The SWPL CPA has suggested bankruptcy, and sent me some court cases that “support” my position. Clearly, she had not actually read them. Here is my response, for the sake of posterity or something…
tl;dr- I will probably consolidate the loans first, and then reconsider the bankruptcy idea.
I’m unable to replicate your optimism, having studied the first two attachments. In both cases the court favored the creditors. The dissenting opinion in the second case was entirely correct (if patronizing and overeducated), but it was only a dissenting opinion. I can see already that there is a contradictory set of pressures on the circuit courts between the language of the law (pertaining to “undue hardship”) and the stated intention of Congress to keep these discharges exceptional, rather than common. If even such a pitiable case as Frushour can’t be considered “hardship”, I clearly have little chance.
See, the majority was correct to conclude that all bankruptcy cases necessitate unusual hardship (hence the contradiction I mentioned), and so the attempt to both maintain the integrity of the financial aid system and uphold the Brunner criteria must ultimately fail. But it will fail on cases more sympathetic than mine, and not until the societal pressure grows faster than this pressure valve (and the other inevitable stopgap measures) can bear.
I can’t imagine that, even having managed to make my case in bankruptcy court, my creditors would not appeal the decision nor that the circuit court would not then overturn the decision.
Finally, Robin Leonard’s book on bankruptcy counsels me not to attempt a chancy bankruptcy unless the creditors are making unbearable efforts to collect their debts. Contrarily, they’ve been very polite (excepting one time they declared me to be in default, but even then they erased the overdue balance when I requested forbearance). I think the stoopid investment bankers finally realized the cat and mouse game they’re playing with their little fractional reserve devilry, and they’re hoping everyone will offload their debts into federal consolidation programs (more on that below) before the defaults start piling up in earnest. The voting public certainly deserves it, and other than that I will philosophize no longer.
My research has only begun, obviously, but I think I’ll try to consolidate the loans first. It seems to be true under a specific creditor (the Ford something something) that my loan repayments can be restricted to 20% of the difference between my income and the poverty level. That would be a much smaller number than I’ve been paying ($500 per month out of an income of $750 per month), though not zero because I have no dependents.
Aside from that, it may be possible to defer the payments indefinitely for the low, low cost of half-time enrollment at a community college. Universities may be poisonous to thinking minds, but I have no reason to anticipate another major depressive episode in a certificate program for wastewater treatment.
UPDATE: She found the argument persuasive. Honestly, I’m heartened that she even understood it. I have since read half of another case and found the same pattern of bankruptcy court, district court, circuit cour-BLAM! Overturned! Curiously, each case has a different sort of plea, but the same moral. The letter of the law doesn’t matter because it contradicts the intent of the law, which is to artificially restrict the fraction of discharges. The dissenting opinions (WTF?) are a lot of fun to read.