Can I Get My Student Loans Forgiven Because I Was 15 or 16?

Question:

Dear Steve,

In 2015, I was 15/16 years old and went to two community colleges in Florida. Unfortunately, I did not graduate because my grandmother, whom I lived with (who supported me), got sick and died in 2019. At which point, I was homeless.

I am currently living in a halfway house. I was told the loans I was signing for would be paid by my father. However, when I tried going back to school, I found out that first, my loans were in default (I did not receive any notifications because I was homeless), and secondly that I even had loans at all.

Can I have the loans forgiven due to my circumstances?

I have the Loan Discharge Application: False Certification (Disqualifying Status) but do not know how to properly ask for loan forgiveness due to my above-stated circumstances.

Billy

Answer:

Dear Billy,

Being homeless and living in a halfway house makes dealing with financial issues difficult, if not impossible. However, that alone is not a reason for loan forgiveness.

Not doubt having your grandmother pass away really sucked. Damn.

When it comes to student loans, private lenders and the federal government are excited and willing to hand you money but resistant to eliminate the obligation when it becomes impossible.

I would suggest you check your current loan status by going to the National Students Loan Data System and confirm you are the responsible party and not your father.

The fact you were so young when you entered into a student loan agreement seems alarming. Generally, people younger than 18 can’t enter contracts. However, “Normally, a minor cannot be held liable for a contract that they sign. However, in 1992 the Higher Education Act was amended to permit eligible students, defined as per Title IV regulations, to sign promissory notes for their own Federal student loans. As such, student loans represent one of the few exceptions to the so-called “defense of infancy.” The specific citation is section 484A(b)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 USC 1091a(b)(2)) and applies to Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidation Loans. It does not appear to apply to Perkins and Direct Loans, although it was clearly the intent of Congress that it should.” – Source

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Your loans sound like federal loans, so that would apply if they are.

The federal law does say, “in collecting any obligation arising from a loan made under part B of this subchapter, a guaranty agency or the Secretary shall not be subject to a defense raised by any borrower based on a claim of infancy” so that is something new I just learned.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 does say to be eligible to borrow for a federal student loan; you need to be ” carrying at least one-half the normal full-time workload for the course of study that the student is pursuing, as determined by an eligible institution” and “enrolled in a course of study necessary for enrollment in a program leading to a degree or certificate.” – Source

This Court Opinion says, “Plaintiff contends that Defendant may not enforce the Note because Plaintiff was a minor at the time he signed the Note and therefore lacked the capacity to contract. See Woodman ex rel. Woodman v. Kera LLC, 486 Mich. 228, 236–37, 785 N.W.2d 1, 5 (2010). The HEA provides, however, that “[n]otwithstanding any provision of State law to the contrary . . . in collecting any obligation arising from a loan made under part D of this subchapter, an institution of higher education that has an agreement with the Secretary pursuant to section 1087cc(a) of this title shall not be subject to a defense raised by any borrower based on a claim of infancy.” 20 U.S.C. § 1091a(b)(3). Numerous courts have concluded that this provision expressly preempts state infancy defenses. See Chae v. SLM Corp., 593 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2010) (noting that § 1091a(b)(3) is one of several express preemption provisions); Coll. Loan Corp. v. SLM Corp., 396 F.3d 588, 596 n.5 (4th Cir. 2005) (§ 1091a(b) is one of several sections of the HEA that expressly preempts certain state law claims and defenses); Cliff v. Payco Gen. Am. Credits, Inc., 363 F.3d 1113, 1124–25 (11th Cir. 2004) (stating that the HEA is “riddled with isolated preemptive provisions,” one of which preempts state-law infancy defenses).”

“Plaintiff offers no authority to the contrary, and the Court finds no reason to disagree with these cases that the HEA preempts state-law infancy defenses to enforcement of federal student loans.”

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“Plaintiff’s final argument is not clear, but he appears to claim that he was not eligible for a student loan in the first instance, and therefore Defendant may not rely on the HEA to preempt Plaintiff’s state-law infancy defense. In particular, Plaintiff alleges that he lacks a high school diploma or the equivalent and, therefore, Defendant was required to administer a competency test to ensure that Plaintiff could benefit from the education he was offered. Plaintiff relies on Section 484(d) of the HEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1091(d), which provides that in the case of a student who lacks a high school certificate of graduation or the recognized equivalent of such, the student must demonstrate an ability to benefit from the education or training being offered by meeting one of four standards, one of which is an acceptable score on an “independently administered examination.” 20 U.S.C. § 1091(d)(1). As Defendant notes, however, a student may also demonstrate eligibility by showing that he “has completed a secondary school education in a home setting that is treated as a home school or private school under State law.” 20 U.S.C. § 1091(d)(3).2 To demonstrate compliance with this section, Defendant has submitted a copy of Plaintiff’s Home School Certificate, showing a Home School graduation date of August 15, 2003—one month before Plaintiff signed the Note. Thus, any claim by Plaintiff that he was ineligible for the loan in the first instance would be futile.”

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You could ask for consideration under a False Certification but the age issue appears it might not be a great argument. However, age is a box to check on the form, so fill out the form and submit it and see if it slides by or they deny it.

Post an update in the comments below and let me know what they say after getting your application.

Sincerly,
Steve

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

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