Non-profit

National Student Legal Defense Network

Website:

defendstudents.org/

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

82-3474942

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $1,148,630
Expenses: $1,741,694
Assets: $1,112,085

President:

Aaron Ament

National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN) is a left-of-center organization that seeks to limit private-sector options to finance higher education, to limit higher education choice, and to expand student loan forgiveness programs through litigation and lobbying. [1]

Background

National Student Legal Defense Network was created in 2017 by former U.S. Department of Education officials who opposed the Trump administration’s changes to higher education finance. [2] In particular, these officials Education Department opposed efforts by the Trump administration to provide more private-sector options to finance higher education and opposed efforts to ensure that students who took out federal loans upheld their commitment to repay those loans. [3]

Advocacy

National Student Legal Defense Network advocates before the Education Department through regulatory comments. [4]

Opposition to Arbitration

In 2022, NSLDN urged the Education Department to put in place a rule that conditions the receipt of federal student loans by higher education institutions on not requiring individual borrowers to arbitrate repayment disputes. [5] NSLDN supports this alteration to Education Department regulations because it allows students to collectively object to paying their student loans, lowering the individual cost of raising a claim. [6]

Education Department Tax Status Oversight

In 2022, NSLDN urged the Education Department to expand the scope of its responsibilities and tasks with respect to determining whether higher education institutions qualify to receive federal student loans. Under existing policy, the Education Department can provide student loans to any higher education institution designated by the IRS as a “nonprofit” organization. [7] NSLDN has proposed that the Education Department determine based on an independent inquiry whether the institution is in fact entitled to the nonprofit tax status granted to it by the IRS. [8]

Limiting Student Choice in Education

In 2019, NSLDN urged the Trump administration to not change Education Department requirements that qualify higher education institutions for federal grants and loans. [9] Higher education institutions rely on federal support to subsidize the cost of students’ education. [10]

The Trump administration’s policy would increase the flexibility of accreditors to designate eligible academic institutions, thereby increasing the number of options available to students while placing the responsibility of determining the value of the education received on the students taking out federal loans. [11]

Litigation

Debt Collection

National Student Legal Defense Network has initiated a variety of suits seeking to shield students from paying back their public and private loans. In Nelson v. Great Lakes (2019), NSLDN sued Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation (Great Lakes), one of seven companies that is tasked with collecting federal student loan debt. The litigation centered around whether the Higher Education Act, the primary federal legislation relating to federal student loans, shields Great Lakes from state consumer protection and debt collection protection laws. [12] The Seventh Circuit found in favor of NSLDN on the question. [13]

In an op-ed, NSLDN vice president Dan Zibel celebrated the result in Nelson v. Great Lakes, stating that 44 million student loan borrowers can now object to paying their student loans, not based on miscalculations or illegal interest, but because of questions of transparency and truth in advertising. [14]

Closed School Loan Discharge

In 2016, the Obama administration instituted a rule that required the Education Department to discharge student loans when a student’s university or college closed down—but only if they chose not to transfer their credits to another higher education institution. [15]

In HERA v. DeVos (2018), NSLDN and other left-of-center groups sued Trump administration Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for deviating from the Obama administration’s automatic discharge rule. NSLDN prevailed, and the court found that until it is changed through a formal process, the Education Department was bound to implement the rule. [16]

Finances

In 2020, National Student Legal Defense Network received $1,130,115 in contributions and $1,148,630 in total revenue, [17] had $1,741,694 in expenditures, [18] and possessed $894,815 in net assets. [19]

The lion share of expenditures were for salaries, including $449,594 in base compensation and $764,684 in other related salaries and wages. [20]

Leadership

Aaron Ament is the president and cofounder of National Student Legal Defense Network . Prior to establishing NSLDN, Ament served in various positions in the Obama administration, including White House Special Counsel for Higher Education, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Education, and General Counsel of the Department of Education. [21]

Ament received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. [22]

