Emily Gault

Document Type

Research Memorandum

Publication Date




Under title 11 of the United States Code (the “Bankruptcy Code”), an individual debtor is not entitled to a discharge of his or her student loan debt “unless excepting such debt from discharge…would impose an undue hardship on the debtor and the debtor’s dependents.” Because the Bankruptcy Code does not define the term “undue hardship,” the courts have applied a broad range of standards which has resulted in a “state of considerable confusion.” Currently, the majority of circuit courts have adopted the test formulated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to determine what qualifies as an undue hardship.

This memorandum explores the application of Brunner’s undue hardship test in discharging student loan debt pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code. Part I of this memorandum sets forth the elements of the test; part II specifically focuses on the second prong and explains how courts interpret this prong; and part III revisits the plain language of the Brunner test and discusses how dicta has subsumed this language, thereby making it very a high burden for debtors to meet.


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