How to Get Student Loan Forgiveness via a Borrower Defense to Repayment Discharge

This page will walk you through the entire BDAR process, covering all the basics about the program, and going into details about figuring out whether or not you may be eligible for a discharge, as well as giving you tips and advice on how to set up your application to increase the odds that it’ll be approved.

NEWS ALERT: On Thursday, December 13th, the Department of Education announced that they’ll be approving $150,000,000 in debt discharges via the BDAR program. This announcement is the direct response to a Federal Judge ruling from October 16th, 2018, which said that DOE must immediately terminate all delays in BDAR approvals.

According to CNN, about half of the money will be used to discharge Corinthian Colleges loans (debt from Everest, WyoTech & Heald Colleges), and the Department of Education will begin emailing borrowers on December 14th to notify them that their debts will be cancelled within 30-90 days.

This is a great sign that positive progress is being made on Federal Student Loan Relief and it’s a great indication that we’re headed back the right direction again. If you’re still hesitating to submit a BDAR application because you’ve been worried it won’t get approved, I’d highly suggest that you get the paperwork submitted immediately!

The rest of this page walks you through the Borrower’s Defense Program, explaining what it is, why it was created, how it works, and how to increase the chances of having your application approved.

What is the Borrower’s Defense Against Repayment Program?

In 2019, the Borrowers Defense Program is the fastest, easiest and best way to get rid of your outstanding student loan debt, because it allows you to challenge the legal validity of your loans.

Rooted in the “Defense Against Repayment” provision buried within the U.S. Higher Education Act of 1965, BDAR states that the Department of Education is authorized to allow students to get out of paying back their student loans if they can prove that they faced “acts or omissions of an institute of higher education” that were illegal in some way.

Through Borrower’s Defense, you can qualify for a complete loan discharge if you can prove that your loans shouldn’t exist in the first place because they were created based on lies, deceptions, or some kind of outright illegal activity (like false advertising, or fraud).

This post will teach you how to use the Borrower’s Defense to Repayment Program to wipe out your Federal student loans without paying for them, but first, let me make a suggestion: if you’re having trouble understanding Borrower’s Defense, or if you’re worried about making a mistake on your application form, then I recommend that you call the Federal Government’s Official Borrower’s Defense Hotline at 1-855-279-6207.

The Hotline is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, and can answer any questions you have about the BDAR Program, including checking on the status of your application. There is no cost to call and this is the official hotline from the Federal Government, so you can trust that it’s not some kind of scam or any sort of paid service that’ll seek to charge you for their assistance.

Borrowers Defense Only Works Against Corrupt Schools and Servicers

Unfortunately, BDAR Discharges aren’t available to anyone, but are only accessible to people who have been screwed over by institutions who acted illegally in some way.

The good news is that if you can prove that you’ve had fraud committed against you, then a BDAR Discharge is a great way to get out of paying back your loans.

And while most Americans have never heard of this excellent opportunity to receive complete forgiveness from excessive student loan debt, people have finally started waking up to the possibility.

Why? Because of all the media attention coming from massive lawsuits currently hitting schools like the University of Phoenix, DeVry, Kaplan, ITT Tech, Corinthian Colleges, and several other For-Profit organizations that preyed on unsuspecting students, loading them up with huge levels of debt for sub-par educational services.

So How Does Borrower’s Defense Actually Work?

If your school ever lied to you about anything, like overstating your job prospects, promising you salary expectations, or guaranteeing you management positions, then you can petition the Federal Government to invalidate your student loans, and discharge them entirely.

This works for any sort of violation of State or Federal laws that the school may have committed, but it also applies to student loan servicing companies (in some cases), where you’re able to get Federal Student Loan Forgiveness because the servicer lied to you, didn’t give you the right information, made some false promise, or cheated you in some way.

The Navient Student Loan Forgiveness Program is a great example of this sort of thing, where Navient failed to properly support their borrowers, and is now being sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Bottom line: while we wait for President Trump’s Student Loan Reforms to be announced, your best bet at getting your Federal loans discharged, reduced, or in some other way dealt with is to pursue a Borrowers Defense Against Repayment discharge.

What is the BDAR Process?

It’s important that you fully understand how the defense to repayment provision works, because getting approval for a defense to repayment discharge requires making a sophisticated legal argument that your school violated the law in some way, essentially tricking you into taking on student loan debt due to their false promises that it would be worth the cost.

Receiving approval for a defense against repayment argument involves collecting evidence and presenting the Department of Education with proof “that the school did something wrong or failed to do something that it should have done”, which is provided in the form of the Borrowers Defense Against Repayment letter.

Importantly, this law also stipulates that you may only rely on the defense against repayment argument if the school’s act or omission was directly related to your loans, or to the educational services that the loan was intended to pay for, and if what the school did (or didn’t do) would be considered a violation of state law.