References

  1. “About.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://www.defendstudents.org/about ^
  2. About.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://www.defendstudents.org/about ^
  3. “About.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://www.defendstudents.org/about ^
  4. “Advocacy.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://defendstudents.org/work/advocacy ^
  5. “Department of Education NPRM-Student Assistance General Provisions, Federal Perkins Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan Program, and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.” NSLDN. August 12, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2022.  https://defendstudents.org/letters/document/3.-2022.08.12-Arbitration-and-Class-Waiver-Comment-final.pdf ^
  6. “Department of Education NPRM-Student Assistance General Provisions, Federal Perkins Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan Program, and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.” National Student Legal Defense Network. August 12, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022.
    https://defendstudents.org/letters/document/3.-2022.08.12-Arbitration-and-Class-Waiver-Comment-final.pdf ^
  7. “Department of Education NPRM—Institutional Eligibility, Student Assistance General Provisions, and Federal Pell Grant Program.” National Student Legal Defense Network. August 26, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://defendstudents.org/letters/document/2022.08.26-Change-in-Ownership-Comment-final.pdf ^
  8. “Department of Education NPRM—Institutional Eligibility, Student Assistance General Provisions, and Federal Pell Grant Program.” National Student Legal Defense Network. August 26, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://defendstudents.org/letters/document/2022.08.26-Change-in-Ownership-Comment-final.pdf ^
  9. “ED NPRM – Student Assistance General Provisions, the Secretary’s Recognition of Accrediting  Agencies, the Secretary’s Recognition Procedures for State Agencies.” National Student Legal Defense Network. July 12, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://defendstudents.org/comment-letters/document/2019.07.12-IQA-Challenge.pdf ^
  10.  “ED NPRM – Student Assistance General Provisions, the Secretary’s Recognition of Accrediting  Agencies, the Secretary’s Recognition Procedures for State Agencies.” National Student Legal Defense Network. July 12, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://defendstudents.org/comment-letters/document/2019.07.12-IQA-Challenge.pdf ^
  11. “ED NPRM – Student Assistance General Provisions, the Secretary’s Recognition of Accrediting  Agencies, the Secretary’s Recognition Procedures for State Agencies.” National Student Legal Defense Network. July 12, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://defendstudents.org/comment-letters/document/2019.07.12-IQA-Challenge.pdf ^
  12. “Neslson v. Great Lakes.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://defendstudents.org/cases/nelson-v-great-lakes ^
  13. “Neslson v. Great Lakes.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://defendstudents.org/cases/nelson-v-great-lakes ^
  14. [1] Madigan, Lisa and Zibel, Dan. “Commentary: Got student loan debt? Court ruling offers a lifeline.” Chicago Tribune. July 2, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-student-loan-debt-20190702-66u3mu453jc4rcjgcs5mp2s62u-66u3mu453jc4rcjgcs5mp2s62u-story.html ^
  15. Lane, Ryan. “How to Get a Closed School Loan Discharge.” NerdWallet. August 10, 2022. Accessed August 28, 2022. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/what-to-do-when-for-profit-colleges-close ^
  16. “HERA v. DeVos.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://defendstudents.org/cases/hera-v-devos ^
  17. National Student Legal Defense Network. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2020. ^
  18. [1] National Student Legal Defense Network. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2020. ^
  19.  National Student Legal Defense Network. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2020. ^
  20. National Student Legal Defense Network. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2020. ^
  21. “Aaron Ament.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://www.defendstudents.org/about/staff/aaron-ament ^
  22. “Aaron Ament.” National Student Legal Defense Network. https://www.defendstudents.org/about/staff/aaron-ament ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 2018

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $1,148,630 $1,741,694 $1,112,085 $217,270 N $1,130,115 $14,025 $4,190 $449,594
    2019 Dec Form 990 $2,853,233 $1,911,981 $1,495,172 $7,293 N $2,848,825 $4,408 $0 $419,707 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $1,561,016 $996,681 $552,279 $5,652 N $1,548,179 $3,252 $0 $356,201 PDF

    National Student Legal Defense Network

    1015 15TH ST NW STE 600
    WASHINGTON, DC 20005-2605