July 17, 2019

Congress Considers Law to Make Private Student Loans Dischargeable in Bankruptcy

Under current bankruptcy law, most types of student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Specifically, Section 523(a)(8) of the Code makes non-dischargeable:

an educational benefit overpayment or loan made, insured, or guaranteed by a governmental unit, or made under any program funded in whole or in part by a governmental unit or nonprofit institution; or

an obligation to repay funds received as an educational benefit, scholarship, or stipend; or

any other educational loan that is a qualified education loan, as defined in section 221(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, incurred by a debtor who is an individual;

Currently student loans would only be dischargeable if the debtor files an expensive “Adversary Proceeding” in bankruptcy court and successfully argues that repayment would present an “undue hardship.”  Statistically a finding of undue hardship has proven to be very, very difficult.

Recently, however, there comes word that Congress is considering a change in this law that would make some private student loans dischargeable.   San Francisco bankruptcy attorneys Jeena Cho and Jeff Curl report on their blog that H.R. 5043 entitled the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act, a bill co-sponsored by Tennessee representative Steve Cohen, is now making its way through Congress. [Read more…]

Student Loans and Bankruptcy

Student loan debt is a significant, ceaseless weight on many Americans. While filing for bankruptcy will discharge many debts – such as credit card debt – it’s virtually impossible to get out of student loan debt. According to FinAid.org, there is an estimated $730 billion in outstanding federal and private student-loan debt, and only 40% of that debt is actively being repaid.

In these tough economic times – where salaries are reduced, layoffs are increasing, and job openings are difficult to find – many graduates are feeling the weight of their student loan debt and finding it difficult to repay. Here are some ideas on how to handle your student loans outside of bankruptcy:

Study your loan to make sure you understand the exact terms and what is expected of you. Then examine your budget and figure out what you can realistically afford to pay each month. Once you know what your budget will allow, familiarize yourself with your options for repayment.

There are several options you can look into depending on your circumstances. You can work with your lender to modify your repayment plan. If the terms of your student loan need to be revised, contact your lender once you know the specific modifications to ask for. Some lenders will let you pay less at first, and then pay more each month which is helpful if you’re expecting to have more money in the future. If your loans are through the Federal Government, you can see your choices at the Federal Direct Loan web site found here: http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/DirectLoan/index.html.

Some lenders allow you to defer your student loan payments for various reasons. For example, if you go back to school, work in certain fields, or are unemployed, you may qualify for deferment. But be aware that interest will likely accumulate while your payments are deferred.

If you are can prove financial hardship, you can apply for forbearance, which means you may be able to make reduced payments or suspend payments completely. Just like with deferment however, interest is likely to accumulate.

Another option is consolidation, which allows you to make a single payment each month and can potentially lower interest rates. It is important to know the exact terms and penalties of consolidation.