That means you can’t accuse the school of doing something illegal, and get your loans discharged, if their illegal behavior had no impact on your decision to take out student loans to pay for their services.

What Kinds of Things Constitute Being Defrauded?

What sorts of things can you use as examples of having been defrauded by your school? I’m glad you asked!

Let’s say your school told you that you’d be able to earn an income of $XX.XX per hour, or $XX,XXX per year after graduating from their program – there’s your argument that they defrauded you!

Or what if your school promised that completing their graduate program would let you land that coveted management position you’ve had your eyes on for so many years? There’s your argument!

In a nutshell, any promise of earning potential, job placement rates, or work title could land your school in hot water, allowing you to qualify for a defense to repayment discharge.

How Can I File for a Defense Against Repayment Discharge?

When this program was first initiated, the application process was terrible, because it requires you to submit information to your student loan servicer, giving them the call on whether or not your loans would be forgiven (and costing them money!).

Fortunately, the rules have been updated to remove the servicer from as much of the approvals process as possible, and you now have two options for submitting a Borrower’s Defense Application Form: either doing it online, via the official Federal Government website, or by printing out all the forms, filling them out, and mailing them in.

If you want to submit your application online, go here.

If you want to print the paperwork and submit it via snail mail, go here.

Is it Easy to Get an Application Approved?

In a word, no, it isn’t, and it could even take several YEARS before you find out if your application is approved or denied.

While the good news is that it is possible to qualify for a discharge under the defense against repayment provision, the bad news is that it’s not an easy process.

However, at least the Department of Education has caught up with the times, and now you can find a Borrowers Defense Against Repayment form available directly from their website, here.

This has made the process much easier than it was before when only a loose set of guidelines were provided, and people had to figure out what to include, how to structure their letters, and everything else about them entirely on their own, so if you haven’t yet filled out one of these letters, now is definitely the time to get started.

How to Write a Defense To Repayment Letter

As I mentioned earlier in this post, what you’ll need to do is prove that your school committed some sort of fraudulent activity by either doing something, or failing to do something, which influenced your decision to enroll in their education program, but which also violated applicable state law.

If your school convinced you to sign up for their expensive program because they made promises about your ability to pay back the loan (either by inflating job placement rates, salary statistics, or some other similar data), then you’ll have a pretty good shot at qualifying for a defense against repayment discharge.

Make sure you include as much detail as possible (relevant detail), in your application letter and provide specific details about how you were lied to, what you were promised, told, or not told about, to clearly explain why you believe the school violated some law.

Things to Include in Your Repayment Letter

In your defense against repayment letter, I would encourage you to include detailed explanations of each of the following things:

  • A written statement saying that you “Wish to assert a borrower defense to repayment based on state law”
  • Your first, middle and last name (use your official legal name)
  • Your date of birth
  • Your home address
  • Your email address
  • Your telephone number
  • The last four digits of your Social Security number
  • The name and address of the school you attended
  • The name of the certificate or degree program you earned, or were seeking to complete (both people who completed their programs, and people who didn’t, are eligible for a defense to repayment discharge)
  • The dates you were enrolled at the school
  • Documentation to prove that you were enrolled in the school, for the program you specified (use your transcripts or registration docs for this)
  • A detailed explanation of how your school defrauded you, including a description of which state law or cause of action your school violated, an explanation of how their alleged misconduct affected your decision to attend the school (and take out loans to pay for the program), and the damage you’ve suffered (likely an explanation of your ruined finances) as a result of the school’s alleged behavior

Sounds Simple, Right?

If you think that the above list of requirements seems simple, please read through them again to be sure that you fully understand what you’re being asked to provide.

This is not a simple yes/no type application, or even a basic multiple-choice type form. You’ve literally got to prove the fact that you were defrauded (lied to in some way), and screwed over by your school.

For most people, that’s not an easy argument to make, so if you aren’t a great writer, then I’d advise you consult with an attorney for assistance to ensure that your application is rock-solid.

I haven’t run into anything explaining how the appeals process will work for defense to repayment applications, and I’m not yet sure if you’ll even be offered a second round chance at getting an approval once your initial application is submitted and denied.

What’s that mean? It means you’ve got a lot to lose by screwing this up, and that you should probably pay a lawyer to review whatever you put together to ensure that you haven’t made any mistakes.

What Should I Do?

Here’s what I’m telling all my friends and family members facing a similar situation to your own: “Please hire a lawyer or a debt resolution company, consult with them on how best to proceed, and don’t do anything without first spending some serious time investigating this important opportunity.”

Jumping into the defense against repayment pool without first testing the waters by researching the opportunity in detail is likely to lead to disappointment, and potential financial ruin.

