Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code sets forth debts that are not dischargeable. Among the non-dischargeable debts, which a debtor will still owe after they receive a bankruptcy discharge, are debts from educational loans. As such, these student loan debts may prevent many debtors from receiving a truly fresh start following bankruptcy. Courts historically have approached the undue hardship exception to this rule narrowly, applying it only where the debtor, under the circumstances, could not reap the benefit of her education.
This Article will discuss the various tests courts use to determine whether an educational debt is dischargeable. Part I will discuss the totality of the circumstances test, which represents an older, and stricter perspective. Part II will discuss the in re Johnson test, which is another minority approach to the issue. Part III will analyze the Brunner test, which courts predominantly employ when considering whether student loans should be discharged. Finally, Part IV will discuss the implications of the split.