A 44-year-old Florida man is making local headlines for his unconventional approach to getting out of student loan debt: a legal loophole. Ian Torch Locklear of Tampa graduated from the University of South Florida more than 20 years ago with a degree in interdisciplinary social sciences, despite never having finished high school, the Tampa Tribune reported.
Locklear’s filed a lawsuit and it hinges on that lack of a high school diploma. In the complaint filed March 17, Locklear’s attorney, Nancy L. Cavey, argues that his $67,375 of federal education loans (including interest as of the filing date) should be discharged under a provision in the Higher Education Act of 1965. It says the Secretary of Education must discharge student loans if the student’s school “falsely certified that the student had the ability to benefit from program for which the student’s loan were taken out [stet].”
Locklear withdrew from high school in 1989 while he was in the 11th grade, after receiving acceptance from USF. At the time he left high school, he had a GPA of 3.51 and a 1210 SAT score. The Department of Education cited those accomplishments when it denied Locklear’s application for student loan discharge, saying that “The University has also stated that with your recorded high school GPA and SAT score, you exceeded the state and institutional minimum requirements.” (This lawsuit challenges that denial). Still, Cavey argues, that without a high school diploma, GED or entrance exam at USF, Locklear qualifies for the False Certification Discharge. (Attempts by Credit.com to reach Locklear were unsuccessful, though he declined to comment to the Tampa Tribune. Cavey, his lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Given that Locklear chose to drop out of high school in order to jump-start his college education, pinning his student loan debt on his school seems like a cop-out to some (just read the comments on the Tampa Tribune article). Almost every student loan borrower has to repay their debt, whether or not they graduate college or find any success after getting an education.
Even falling on hard times usually doesn’t get you out of student loan debt, which Locklear likely knows from personal experience: Florida court records show that Locklear filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2008, though student loan debt is generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
The lawsuit calls for the Education Department to cease debt collection activity on Locklear’s unpaid loans, reimburse Locklear for the student loan payments he’s already made and remove the loan information from his credit reports. Meanwhile, interest will continue to pile up on his outstanding loan balance, and the defaulted student loans will continue to damage his credit.
If you’re struggling with student loan debt, you can review these little-known ways to get your student loan debt forgiven to see if any are right for you, or you can try to defer or forbear your loans while you shore up your finances. Remember, missing payments will impact your credit. If you’ve already done so, you can see how bad the damage is by checking your free credit report summary on Credit.com.
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