Loan forgiveness for University of Phoenix students: A complete guide

Getting your student loans forgiven can be a huge relief. But for many graduates of the University of Phoenix, it may seem impossible. The for-profit school has faced many legal issues over predatory lending and misleading marketing. And its loans and accreditation make forgiveness programs hard to access.

Despite this, options exist. With the right approach, University of Phoenix students may get partial or full discharges. This guide will explain the best ways to tackle your Phoenix loans. We’ll also look at recent lawsuits that may expand forgiveness access.

Let’s start with an overview of the problem:

The University of Phoenix has faced frequent accusations of predatory practices. Critics say it pushes overpriced degrees with poor job prospects. It also targets veterans and minorities with deceptive ads. And it makes earning a degree overly difficult.

Many students have felt cheated by their Phoenix education. They’re stuck repaying expensive loans for degrees employers don’t value. This crisis peaked from 2008 to 2010 when Phoenix enrollment surged. But even today, thousands graduate each year with massive debts.

This issue is now getting legal attention. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued the University of Phoenix parent company. It cited unethical recruiting and advertising. And in 2020, a $191 million settlement was approved in a class action suit. It accused Phoenix of preying on veterans to maximize GI Bill funds.

These lawsuits may lead to expanded forgiveness options down the road. For now, discharged loans are still rare for Phoenix graduates. Getting aid requires fitting into special niches. Below, we’ll explore the main ways students are finding relief.

Federal student loan forgiveness for University of Phoenix students:

  • Yes, for some students who went to school between September 21, 2012, and December 31, 2014. The Biden administration approved $37 million in borrower defense discharges for over 1,200 former University of Phoenix students who were enrolled during that time. This was because of misleading advertising about job placement rates.
  • Maybe for other students who went to school then. If you think the University of Phoenix misled you and you meet other requirements, you can still apply for borrower defense to the Department of Education. But approval is not certain.
  • No for students who went to school outside that timeframe or did not apply for borrower defense. Federal loan forgiveness for University of Phoenix students now only applies to those who meet the specific criteria mentioned above.

Forgiveness for Defrauded Students

The best hopes for Phoenix graduates lie with borrower defense rules. These laws let students seek loan cancellation if a school defrauded them. The FTC and class action suits have exposed plenty of Phoenix misconduct. But so far, applying defenses has been inconsistent.

Borrower defense originally applied just to federal loans. But new regulations opened it to all school loans. This includes private loans, which many Phoenix students hold. The expanded rules were set to take effect in July 2017.

Unfortunately, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration froze these updates. They added new restrictions to borrower defense. As of October 2020, only 10% of Phoenix claims had been approved. And most were only granted partial forgiveness.

The Biden administration now seeks to overhaul defense rules again. It plans to implement the Obama-era policies blocked in 2017. If successful, full discharges should be easier for misled Phoenix graduates. Wide loan cancellation may also follow pending lawsuits.

Until then, borrower defense remains strict. Applicants must meet specific evidence criteria. You’ll need to document lies made by Phoenix recruiters or ads. Having no career prospects despite your degree may help, too. But approval is still unlikely without hard proof of fraud.

When filing a claim, give as much context as you can. Describe the promises made to you and how Phoenix didn’t deliver. Provide records like transcripts, enrolled course lists, and marketing materials. The more evidence you submit, the better. If your claim gets denied, don’t be afraid to appeal or reapply.

Targeted Programs for Phoenix Students

Outside of borrower defense, a few niche programs offer relief. These are tailored to students with specific circumstances. While limited, they provide full federal loan discharges for those who qualify.

The largest is reclosed school discharge. If Phoenix campuses in your state have closed recently, you may get approved. Nearly all locations were shut down in 2018 after enrollment fell. Just be aware this only applies to federal loans. Private lenders aren’t required to offer such discharge.

A similar program exists for false certification claims. This is meant for students who were enrolled under illegal circumstances. It requires proving the school certified your loan wrongly. For Phoenix graduates, common reasons include:

  • Being enrolled without a valid high school diploma or GED
  • The program you were enrolled in lost proper accreditation
  • Credits earned didn’t transfer as promised.

Like borrower defense, false certification needs clear documentation. Letters sent by Phoenix or solid transcripts showing ineligible courses help. But it still has strict limits most students won’t meet.

