It is common knowledge that it is practically impossible to cancel student loan debt in the bankruptcy process. Because of this, fewer than 1,000 people try every year. Those that do have to file a lawsuit against their student loan lenders and then convince the bankruptcy judge that there is absolutely no hope of them ever being able to repay their student loans.
In turn, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Education, which guarantees a majority of the approximately $1 trillion in student loan debt, have been criticized for making arguments considered unreasonable when persuading judges that struggling borrowers can afford the monthly student loan payments. Here are five of those arguments:
- Can you afford your children?
In a case where a woman in Minnesota tried to discharge several hundred thousand dollars in student loans, she was asked if her children were planned. She and her husband had five kids. She had gone to medical school and said that she was Roman Catholic and two of their children had autism, which prevented her from moving forward with her career. One attorney told her that she had to make the decision to have a family based on what she could afford. The bankruptcy judge ruled to discharge the loans with the lawyers for the U.S. DOE appealing the decision twice.
In another similar case, the judge wrote that there was nothing in the bankruptcy code that suggested Congress did not intend for a student loan debtor to procreate.
- Are your medications necessary?
A man graduated from a well-known university with a master’s degree and then struggled with his roughly $130,000 in loans on a job that made him less than $13 an hour. When his expenses were analyzed, he was criticized for taking antidepressants. The lawyers for the DOE tried to convince the bankruptcy judge that the man should have to drive to an Indian reservation in South Dakota where he could get his medications cheaper. The court, being unimpressed by the suggestion that he could make monthly journeys to drive 800 miles eacy way, the judge discharged the debt.
- Why not try opening a daycare?
A woman in her 50s had tried to pay off her $50,000 in student loans and it was suggested by student loan attorneys that she should open a daycare center, despite the fact that she was blind and sleeping on her son’s apartment floor as it was. The attorneys suggested that she could run a daycare with 12 children and make nearly $90,000 per year. As it stood, the woman was already living on a monthly social security-disability check of less than $600 per month. The judge discharged her loans as well.
- Can your husband help?
One woman’s husband was in jail and it was assumed he’d be able to help out after release. The woman made $30,000 per year and had a daughter to take care of. Her student loans totaled more than $40,000. It was found that in the years before her husband’s incarceration, he was not contributing to household expenses, causing the judge to discharge the loans because there was no evidence that the husband would or could contribute after his release.
- Can you get a higher paying job?
A woman made $9 an hour and was divorced with two kids. Her student loans totaled just $23,000 from a degree she couldn’t finish because of complications with her pregnancy. In this case, the woman was able to sign up for a federal program that adjusted the loan payments to match her income, which resulted in the judge not having to discharge her student loans.