Can You Discharge Student Loans Through Bankruptcy?

About two-thirds of students who graduated from college in 2013 entered the real world with some form of debt. On average, these graduates left school with $30,000 worth of student loans to pay off. The United States has reached a new milestone, with student loan debt totaling a little over $1.2 trillion. The nation experienced an economic downturn that many compared to the Great Depression, so naturally some borrowers were and still are left with a huge student loan to pay off but with no stable income to pay off the lenders. For those in this position, many have contemplated filing for bankruptcy. Although getting your student loans discharged in bankruptcy is not impossible, it is a difficult task to overcome.

The Hurdle: a�?Undue Hardshipa�?

Generally, for all bankruptcy proceedings, you must file a petition that requests a court judgment, which means you are making a formal request for the court to make a determination of your discharge from your debt. The difficult task is showing the court that paying your loan a�?will impose an undue hardship on you and your dependents.a�?

Showing undue hardship is an extremely high bar. Congress intended the undue hardship exception to accommodate student loan borrowers who are suffering more than just financial hardship.

Understanding The a�?Brunner Testa�?

There are several different tests that bankruptcy judges may use to determine if undue hardship is met a�� the a�?Brunner Testa�? is the most common. A student loan borrower may be discharged from his or her debt with a showing of:

  1. Difficulty Maintaining A a�?Minimal Standard Of Livinga�? a�� The court will expect you to be in poverty. The court will examine the debtora��s income and expenses. Any spending beyond basics like food, shelter, and health related expenses would be unfavorable. Some inexpensive recreational activities will usually be expected.
  2. Long-Term Difficulty Paying The Loans a�� The court wants to know whether your poor financial status will persist for a long period of time, more specifically, for a significant period of the loan repayment. The court will look at the totality of circumstances surrounding your situation and make a determination of how difficult it will be for you to maintain a minimum standard of living and your a�?certainty of hopelessness.a�?
  3. Good faith efforts to repay the loans. You must show the court that you have done all that is reasonably possible to pay your student loans. This can be shown by evidence of paying minimum dues, trying to find a job, utilizing time efficiently by maximizing earning capacity, and minimizing expenses.

General Criteria For Meeting The Undue Hardship Standard


  • Show difficulty paying rent
  • Show difficulty maintaining utilities (e.g. lights and water)
  • Show difficulty getting food
  • Have little personal possessions


  • Taking unnecessary vacations
  • Purchasing a new car
  • Purchasing a new house
  • Furnishing your house/apartment with new electronics or furniture
  • Having luxury personal items

Ariano & Reppucci Can Help

Getting discharged of your student loans will be difficult, but not impossible. Every case will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Whether you simply cannot maintain a minimal standard of living for yourself and your children, have a mental impairment that prevents you from maintaining a stable income, or went to a fraudulent school, we can help determine your options for discharge and walk you through the process. Call Ariano & Reppucci now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Phoenix bankruptcy attorney.