Be careful about how you proceed with your application, as no one really knows how all of this is going to shake out. Will it be easy to get approval for your application, or will DOE place ridiculous restrictions on handing out these forgiveness benefits?

Honestly, only very few of the Borrowers Defense to Repayment applications are being approved so far, so I’m still not entirely sure if this is a great debt forgiveness program, or a niche opportunity that only a few people will get to take advantage of.

While You Wait for a Response, Make Sure to Keep Sending Monthly Payments

One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t simply give up on paying back your student loans at the time you submit your defense against repayment application.

While the Department of Education WILL place your student loans into forbearance from the very moment that they receive your application, those loans will continue to generate interest even as they’re paused and DOE works on investigating your claim.

What’s that mean? You need to keep making your monthly payments until you’ve received an official, written notice from the Department of Education that your loans are being discharged. Up until that point, don’t neglect to send in that monthly check, or you might end up in even worse financial shape than when you started down the discharge path!

Get Your Borrower’s Defense Applications in Now!

Not only are my readers reporting that it can take over a year to hear back from the Federal Government on submitted Borrower’s Defense Claims, but we’re now also facing an imminent threat of getting the program shut down completely.

I recommend getting your Borrower’s Defense to Repayment application form submitted as soon as possible, because President Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is actively trying to destroy the Borrower’s Defense Against Repayment Program, just like she tried to kill off the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

In July of 2017, Secretary DeVos attempted to “freeze” the Borrower’s Defense Against Repayment Discharge Program, claiming that the rules created “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools”, but we all know that this is a complete lie, as the process is extremely straightforward.

What Betsy DeVos is really trying to do here is to protect her friends and family members who work for corrupt For-Profit Schools and literally evil Student Loan Servicing Companies who stand to lose billions of dollars when all of these immoral student loans end up getting discharged.

Summer, 2018: Betsy DeVos’s Latest Attacks Against BDAR

On July 25th, 2018, Betsy DeVos’s Department renewed her attack on the Borrower’s Defense Program, releasing new proposed regulations that seek to make things even harder for borrowers.

Under the new standards, qualifying for an approved BDAR discharge will require that borrower’s prove the school or lender did something illegal with “known falsity, intent to deceive, or reckless disregard for the truth” (current rules don’t require a “known falsity”, a purposeful deception, or reckless disregard of the truth; all we need is illegal or fraudulent activity).

Furthermore, the new proposed standards want to make any group claims (like class action lawsuits) illegal, and to change “institutional financial responsibility standards”, basically making it even more difficult to find the schools, lenders and servicing companies guilty of any wrongdoing.

Finally, per Forbes, the new rules clearly state that borrowers will no longer be allowed to pursue a borrower’s defense claim unless they have already defaulted on their loans, which is a massive change to the current system that allows a claim to be made at any time.

Please Sign My Petition to Protect BDAR from Betsy DeVos!

Honestly, there’s never been a bigger threat to Borrower’s Defense, and it’s imperative that you write your congressional representative, senator, and anyone else you can contact to lodge your complaint about Secretary DeVos’s plan.

If Betsy DeVos gets her way, she will effectively kill off every facet of the Borrower’s Defense Program that’s actually helping people, preventing anyone from ever receiving another BDAR discharge, and ensuring that the for-profit schools and hedge fund bankers she represents get to keep collecting money from impoverished Americans.

Please help to protect this vital loan forgiveness program by signing my petition to protect Borrower’s Defense to Repayment here:

Borrower’s Defense Forgiveness & Taxable Income Laws

One thing you need to keep in mind about getting a Borrower’s Defense Discharge is that the eventual student loan forgiveness benefit you receive WILL have to be counted as taxable income on your IRS filings the year that you receive it.

And that’s a big deal, because it could mean you’ll end up with a much higher tax bill than you were expecting to face.

For specific details on how forgiveness and taxes work, please visit my page about Student Loan Forgiveness Benefits and Taxable Income Laws, but for now, here’s a quick example to give you an idea of what will happen:

Let’s say your Borrower’s Defense Application is approved, and you get $10,000 in student loans forgiven. The year you have that debt forgiven, you’ll now have to list that $10,000 as taxable income on your IRS tax return, meaning you’ll have to claim that $10,000 as income, and you’ll owe income taxes on it.

If you’re paying 25% income taxes, you’d now owe an additional $2,500 to the IRS (on top of whatever else you have to pay for the year).

And this is a big deal, because most student loan borrowers who need a Borrowers Defense Discharge aren’t swimming in money; they’re typically buried in debt!

The Coming Student Loan Forgiveness Taxpocalypse

Most people who talk about student loan forgiveness benefits and even the Borrower’s Defense to Repayment Program fail to mention this important part of the process, perhaps because it’s uncomfortable, but the reality is that a lot of people are going to end up with fewer student loan debt, but way more IRS tax debt.

