Can I discharge my student loan debt in bankruptcy?

Student loans are a valuable resource that allow some students to attend college who might not otherwise be able to do so. However, in today’s economy, more college graduates are finding themselves unemployed or underemployed and unable to repay their student loan debt. The U. S. Department of Education tracks borrowers who default on their student loans. A recent report found that the default rate on student loans has continued to increase in the last several years. According to the U. S. Department of Education, in 2012, 13.4% of borrowers whose student loan came due in 2009 had defaulted. A student loan is considered in default if the borrower fails to make a payment for 270 days.

It is very difficult to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. There have been some cases recently which provide some hope, and there is also legislation periodically introduced in Congress to provide some relief. However, I generally tell clients that unless they are quadriplegic or otherwise totally utterly and completely unable to work in any capacity, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

The federal government has numerous options available to collect money owed from individuals who default on student loans, including garnishment of wages and tax refunds, and suspension of professional licenses.

There may be options available to make your student loan debt more manageable. In certain situations, borrowers may qualify for forbearance or deferment of up to one year to repay their student loans. Other options may include programs such as the Income Based Repayment (IBR) or the Pay as You Earn that may reduce your monthly payments. For more information regarding these programs, visit

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.