in your state, managing accreditations, determining laws, monitoring compliance and enforcing regulations placed on the schools.
The fastest way to get your state’s contact info is to Google “YOURSTATE Postsecondary Education Agency”, and it should turn up right away.
Once you’ve figured out who they are, get in touch with them, explain the situation, and ask if you’re able to access State Tuition Recovery Funds.
What Other Options do I Have?
If you’re stuck with Brightwood debt, then don’t give up quite yet, because you may still be able to do something about the loans under one of the more traditional Federal Student Loan Relief Programs, or Private Student Loan Relief Options.
My website is chock-full of other suggestions for ways to deal with your Brightwood loans, and I would highly advise that you look into some of the detailed Guides I’ve written to walk you through taking advantage of the biggest and best financial relief programs for the type of loans you’ve got.
If you need help with Federal Student Loans, you’ll want to look at my Guides on:
- Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Federal Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharges
- Federal Student Loan Consolidation Programs
- Federal Student Loan Delinquency & Default Help
- Federal Student Loan Rehabilitation
- Stopping Federal Student Loan Wage Garnishments
- Federal Student Loan Deferment Programs
- Federal Student Loan Forbearance Programs
- Federal Student Loan Repayment Plans
- Federal Student Loan Grace Periods
And if you need help with Private Student Debt, you’ll want to look at my Guides on:
- Private Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Private Student Loan Consolidation Programs
- Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharges
- Private Student Loan Default Help
If you still have other questions about how to deal with your loans, or even if you just want to vent about Brightwood’s closure, then please feel free to post them in the Comments section below.
I review comments on a daily basis, and will do my best to get you a detailed response within 24 hours.
Where Can I Ask Other Questions?
Alternatively, you could try calling whoever services your loans to ask for detailed on Closed School Discharges, or other options they may offer, or you could even try calling the free Federal Student Aid Information Center at: 1-800-4-FED-AID.
Or, if you want to pay a company to deal with the process for you, then you could call my favorite Student Loan Relief Agency, called the the Student Loan Relief Helpline, at 1-888-906-3065.
You’ll have to pay several hundred dollars for their assistance, but they can review your case, figure out your best options for dealing with your debt, then start taking care of it all for you.
If you have trouble understanding what options will work best for you, then it may be worth paying someone like the Student Loan Relief Helpline for their expert advice.
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