U.S. Department of Education Clarifies The Sending Of Erroneous Forgiveness Approval Mass Emails To Student Loan Borrowers, Blames “Vendor Error”

Beginning Tuesday November 22nd, 2022, more than 9 million student loan borrowers began receiving emails confirming the approval of their blanket student loan forgiveness applications, whether they had actually applied for the blanket student loan forgiveness or not. Many student loan borrowers who never applied for the blanket forgiveness program but who’s contact information exists in the federal student loan database were sent these erroneous emails. The source of these emails is legitimately the U.S. Department of Education, however the contents of the emails are inaccurate and inconsistent with federal law apparently due to a vendor error as reported by the U.S. Department of Education.

The blanket student loan forgiveness program designed to forgive $10,000 for every federal direct student loan borrower and $20,000 for every federal direct student loan borrower that took out Pell grants has been declared unlawful and vacated by the U.S. Federal Courts on November 10th, 2022. The Federal Courts agreed with plaintiffs who argued that the program violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it “was formulated and executed by un-elected administrators who are not directly accountable to the populace”.

Accenture Federal Services (NYSE: ACN) is a publicly traded federal contractor headquartered in Ireland valued at more than $186 billion dollars that performs services for several federal agencies including the U.S. Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Education. In April of 2015 Accenture was awarded a 10 year, $966 million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Education to perform duties including but not limited to the dissemination of mass emails to federal student loan borrowers.

The emails sent by the U.S. Department of Education beginning Tuesday November 22nd, 2022 contained the subject line “Your Student Loan Debt Relief Application Has Been Approved“. The body of the email included details regarding how the blanket forgiveness program has been declared unlawful by the U.S. federal court system and the Education Department’s intention to “never stop fighting for you”, discounting the merits of the 6 lawsuits facing the blanket forgiveness program, and citing the continued commitment by the current presidential administration to help borrowers recover from the pandemic. The correction emails that first started going out December 13th, 2022 to student loan borrowers contained the subject line “CORRECTION: Status of Your Student Loan Debt Relief Application” with the body of the email citing the inaccuracy of the subject line of the previous approval emails, blaming Accenture Federal Services for the error in the subject line of the previous approval emails, confirming the unlawful status of the blanket student loan forgiveness program, and apologizing for the confusion.

What does this mean for Hope Credit borrowers?

There has been no change to the income based forgiveness programs that have been federal law for more than 25 years. The 10, 20, and 25 year income based forgiveness programs that were enacted as a result of federal legislation or negotiated rulemaking as opposed to an executive order have remained unchanged. These programs are the only forgiveness programs that Hope Credit services and are not subject to court challenges by the judicial branch of the U.S. government.

Historically, Hope Credit clients have been consistently provided information to help guard against scams and other inaccurate information coming from sources other than the U.S. Department of Education or federally contracted student loan servicers. In this particular case, the inaccurate information was legitimately coming from the U.S. Department of Education. As has always been the case for Hope Credit clients, feel free to contact your Hope Credit case worker regarding any contact you receive pertaining to your federal student loans via text, email, phone, or direct mail and we will be happy to review that information to let you know if the information appears consistent with the current student loan programs under federal law.