What is the updated ‘undue hardship’ standard as published by the Department of Education in July, 2015?
With student loan debt crippling the nation, it is understandable that thousands of graduates are considering their options in bankruptcy. Historically, student loans were not considered a dischargeable debt in bankruptcy absent a showing of extreme undue hardship, which was considerably difficult to prove.
However, the Department of Education has opted to extrapolate on its “undue hardship” concept, incorporating judicial holdings and its own interpretive guidelines to help students and bankruptcy attorneys alike better understand the threshold for obtaining relief. If you are struggling with seemingly insurmountable student loan debt, please do not hesitate to contact Miami Valley Bankruptcy to discuss your rights.
Department to rely on formula
Essentially, the Department of Education has decided to implement a formula to help determine when not to object to an undue hardship request for student loan forgiveness. The Department’s position reads as follows:
If [the government] determines that requiring repayment would not impose an undue hardship, the holder must then evaluate the cost of undue hardship litigation. If the costs to pursue the matter in bankruptcy court are estimated to exceed one-third of the total amount owed on the loan (including the current principal balance, any unpaid accrued interest, and current, unpaid accrued collection costs), the [government] may accept and/or not oppose an undue hardship claim by the borrower in an adversary proceeding.
Seems simple enough, right? Under the new guidelines, the government will likely not pursue an objection to loan discharge if the costs to litigate the matter would exceed one-third of the total loan balance. However, the statement does not give much detail on how the government plans to calculate its speculative litigation costs, nor does it provide students with an understanding on whether certain bankruptcy claims will involve more complex (i.e., more costly) litigation than others. Likewise, it does not offer guidance as to whether a loan servicer working on behalf of the Department is permitted to outright deny a request for discharge.
With so many variables still in the air, we continue to recommend working closely with a Miami Valley bankruptcy attorney in order to maximize your chances of avoiding the burden of explosive student loan debt.