Smaller niche discharge programs also exist. These include:

  • Disability discharge: for students unable to work due to disability
  • Bankruptcy discharge: for students able to prove repayment would cause undue hardship
  • Death discharge: for students who have passed away or have a parent PLUS loan co-signer who has passed away
  • Unpaid refund discharge: for students who withdrew but didn’t receive tuition refunds owed to them

Each of these requires fitting specific criteria. But they offer proven paths to cancellation for certain borrowers. Phoenix students who qualify should absolutely pursue them.

Also Read – Why Student Loan Debt Should Be Forgiven ?

Forgiveness for Employment

Loan repayment programs offer another potential workaround. These won’t discharge your balance immediately. But they provide forgiveness over time in exchange for public service work.

The best-known option is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). It offers tax-free federal loan cancellation after ten years of service employment. Qualifying jobs include government, military, and 501(c)(3) nonprofit work. You must make 120 monthly payments in an income-driven repayment plan to complete PSLF.

A major catch is that most Phoenix loans won’t qualify. PSLF only applies to federal direct loans. Phoenix pushed many students into riskier private loans. And its unusual accreditation makes federal loans harder to get.

For those who do have eligible debt, PSLF remains a top option. Phoenix’s poor reputation can make finding work difficult. Nonprofit groups are often more welcoming of graduates from troubled schools. Their mission-focused nature makes your degree itself matter less.

Besides PSLF, various state and local programs exist. These function much like PSLF but with different employers. For example, states like California, Kentucky, and New York offer improved forgiveness for healthcare workers in underserved areas. Similar programs apply to teachers, social workers, civil servants, and more.

Research programs in your profession and state to find options. Phoenix graduates in licensed fields like education, healthcare, or law may find targeted help. Those without a clear career path can explore high-need roles in short supply.

The downside to employment programs is their long timelines. You’ll need to stick to public service work for up to 10 years before forgiveness. However, they provide a proven route to cancellation for persistent borrowers.

Fighting Back Against Phoenix

Each of the options above requires fitting narrow conditions. But forgiveness access could keep expanding in the coming years. The FTC and class action lawsuits may compel Phoenix to settle debts related to misconduct.

It’s also possible the Education Department will widen standards. With Phoenix in legal crosshairs, public pressure for reform is growing. Until then, students should keep up the fight however they can.

One important step is submitting a borrower defense claim even if you expect denial. Each application makes the fight more visible. It also sets useful legal precedents borrowers can organize around.

You can also join class action suits against Phoenix if you are able. The pending cases need as many applicants as possible to have an impact. Even if they don’t succeed, new lawsuits will keep coming.

Finally, add your voice to calls for policy reform. Support advocacy groups seeking to widen forgiveness, like the Project on Predatory Student Lending. Petition elected officials and regulatory agencies to enforce stricter protections.

The road to relief will be difficult for Phoenix graduates with heavy debts. But collective action can make progress possible. By standing together, students may finally see their loans discharged.


What types of loans are eligible for forgiveness programs?

Most options only apply to federal direct loans. Borrower defense and closed school discharge can cover private loans. But it’s less common. Always check the specifics of any program you’re pursuing.

How long does it take to get loan forgiveness approved?

Application reviews can take over a year. Expect a long process, especially for programs like borrower defense. Joining an existing lawsuit may speed things up. Employment-based forgiveness takes 5-10 years to complete payments.

Can I get a refund for payments already made?

Maybe. Borrower defense or false certification discharge will refund payments to your loan account. But most programs just cancel the remaining debt. You can try requesting a separate refund for past payments.

What steps can I take to improve my chances of forgiveness?

Gather as much documentation as possible. School marketing materials, transcripts, enrollment agreements, and communication with staff help prove misconduct. Also, submit applications completely and follow up frequently to show you’re serious.

What if my forgiveness application gets denied?

First, appeal the decision if possible. Attach additional evidence you may have and explain why you deserve reconsideration. If that fails, reapply later on. Program criteria change over time, so a previous denial doesn’t negate future chances.


Navigating loan forgiveness for University of Phoenix graduates is a long and complex process. However, persistence and thorough applications can pay off. Explore every potential program. And provide strong supporting evidence.

Don’t assume you won’t qualify without trying. The recent legal actions against Phoenix may open more doors. So, keep organized records and stay on top of new developments. With the right approach, reducing your loans is possible.

The fight for fair treatment won’t be quick or easy. But each borrower who stands up adds pressure for change. By sticking together and making their voices heard, Phoenix students can overcome the obstacles they face.

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