And that’s precisely why I’ve created a new website called Forget Tax Debt, which offers the same kind of advice I provide readers here about student loans, except that it’s entirely focused on getting rid of IRS tax debt that you’ve racked up.

If you have any tax-related problems, you’ll definitely want to check out Forget Tax Debt, where I go through all sorts of complicated tax programs in extreme detail, offering advice on things like How to Apply to the IRS Fresh Start Program, How to File and Pay IRS Back Taxes, and How to Qualify for Tax Debt Forgiveness or an IRS Tax Debt Settlement.

Why Did Borrowers Defense Become Popular all of the Sudden?

It’s kind of funny that this little legal provision from way back in 1965 is only now starting to receive so much attention, but that’s happening for one very good reason.

The now defunct Corinthian Colleges, notorious day-time advertiser and parent company of the largest for-profit schools chain in the United States, home to Everest, Heald and WyoTech, is the reason for this provision’s newfound popularity.

When Corinthian collapsed under the weight of its own corruption (and the added pressure placed on it by a series of Federal investigations for fraud and deceptive business practices), a huge portion of it’s thousands of students found themselves between a rock and a hard place.

These were students who had racked up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, but who now had zero chance of receiving a diploma that would help them to land jobs capable of providing income streams to pay that debt back.

These were students who had sunk thousands of hours, and tens of thousands of dollars, into education programs that would never lead to degrees of any sort.

But these students decided to do something about their unique situation, and they accomplished something that no previous generation of debt-saddled college kids had managed to accomplish: they went on strike, publicly swearing to refuse to pay back their debt, and the media covered their efforts!

The Birth of the Student Loan Debt Strikers

Initially called The Corinthian 15, this group of student loan strikers received a tremendous amount of media attention, raising enough awareness for their problem that the entire country began to take notice of what was going on, and earning enough sympathy to get a federal hearing scheduled with the Department of Education.

Fortunately, DOE sided with the debt strikers, and on June 8th, 2015, announced that they would support the tens of thousands of students caught up in the collapse of Corinthian Colleges.

But the best part of the whole deal was that the Department of Education was serious about their promise to help those now saddled with excessive student loan debt, as they publicly affirmed that those students would be able to qualify for a comprehensive student loan forgiveness program, governed by the old 1965 defense against repayment provision.

Forgiveness Expands Outside the Corinthian System

The great news for those of you who did not attend a Corinthian-affiliated school is that it’s not the only case under which defense against repayment may be invoked.

In fact, the Department of Education itself made clear that other schools (especially those operating in the for-profit sector), would also be covered under the conditions of the provision.

Along those lines, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went to the mat on behalf of begrudged students by filing a lawsuit against the for-profit ITT schools, stating that ITT has “exploited its students and pushed them into high-cost private student loans that were very likely to end in default.”

And that’s serious business, because while you may not know anyone who attended an ITT school, this massive for-profit educator enrolls about 70,000 students per year (far more than most of the big schools you ARE familiar with).

That single suit seems to have opened the floodgates for others seeking to qualify under the defense to repayment provision, encouraging millions of other students who now feel like it may be possible to get out of paying back their student loans.

For Questions About the BDAR System

If this all seems confusing to you, then I’ve got one final piece of good news – the Federal Government created a helpline dedicated to questions about the defense to repayment provision, and you can call it right now to get some free advice on your unique situation.

For any questions that you might have which you don’t want to ask in the comments section below, please feel free to call the Government’s official Borrower Defense Hotline at (855) 279-6207.

This hotline has representatives available to walk you through the defense to repayment process on weekdays from 8:00am to 8:00pm EST.

For General Questions About Student Loan Debt

If you have other questions about student loans, then the good news is that I’m here to help, and that my website probably has a Guide dedicated to whatever you’re trying to figure out.

If you need Relief from Federal Student Loans, you’ll want to review my Guides on Federal Student Loan Forgiveness BenefitsFederal Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharges, Federal Student Loan Delinquency & Default, The Federal Student Loan Rehabilitation Program, and my Guide to Stopping a Federal Student Loan Wage Garnishment.

And if you need Help with Private Student Loans, I would highly advise reviewing my pages on Private Student Loan Forgiveness OptionsPrivate Student Loan Consolidation Programs, Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharges and Private Student Loan Default Help.

If you can’t find your answers on those pages, and you don’t want to call the Government helpline, then please feel free to ask anything you’d like in the comments section below.

I’ll do my best to get you a response within a day or two.

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Disclaimer:Information obtained from Forget Student Loan Debt is for educational purposes only. You should consult a licensed financial professional before making any financial decisions. This site receives some compensation through affiliate relationships. This site is not endorsed or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education.


Tim's experience struggling with crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on paying off student loans as quickly, and cheaply, as possible. His new website Forget Tax Debt, offers similar advice to people with back tax problems.