Case Chronicles: Mark the PhD

Welcome to Case Chronicles, where we tell the stories of people who received student loan debt relief via adversary proceedings.

All information in Case Chronicles is from the public record, but we have changed any names to provide some privacy.


Mark* and his wife are residents of a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. They are both retired, and Mark does some freelance writing. Their household income, mostly from Social Security and Mark’s wife’s pension, is just over $30,000 a year.

In 1996, Mark earned his PhD, a culmination of six years of researching and studying. Since then, his $260,000 in federal student loans followed him wherever he went, a shadow over his personal finances.

In January 2018, Mark filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. With rent, utilities, food, transportation, and medical expenses, he had no money left each month to pay off his student loans and almost $30,000 in credit card debt.

Two months later, he and his bankruptcy attorney filed an adversary proceeding, asking for the judge in his bankruptcy case to decide whether or not his student loan repayment constituted an undue hardship and, therefore, qualified for discharge.

In order to show undue hardship, Mark would have to pass the Brunner test, which asks:

  1. Can you pay your bills right now and still maintain a minimal standard of living?
  2. In the foreseeable future, will you earn enough money to make payments on your loans?
  3. Have you made good faith efforts to pay your loans before bankruptcy?

In September 2018, before the case could conclude with the judge’s decision about the Brunner test, the Department of Education agreed to acknowledge the reality of Mark’s situation: His student loans were indeed an undue hardship and should qualify for discharge. They discharged the full amount of his student loan debt.

Mark’s situation is no different from that of countless Americans still struggling with student loan debt. Like Mark, these people deserve relief.

We’re on a mission to make that possible — to help student loan borrowers get that relief, just like Mark did.

Want to find out if you’re a fit? Take five minutes to tell us a bit about yourself.


*Name has been changed to protect privacy.


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