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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Can You Refinance Student Loans After Bankruptcy?

Refinancing student loans can be smart if you have high-interest loans. It can help you secure better rates and repayment terms that fit your budget. However, qualifying for student loan refinancing can be challenging if you have a history of bankruptcy. Most lenders require good or excellent credit; bankruptcy can damage your credit score for seven years or more.

Despite these challenges, some lenders may still consider your application, especially if several years have passed since your bankruptcy. Understanding your options and exploring alternative strategies can help you manage your student debt. Read on to learn more about refinancing student loans after bankruptcy and other potential solutions.

Will any lenders refinance student loans after bankruptcy?

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a lender willing to refinance student loans after a recent bankruptcy. Lenders might be more open to working with you if it’s been seven years or longer since your bankruptcy. 

  • Student loan refinancing provider Earnest requests that no bankruptcy appear on your credit report when you apply. 
  • The Citizens Bank team says it won’t discourage borrowers with bankruptcy from applying, but approval is unlikely. 
  • SoFi says a history of bankruptcy would reduce your chances of approval, but refinancing is possible if you’ve reestablished credit or demonstrated strong creditworthiness.

One way to boost your chances of approval is by adding a creditworthy cosigner to your application. In this case, your cosigner would share equal responsibility for the loan, and the lender would expect them to pay it back if you fall behind. 

Why is it difficult to refinance student loans after bankruptcy?

If you borrowed loans to pay for college or graduate school, you might owe federal student loans, private student loans, or both. Federal loans from the U.S. Department of Education are eligible for various repayment plans and protections. Private student loans come from private lenders, such as banks and credit unions. 

Both types of loans are difficult to discharge in bankruptcy, though private student loans may be easier. Either way, you may choose to refinance your student loans for new rates and terms. Refinancing student loans means exchanging one or more of your current loans for a new one from a private lender, ideally with better rates than you have now. 

It can be unwise to refinance federal student loans in certain situations. Transferring them to a private lender makes them ineligible for income-driven repayment plans, forgiveness programs, and other federal benefits. Even if refinancing is right for you, it can be challenging to qualify for refinancing after bankruptcy. 

When evaluating your application for student loan refinance, lenders review your credit history to assess your risk as a borrower. A bankruptcy on your credit report can be a significant red flag—in particular, if it’s recent. Plus, filing for bankruptcy can damage your credit score, making it difficult to meet a lender’s underwriting requirements for a refinanced student loan. Most lenders look for a credit score of 660 or higher to approve a refinance application. 

What type of bankruptcy is on your credit report?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years

Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on it for 10 years

The biggest difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is that Chapter 7 focuses on getting rid of unsecured debt, such as credit cards, personal loans, and medical bills. Chapter 13 allows you to catch up on secured debts, like your home or your car, while also discharging unsecured debt.

Education debt is notoriously difficult to discharge in bankruptcy, though it’s possible if a judge decides your debt causes undue hardship

In November 2022, the Department of Justice relaxed its rules regarding the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy, which could make it easier for debt-burdened borrowers to obtain a favorable ruling. 

Alternatives to refinancing student loans after bankruptcy

If you want to lower your federal student loan payments but can’t qualify for refinancing, your options include:

Income-driven repayment 

Income-driven plans adjust your monthly payments to a percentage of your discretionary income while extending your repayment terms to 20 or 25 years. Not only will you get a more affordable monthly bill, but you could get your balance forgiven if you still owe money at the end of your term. 

Deferment or forbearance 

Both deferment and forbearance postpone your payments. The downside is your loans might accrue interest during this time, causing your balance to grow. 

The options above are available to borrowers with federal student loans. If you’re struggling to afford your private student loans, you’ll need to reach out to your loan servicer for options. Private loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment plans, but your servicer may be willing to adjust your terms or pause payments through forbearance. 

Speak with your lender about your options so you can find a solution before you miss payments and further damage your credit.