Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy: An Empirical Assessment

Daniel A. Austin

Northeastern University - School of Law

May 27, 2014

Suffolk University Law Review, Forthcoming
Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 188-2014

Education loan debt in the U.S. recently reached $1.2 trillion. Thirty-nine million Americans -- nearly 20% of U.S. households -- owe student loans, and student loans are by far the fastest growing component of non-housing consumer debt. For example, in fourth quarter 2013, U.S. households incurred $82 billion in debt (exclusive of housing debt), a 3.3% increase from the previous quarter. Of this amount, $53 billion (65%) was student loan debt. In contrast, auto loans and credit card debt accounted for only $29 billion.

Student loan debt is also a rapidly increasing element in consumer bankruptcy. This study examines the growth of student loan debt in consumer bankruptcy cases filed each year from 2005 to 2013. In this study I obtain data from 500 randomly-selected cases per year to calculate values such as annual percentage of filers with student loan debt, average annual amount of student loan debt, and student loan debt as a percentage of debtor income and percentage of total unsecured debt. Among the findings of this study, the percentage of debtors with student loan debt increased from 15.7% in 2005 to 22.3% in 2013, while the average student loan debt load for such debtors more than doubled from $15,350 to $32,096 during the same period. As these and other numbers reported in this study show, student loan debt is a rapidly increasing component of consumer bankruptcy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 12

Keywords: bankruptcy, student loans

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Date posted: May 28, 2014 ; Last revised: November 24, 2014

Suggested Citation

Austin, Daniel A., Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy: An Empirical Assessment (May 27, 2014). Suffolk University Law Review, Forthcoming; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 188-2014. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2442312

Contact Information

Daniel A. Austin (Contact Author)
Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )
400 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States
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