Under section 523(a)(8) of title 11 of the United States Code (the “Bankruptcy Code”), student loan debt is not dischargeable unless the debtor can show “undue hardship.” Courts have concluded that section 523(a)(8) creates a presumption that student loans are nondischargeable, finding that the burden of challenging this presumption rests upon the individual debtor. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Brunner v. New York State Higher Educ. Servs. Corp., articulated what has become the standard test (the “Brunner test”) for determining undue hardship. Subsequently, the Brunner test has been adopted by the majority of courts for analyzing student loan discharge.
Part I of this Memorandum sets out and describes the three-prong Brunner test. Part II elaborates on the first prong of the Brunner test, and analyzes the factors courts consider when determining if a debtor can maintain a minimal standard of living while also repaying their student loans. Part III highlights a case out of the Southern District of New York, which adopted a more straight forward interpretation of the Brunner test, and lead to the discharge of the debtor’s student loans in bankruptcy.