Could you be arrested for unpaid student loans?

 

Here are a few things we already know about student loans:

  • US borrowers owe over $1.2 trillion in student loans
  • Over 43 million Americans currently carry some amount of student loan debt
  • One out of every seven student loan borrowers will default on their loans within three years of graduation

In summary – a lot of people have student loans, and quite a few of them aren’t able to keep up on the payments. Here’s another important fact: student loans don’t go away. Government-backed student loans (unless eligible for forgiveness) will follow you around until they have been paid in full. Even declaring bankruptcy is very unlikely to free you from your student loans.

So, let’s say you don’t pay your student loans. As we’ve highlighted previously, a lot of borrowers choose to simply give up and let their loans default. When your loan becomes delinquent, the Department of Education makes every effort to get you to pay. Eventually, if the Department of Education is unable to recover those missed payments, the loan is transferred to the Department of Justice and things get a bit more serious.

The Department of Justice employs private collection agencies across the country to represent them in these delinquencies. These agencies file suit against the delinquent borrower and the borrower is summoned to court.

Here’s where things get a little hairy.

If you don’t show up to court, the judge will almost always side with the plaintiff and grant their request to have your wages garnished or your tax refund seized. Now the collection agency is able to begin siphoning off a portion of your paycheck in order to repay your student loans and you’ve lost your chance to say anything about it.

That’s usually the end of it. But, as Fusion recently reported, in Houston, TX there’s a district judge who has repeatedly called upon the U.S. Marshals to arrest student loan offenders who failed to show up to court. As detailed in the Fusion story, this involves armed agents entering the defendant’s home and removing them in handcuffs.

From a statistical standpoint, this is almost definitely not going to happen to you. As of right now, it appears that only this one judge has made a habit of ordering warrants for delinquent student loan debtors. But it does highlight the importance of staying aware of the various loans, credit cards, and other accounts that are in your name.

It’s also a keen reminder that if you are ever summoned to court, do not assume it is an error and ignore it. Call your local court and ask for more information. Then do everything in your power to be in court on the day of your hearing.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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