I Was Homeless, Mentally Ill, Disabled, and Desperate But They Enrolled Me


Dear Steve,

Under borrower defense to repayment rules, my student loans should evaporate, but collection agencies keep selling the account to each other, and they bother me always.

Why do I think borrower defense to repayment applies? The college recruiter and the head of the Financial Aid Department at Greenville College lied to me repeatedly regarding the paperwork they forced me to sign:

  • telling me that signing the paper was required to get accepted to the school,
  • that they had a 100% job-placement rate for people with my major,
  • that they had a position for me in their loan-forgiveness program, and
  • promising me that I would never have to pay a penny on any loans (I was adamant about not taking loans because I knew I could not pay them back; I never took out a loan for a car, either).
  • emphasizing that if I did not sign, I would have to go back to the freezing streets and probably die.

They took advantage of the fact that I was homeless, mentally ill, disabled, and desperate. It was winter in Central Illinois, and if I didn’t sign those papers to get into college and have somewhere indoors to live, I was going to freeze to death on the streets.

I had zero resources and nowhere to turn. They knew that I had no chance of repaying any loans. I couldn’t keep a job for more than a few months due to my physical and mental disabilities, so I couldn’t even earn money.

I discussed all of that with them and made it very clear that I could not repay any loans, so I didn’t want to take out any loans. They assured me that all I had to do was sign the papers to get in the door and out of the cold, and then the school would pay the loans via their funds and programs. They should do that.

How can I get protection under Borrower Defense to Repayment rules?

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How should I deal with the collection agencies that buy the account, harass me for a while, and then sell it to another agency once they realize that it is uncollectable? Can you help me make this go away forever?



Dear Jennifer,

Well, that was a terrible thing for the school to do to you. I wish I had a time machine to go back to the moment before you enrolled. I would use it.

It is not clear if these are federal loans or private student loans. If they are federal student loans you should go to the National Student Loan Data System and login. If your loans are listed there, they are federal. If they are not listed there, they are private.

Only federal loans are eligible for the Borrower Defense program. I’ve got my fingers crossed that under the Biden Administration; we can get back to some precise set of rules for the program. The Trump Administration did everything they could to gut the program.

For details on the Borrower Defense program, click here.

However, I think the Biden Administration Department of Education will need at least a few months to try and figure out the mess they inherited.

But please go and check to see if your loans are private or federal, and then come back and post an update for me in the comments section to this question. Once I know that I can give you more specific guidance.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

Steve Rhode
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