Student Loan Forgiveness (and Other Ways the Government Can Help You Repay Your Loans)

Maybe you’ve heard or read about student loan forgiveness and you’re wondering what it is or if it is really possible? Or maybe you know a little about it and you want to find out if you qualify. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll answer these questions and tell you where to go to learn more.

What is loan forgiveness?

Loan forgiveness is the cancellation of all or some portion of your federal student loan balance. Yes, that’s right—cancellation of your loan balance.  If your loan is forgiven, you are no longer required to repay that loan.

Is it really possible to have your student loans forgiven?

Yes! However, there are very specific eligibility requirements for each situation in which you can apply for loan forgiveness. If you think you may qualify, it’s definitely worth investigating.

How do I get my loans forgiven?

There are a number of situations under which you can have your federal student loan balance forgiven, and we’ve provided a few in this post. You will, however, want to research your options at StudentAid.gov/repay and contact your loan servicer for any questions you may have about student loan forgiveness.

A couple examples of situations in which your federal student loans may be forgiven include:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in certain elementary and secondary schools and educational service agencies that serve low-income families, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to a combined total of $17,500 on certain federal student loans. For details about this program, see Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): If you work full-time in certain public service jobs you may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments on those loans—that’s usually about 10 years of payments. Serving in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps is considered qualifying employment. For loan repayment and borrower eligibility requirements, see Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

There are additional situations that allow you to apply for cancellation of your federal student loans. For example, if you are totally and permanently disabled, a member of the U.S. armed forces (serving in area of hostilities), a member of the Peace Corps, or a law enforcement or corrections officer, you may be eligible for cancellation of a portion of your federal student loan. Learn more about how you may qualify for loan forgiveness and contact your loan servicer with questions.

Are there other ways in which I can get help repaying my loans?

There are additional government programs that provide student loan repayment assistance for individuals who provide certain types of service. A couple examples include:

  • Military Service: In acknowledgement of your service to our country, there are special benefits and repayment options for your student loans available from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Defense. Learn about federal student loan benefits for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • AmeriCorps: The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is a post-service benefit received by participants who complete a term of national service in an approved AmeriCorps program—AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, or AmeriCorps State and National. An AmeriCorps member serving in a full-time term of national service is required to complete the service within 12 months. Upon successful completion of the service, members are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award which can be used to pay educational costs at eligible postsecondary institutions, as well as to repay qualified student loans.

Remember, there are resources available to help you repay your loans. In addition to loan forgiveness and other benefit programs, you also have other options if you find yourself in a situation where you’re having trouble making your loan payments. Make sure to discuss your options with your loan servicer.

Lisa Rhodes is a writer at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

22 Comments

  1. The whole student loan program needs an overhaul, I think, because as it is it is unrealistic. We are bombarded by media reports of the massive student loan debt that Americans have, but sometimes, that is not enough. The ceiling or limit for all student loans is $138,500 which was set by Congress in 1992, when a four-year degree only cost $4,000. Last quarter, a single graduate-school class cost me $3,800 in tuition alone. Now add in the extra fees for each class, the $300 textbooks, etc. and a single grad-school class costs around $5-$6,000. I have been in school for 10 years now, and have witnessed a 400% increase in tuition in that time. And guess what, I am almost at the maximum amount I can borrow through the government with a few years left to go before I have my doctoral degree. Does it make sense that I cannot finish my degree but will owe over $175,000 in loans, with interest, because no one has done anything about the cost of school? Nothing else in our society, nothing, has seen the rate of inflation that tuition has. Face it, higher education is big business, pure and simple.

  2. I am interested if i can get help for loan forgiveness program i have student loan more than $100.000
    please call me at 510 472 2064
    thanks
    a.s.

  3. Nice article! lots of great info. I’d also recommend using Credit Sesame. I’ve been really happy with the help and guidance from this service.

  4. I am firm in my belief that federal pell grants should be done away with. Why should my tax $$ be going to fund other people’s education when my children were never ever able to qualify for this type of assistance. They had to have student loans and we parents had to do the Plus loans to help them also. We were by far a family (once upon a time known as middle class) always had struggles and not a lot of cash flow to help our kids. There was no freebies. My three kids wanted a higher education and they had to pay for it themselves with what help we could give…..in the meantime, my $$ help go to get other kids educated by govt. means, and that kid walks out of school debt free while my child comes out with ten yrs. of loan repayment to deal with. What is wrong with this picture.? Student loans should be the only means by which ALL people have access to.. Anyone should be given and allowed $$ for one yr. with stipulations. GPA Must be at least a 3.00 after end of first yr. and if not, student will not receive a second yr. of loan. That would really screen out a lot of people that are fooling away their time at college. It will be the incentive for these very serious students to ‘really hit the books’ as they will know their time and money are on the line for successful completion……and that will be a good thing with the ones making it work for them; they will appreciate their schooling more and they will come out of school being successful and ready. Tax $$ are in the billions every yr. to fund pell grants. Do away with it. Take the $$ from this program and give 25% toward everyone that is in debt currently with student loans (up thru the time period before a new law kicks in) so for someone owing $1000. they could look forward to having 25% of that paid for, which would be a small reward of it’s own. 25% on a loan of $50,000 would be an even bigger reward of sorts. Then the interest rates should all be reduced to something reasonable so people do not have such a burden. For instance, for new loan repayment, give the person an incentive to get these paid off with a 3% interest rate for the duration of the loan, if all payments continue to be pd. on time, as agreed. If person becomes negligent in making pymts. then some kind of penalty could be enforced. As it stands now, it is an unfair and very discriminatory program that needs to be thrown out. The govt. should not be in the business of deciding who will get a free ride on the back of the taxpayer. If a kid wants a ‘free ride’ in college, then that should be the incentive for them to work real hard in high school and have top grades so they will be given scholarships for higher education. For the ones who have to fund this program for others, not such a free ride at all. In a time of recessionary period, graduates have stuggled with even being able to find work. Once they get behind on their loans, it will be almost impossible to make these up; therefore, credit starts looking bad, future purchases of a home or savings could become really difficult. These people need some relief and it needs to be now, not 20 yrs. from now. Give people back their lives with some kind of help and redo this whole program, it sucks!

