Title 11 of the United States Code (the “Bankruptcy Code”) provides for debtors a “fresh start” by allowing the discharge of most debt. To obtain a discharge of student loan debt, a debtor must demonstrate “undue hardship.” If the debt is not discharged, it must still be paid. The phrase “undue hardship” is not defined in the “Bankruptcy Code and congressional record provides little guidance as to what constitutes undue hardship . . . .” Even though Congress created a single standard for discharging student loan debt; the circuit courts have adopted different tests to determine if the undue hardship standard is satisfied.
Regardless of the test, some courts consider age in analyzing undue hardship. On the other hand, some courts do not consider a debtor’s age when determining if student loan debt should be discharged, even if the debtor has been paying their debt back for a long time. This memorandum addresses the relationship between the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy and how long a court will allow a debtor to remain obligated on his/her student loans. Part I outlines the two different tests bankruptcy courts use to determine if student loan debt should be discharged based on the “undue hardship” standard. Part II examines instances when a bankruptcy court has or has not taken into consideration age as a factor when discharging student loan debt.