Student loans make it possible to get a higher education. Yet even as you enter the workforce, paying back your student loan can be a struggle. But you could get your student loan forgiven.
Understanding how student loan forgiveness works
Student loan forgiveness is an attractive option for borrowers struggling to stay on top of their monthly payments. Several student loan forgiveness programs are available, each with its requirements and qualifications. To qualify for student loan forgiveness, borrowers must meet certain criteria, such as working in a specific field or the public sector.
Types of student loan forgiveness programs
Many student loan forgiveness programs can eliminate some or all your federal student loan debt.
1. Income-driven repayment forgiveness
Student loan forgiveness is a benefit of an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. The IDR plan calculates your monthly payments based on a percentage of discretionary income. You agree to make a certain number of payments ranging from 20 to 25 years. The IDR plan forgives any remaining balance you owe once you’ve made the required payments.
2. Perkins loan cancellation and discharge
You might qualify for a Perkins loan cancellation or discharge if you worked full-time in the public sector for at least five years. Or you may be eligible for loan forgiveness if employed in a qualifying public service position, such as a firefighter, law enforcement officer, nurse or teacher.
You can apply for a percentage of loan forgiveness once you complete your first year in a qualified public service job. Because Perkins loans are disbursed directly from the college, you should call the school’s financial aid office to request a Perkins loan cancellation application.
3. Public service loan forgiveness
Working in the public sector could make you eligible for loan forgiveness. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives your student loan balance once you’ve made 120 payments. To qualify for PSLF, you must work for a government agency, public school or qualifying nonprofit.
4. Teacher loan forgiveness
Teachers working full time in low-income public primary or secondary schools can claim student loan relief of up to $17,500 under a teacher loan forgiveness program. You must teach for five years at an eligible school.
Teachers of secondary science or math classes and special education teachers can get up to $17,500 forgiven after five years. Elementary and secondary school teachers who teach subjects other than math or science can see up to $5,000 forgiven.
Student loan discharge programs
Sometimes, you may look for options for student loan forgiveness if you’re having financial struggles or life-changing events.
Closed school discharge
You may qualify for a loan discharge if your school closes while you are enrolled or soon after you withdraw. To be eligible for a school closure discharge of your loan, you should either be enrolled in or have left the school within 120 days without getting a degree. For loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2020, you may be eligible for a closed school discharge if you withdrew within 180 days of closing.
Total and permanent disability discharge
Suppose you have a permanent physical or mental disability that prevents you from working. In that case, you could qualify to have the remaining balance due on your student loan discharged. You must provide documentation of your disability. The government monitors your status for three years after discharge and could reinstate your loan if you no longer meet the disability requirements.
Discharge because of death
The loan provider discharges federal student loans once it receives the death certificate. The provider discharges a PLUS loan held by a parent for a child’s schooling if either the parent or the child dies.
Discharge in bankruptcy
In some cases, bankruptcy may discharge your student loan. You must file a separate action known as an adversary proceeding and be able to prove that repayment would pose an undue financial hardship.
Borrower defense to repayment
The Department of Education could discharge your student loan debt if your school was involved in widespread misrepresentation or fraud that affected a group of borrowers. To determine whether you are eligible for debt relief, you must file a borrower defense to repayment claim with the U.S. Department of Education.
False certification discharge
The government could discharge your federal student loan if the school falsely certified your loan eligibility. You may qualify for a false certification discharge if one of the following three applies:
- Ability to benefit
- Disqualifying status
- Unauthorized payment or signature
Unpaid refund discharge
When you withdraw from school after receiving a federal student loan, the college may need to return some or all the funds to your loan service provider. You could apply for an unpaid relief discharge if the school fails to refund your loan service provider. You can get a loan discharge for the money your school should have returned.
Contact the financial aid office to resolve the issue if your school is still open. When you cannot resolve the situation or your school is closed, you can complete the Unpaid Refund Loan Discharge Application and submit the form to your lender.
Student loan forgiveness programs for certain professions
Beyond federal student loan forgiveness programs, you can find other student loan forgiveness programs depending on your profession. Some states offer loan repayment assistance to healthcare providers employed in rural or underserved communities. Other states may provide loan forgiveness to welfare and social workers who work at licensed facilities, teachers employed in districts that are difficult to staff or nurses who serve as faculty at eligible institutions.
Options other than student loan forgiveness
If you don’t qualify for forgiveness, you may be eligible for student loan help with other programs, such as forbearance or deferment.
Deferring student loan payments may be good if you face short-term financial challenges. When you lose your job or experience a temporary financial setback, you can delay making payments for a few months. You must meet specific criteria and eligibility requirements to defer your student loan payments. Only unsubsidized federal student loans accrue interest when postponed.
You may pursue a student loan forbearance if your financial struggles are longer. Because your lender makes the forbearance decisions, no specific eligibility requirements exist.
You can also look at refinancing student loan options. Get Matched With Student Loan Refinancing Offers* In Less Than 60 Seconds
Plan for student loan forgiveness
A student debt forgiveness program provides a valuable lifeline when you need it. You can accelerate paying off what you owe based on where you work and what you do. You can also find debt relief if faced with financial hardship.
How do I get my student loans forgiven?
If you work in the public sector or a specific profession, you may be able to get your student loans forgiven. You may also qualify for student loan forgiveness if you satisfy the income-driven repayment plan.
How do I know if my student loans can be forgiven?
The best way to find out whether student loans can be forgiven is to speak with your lender.
Are there student loan debt-relief programs for private loans?
No federal programs offer debt relief for private student loans. Contact your lender to inquire about any forgiveness, forbearance or deferment programs it may offer.