Can you file bankruptcy against student loans?

Student loans are notorious for being difficult to manage, with their large sums and long repayment periods. Despite this, many people believe that filing for bankruptcy is an option to get rid of the debt. Unfortunately, the reality is not so simple. In this article, we will examine the rules and exceptions for discharging student loans through bankruptcy, and suggest some alternative options for managing the debt.

The Myth of Bankruptcy and Student Loans

The idea that student loans can be discharged through bankruptcy is a persistent myth. While it is technically possible to include student loans in a bankruptcy filing, the likelihood of having them discharged is extremely low. This is because federal law places significant restrictions on the discharge of student loans, making it nearly impossible for most people to successfully eliminate the debt.

Examining the Rules of Bankruptcy for Student Loans

To discharge student loans through bankruptcy, a debtor must file an adversary proceeding and prove that paying the loans would cause undue hardship. This is a difficult standard to meet, as the court will generally consider factors such as the debtor’s income, expenses, and future earning potential. In most cases, the court will find that the debtor can afford to make some payment towards the loans, and will not grant a discharge.

The Limited Exceptions to Discharging Student Loans

There are some limited exceptions to the general rule that student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. For example, if a school participated in fraudulent or illegal activities, the borrower may be able to have their loans discharged. Additionally, if the borrower becomes permanently disabled, they may be eligible for a discharge. However, these exceptions are relatively rare and require specific circumstances to apply.

Alternative Options for Managing Student Loan Debt

Given the difficulty of discharging student loans through bankruptcy, borrowers may wish to explore alternative options for managing the debt. One option is to pursue income-driven repayment plans, which can reduce monthly payments based on the borrower’s income and other factors. Borrowers may also be eligible for loan forgiveness through programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

Another option for managing student loan debt is to refinance the loans with a private lender. This can result in lower interest rates and monthly payments, but may also mean giving up certain federal loan benefits such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness. Borrowers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of refinancing before making a decision.


In conclusion, while it is possible to include student loans in a bankruptcy filing, discharging the debt through this process is extremely difficult. Most borrowers will not be able to meet the strict legal standard for proving undue hardship. Instead, borrowers should explore alternative options for managing their student loan debt, such as income-driven repayment plans or loan forgiveness programs. Refinancing with a private lender may also be an option, but borrowers should carefully consider the potential drawbacks before making a decision. With careful planning and diligence, borrowers can manage their student loan debt and achieve financial stability over time.


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