According to Forbes, there are over 44 million student loan borrowers who owe more than $1.4 trillion dollars in debt. Yes, trillion. That sum is staggering, and for many the monthly minimums you're required to pay back on your loans is unmanageable. Over 1 million borrowers default on their student loan payments every year. By 2023 the U.S Department of Education estimates that around 40% of borrowers will go into default.
What happens when you default on your student loans?
Defaulting on your student loan payments means you haven't been able to make a single payment towards your debt for about a year. The debt for the total amount of minimum monthly payments you've missed gets sent to collections. Your credit takes a nosedive.
By the time your student loan goes into default, your credit score will have dropped at least 60 points. If you didn't start off with great credit in the first place, your rating after defaulting will likely be considered "very poor", making it harder to get a mortgage or qualify for decent interest rates. According to research from the Urban Institute, record high student loan debt is part of the reason millennials aren't buying homes.
Saving for a home mortage Shutter stock
When you go into default on your loans, some states will even go so far as to suspend your driver's licenses . And because of high interest rates, the total amount you owe in student loans after defaulting increases by about 10%. When you're already having trouble paying your monthly minimums, that increase can be devastating.
Is there a way to get rid of your student loans for good?
When you're unable to pay back other types of debts (your mortgage, a bank loan, etc) you're allowed to file for bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy on student loan debt however has historically been extremely difficult. It isn't impossible though.
In 2005, congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. Under the exception, borrowers have to prove their student loans are causing them undue hardship in order to include the debt in bankruptcy filings. What qualifies as "undue hardships"? That's the problem. Congress didn't define the term and courts are left to interrupt it.
Adam Minsky, a lawyer who recently spoke to The Huffington Post, says you need to prove three different factors to the courts. You're unable to maintain a minimal standard of living, based on your current income and expenses, if you're forced to repay your loans. You have made decent efforts to try to repay your loans. Other factors out of your control, that may continue for a long time, are affecting your ability to pay.
Minsky claims, the most successful way of filing for bankruptcy on your student loan debt is to go the route of an adversary proceeding. This essentially means you're suing your student loan lenders for the amount that you owe. Adversary proceedings can be a long and expensive process, but if you can prove your student loans are unmanageable, you might just get rid of your student loans for good.
Borrowers who successfully sued and won were either unemployed, had a medical condition, or could prove their income had dropped from the last year. If you fall into any of these three categories you have a decent chance of winning. 40% of borrowers who file for bankruptcy and include their student loan debt get all or at least a portion of it removed.
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If you don't want to file for bankruptcy but need help navigating your student loan payments, consider trying a loan repayment app. Apps like ChangED and The Student Loan Hero consolidate all federal and private student loans, and come up with a plan to pay it off as quickly as possible. You can even sync you bank accounts and credit cards to save the change on your purchases. ChangED deposits that change into the app and sends an automatic extra payment to your loans every time it reaches $100.