6 February 2013

Certainty of Hopelessness

How to Discharge Student Debt

Senior editor Christopher Glazek and Sean Monahan presented their pamphlet “Certainty of Hopelessness: A Primer on Discharging Student Debt” at the LA Art Book Fair last week, in collaboration with Paper Chase Press. We’ve shared the introduction and a link to download the book below. Chris writes that it’s “deliberately shameless, and encourages debtors to ‘think strategically’ — and often, to lie — by adopting the kind of adversarial approach to their own financial situation that we often reserve for the rich and powerful.”

Discharging student debt is a black-box dilemma. While bankruptcy protocols are always complex, student debt is loaded with its own special brand of illegibility. Debtors are misled by the media into thinking that discharging student loans is impossible and shamed into treating the mere notion of relief as a form of extravagant welfare-queenism.

Our original intention was not to create a satire, but rather to map the possibilities for broke postgrads interested in taking a more adversarial approach to dealing with their debt. Guides like Strike Debt’s Debt Resistors Operations Manual help combat the vilification of debtors and address pragmatic concerns about keeping loans out of default. For hundreds of thousands of ex-students, though, default is inevitable and discharge should be the goal.

Bankruptcy filers have the option of calling for a special separate hearing, called an “adversary proceeding,” during which a bankruptcy judge determines whether a student loan can be considered in a broader bankruptcy claim. To clear the legal hurdle, debtors must not only demonstrate that they are currently unable to pay—they must also demonstrate that their future life prospects are characterized by a “certainty of hopelessness.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has isolated twelve criteria for determining if individuals qualify as legally “hopeless.” The following pamphlet is a brainstorm: it considers what steps a debtor might take in order to persuasively claim the mantle of hopelessness. Rather than examine softcore options, we explore the potential of self-inflicted tragedy.

The following is a user’s manual that addresses each of the Ninth Circuit’s criteria for evaluating claims of hopelessness or undue hardship. Its functionality is proportional to any given reader’s desperation. 

To read the full pamphlet, click here.

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  • Christopher Glazek
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