January 20, 2020

Student Loan Debt may be a Bigger Problem than Credit Card Debt

how to pay student loan debtUSA Today recently reported that student loan debt in the United States, which totals $850 billion, now exceeds outstanding credit card debt in the U.S., which totals $828 billion.

USA Today gets its numbers from a web site publisher named Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes two scholarship matching services called FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.  I was unable to independently verify Mr. Kantrowitz’ numbers but if you Google “total credit card debt in U.S.” and “total student loan debt in the U.S.” you will get numbers in the range quoted in the USA Today article.

I actually thought that a more interesting element of this issue has to do with the monthly repayment numbers facing borrowers.  The USA Today article suggests that $30,000 of student loans, payable at 6.8% interest over ten years would amount to $350 per month.  At this level of debt, the average person would need to earn at least $42,000 per year.

In my practice I have frequently seen student loan debt far in excess of $100,000, with monthly payments over $1,000.

In a bankruptcy context, student loan debt is not dischargeable except in cases of “undue hardship.”  In the Northern District of Georgia, “extreme hardship” has essentially been limited to student loan debtors who have a medical issue that prevents them from working.   At this point in time, debtors in the Northern District have not been successful in arguing for hardship discharge on the grounds that they cannot find a job that pays enough to support their student loan obligations.  There was a recent Supreme Court decision involving student loans and bankruptcy, but that case did not address the substantive issue of what constitutes “undue hardship.” [Read more…]

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