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Student Loans

Other Money & Debt Issues

This article provides information on student loans and what may happen if you are not able to pay them back. This article was written by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

What happens if I don’t pay or my payments are late?

Don’t ignore a delinquency notice about your student loans. Your loan could go into default, which causes more problems, including:

  • Taking money from your paycheck (administrative wage garnishment);
  • Lowering your credit score, making it difficult to get loans or credit;
  • Holding up your application or renewal of your professional, vocational or occupational license;
  • Holding or garnishing your IRS refund; and
  • A lawsuit filed against you by the US Department of Education. There is no time limit or statute of limitations on this type if lawsuit.

How can I avoid a default?

Contact your lender to work out a repayment plan. Most lenders will work with you, but you have to ask. Get more information from Here are some options:

  • Deferment or Forbearance: Deferment and forbearance are ways to temporarily postpone, lower, or stop your loan payments for a specific period of time.
  • Income Based Repayment (IBR) – IBR allows you to lower your monthly payments based on your current income and expenses. Your payments can go up or down each year as your financial circumstances change. To be eligible you must not be in default and show that your payment under the 10 year standard student loan repayment is higher than what you’d pay under IBR. You can stay on the IBR plan even if your financial situation improves.
  • Consolidation –You can consolidate multiple loans into one loan with a lower monthly payment, and have up to 30 years to pay, which means you’ll pay more interest overall but you’ll have more time to pay it off.

Can I discharge my student loan in bankruptcy?

Rarely. Your odds for discharge in bankruptcy are better if you have very low income or your loans are from a for-profit trade school.

  • For a discharge under Chapter 7 you need evidence of undue financial hardship, which means that you can’t maintain a minimum standard of living based on your income and expenses, and your financial situation is not likely to change.
  • In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan, your student loan debt is treated the same as any other unsecured debt, like credit cards and medical bills. You’re not required to pay the loan off in full, but you are required to make (possibly reduced) payments during the         repayment period.

Can I discharge my student loan without declaring bankruptcy?


  • If you are totally and permanently disabled and as supported by medical evidence.
  • If your school falsely certified to the Dept. of Education that you could benefit from its instruction.
  • If you dropped classes before the refund deadline but your school refused the refund.
  • If your school shut down while you were enrolled.

I took out a parent PLUS loan and my child didn’t finish college. Can it be forgiven?

No. You must repay your parent PLUS loan whether or not the student finished school. A PLUS loan may be discharged if the student or parent dies or you become totally and permanently disabled.

What happens if my school closes?

If it closes while you are enrolled or up to 120 days after you withdrew, your loans will be discharged. You are eligible if you have not completed your program of study, even if you received a diploma or  certificate before the program’s  completion.  If you have nonfederal loans through private lenders, you will need to contact them. You will have to fill out a Closed School Loan Discharge Application. Your last attendance date should be the same when your school closed. This does not apply if  you transfer your credits to another school to complete a similar program.

Is there loan forgiveness for public service employees?

Yes. The Direct Loan Program offers a 100% discharge of the remaining outstanding balance on your eligible Direct Loan after you have completed 120 monthly payments while employed full-time in a public service job. 

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