You wrote in (and we found a student who ditched debt)

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After Monitor contributor Bendan Conway reported that a rising percentage of students are defaulting on their loans, comments poured in from readers.

Some were riled by the idea that the government would forgive some or all of those debts."I’m sorry, folks, but this debt forgiveness is just plain unjustified," wrote Steve Urbans (click here for the full comment).

Others worried about the size of those debts, sometimes from personal experience.

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"Could this article be any more slanted to represent the banks, colleges and student loan companies?" wrote Annelies (click here). "I am no longer young, but I am still carrying an insane amount of debt from college."

Still others had questions.

Intriguing query
Why is it so hard to discharge student loans in bankruptcy? asked Bob (click here). Obviously, Bob knows that you have to die or become "totally and permanently disabled" for a Department of Education discharge, and most bankruptcy courts are only marginally easier.)

Brendan looked into that issue. He writes:

The answer lies in the phrase "undue hardship," the standard that Congress set in 1998 when it tightened personal bankruptcy laws. Naturally, it left the definition of this less-than-determinate phrase to the courts, most of which have applied a very stringent definition.

Debt relief for some

But there are people who've found ways to influence bankruptcy judges to get relief.

Consider Chuck Stewart, a writer and educational consultant in Los Angeles, Calif., who managed to get $54,000 of his $60,000 discharged in a settlement four years ago before his bankruptcy was complete. Mr. Stewart, who I reached by phone, calls the University of Southern California education doctorate he earned 14 years ago "the worst disaster of my life." He couldn't handle his debts; he declared bankruptcy.

The way he got through, he says, is by navigating the "adversarial proceeding" that takes place during a bankruptcy to reach a settlement out of court. The proceeding opens avenues for negotiation. For Stewart, the result was payments of $50 a month for the next 10 years.

"I can assure you it costs the Department of Education more than $50 a month to handle my case," he says.

Maybe Stewart's PhD wasn't a complete disaster after all. The experience prompted him to write "Bankrupt Your Student Loans and Other Discharge Strategies," which explains what he learned and how he did it.

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