  5. I went back to school to re-train after a few heart attacks left me unable to be a carpenter any longer. It was impossible for me to attend regularly. I was determined 100% disabled, 5 years ago My SS disability is not enough to live on. I am applying for “loan forgiveness.” They told me that if I get it, I will be responsible to the IRS to pay the taxes on the loans amount as if they are income. So they will garnish what little that I receive from my disability to pay the taxes on this “income.” The interest has ballooned the loans amount to a ridiculous amount. I don’t know what to do. I have heart failure and cannot work and I cannot survive without my small pension..

  6. We know Johnathan – you are the all-american who has done all the right things and fell your experience should reflect how others should move through life. However, people have different issues, problems and flight of life.

    If you are able to do all the American text book things GREAT – for some the education flight has been a rip-off and scam in some cases.

    Me personally – I think all students loans should be forgiven – they did it for the banks – then watch this economy grow.

  7. i hope you can help me
    i helped my son in getting private student loan me as cosigner how can i get my name of it now and how can we get loan forgiveness
    hope to hear from you soon
    thank you very much
    anne

  8. I have been on disability since about 2004 .my son has federal loans .I was ateacher for 30 yrs .he needs help.does he qualify for forgiveness?

  9. I have student loans that I would like to know if I qualify for teacher forgiveness status. I work in a special education center school which is also a Title 1 school. I am a certified special education teacher, but currently work in the same school as a social worker. How or could I qualify for loan forgiveness? I have a substantial amount of student loan debt.

  10. I recently checked into the 2007 Loan Forgiveness program to see if the loans I took out for my son would qualify. I am a Public Service worker and have been one since 1989. Needless to say, I started paying on his loans shortly after he entered college in 2005 and have not missed a payment.

    I was informed that I would have to refinance the loans to qualify for the 10 year Loan Forgiveness… This does’t make any sense! I will be retiring soon and initially thought that I would be done making payments by 2018. But this is not the case with the 2007 Loan Forgiveness Program, there should be a clause that would allow people in my situation to be forgiven after 120 payments that have never been late.

    My son has a couple of loans in his name too, although he has graduated and is working he cannot cover the payments on the loans I took out for him. People should be informed that taking out a student loan is like buying a house…

  11. I have 2 student loans with a combined total of around $35,000. I want to know of I qualify for any loan forgiveness or loan reduction. I am retired USAF and I was hired as a high school teacher in Illinois for 3 years after my military retirement on a provisional teaching certificate. I was required to get my masters in secondary education to continue teaching. I completed all my coursework online through the University of Phoenix and all that I required was my student teaching. Unfortunately I was laid off from the school for reasons beyond my control. I was unable to complete my student teaching since I had to find another job. I was hired by the U.S. Dept. of Labor as a Wage and Hour Investigator and transferred to Texas and have been working at this job for 5 years. Therefore, I would like to know if based on this information as a retired service member, teacher, and federal government employee if qualify for any loan forgiveness or reduction. Thank you.

  12. I am 47 with many chronic illnesses that have left me unable to work. I graduated from college with a BS in SW 2 years ago. I contacted my student loan company and I am on deferment for three months until I get social security disability approved or my doctor signs that I have had a chronic illness for 60 months and will continue at least for another 60 and unable to be gainfully employed. Does that mean I am unable to do any work ? I have a home business , like avon , where home parties on other peoples houses are sometimes needed. Most of my business is on the internet. I make less than $200 a month. Am I able to continue or do I need to give this up to have the loans discharged. ? Thank you.

  13. My loans of about $ 3500 are being forgiven due to disability.
    I will be 60 next year on Feb 07th . They will monitor my income for the next 3 years to see if my health has changed and if not.. The loans would be forgiven. They have 5 ways to get loan forgiveness by work in public service etc. I would like to work at a library , school or other public service jobs on a part-time basis in order to get the loans paid off. The government does not to my knowledge give me this option..

    I am going to talk to my congressman William LIpinski of illinois to see if this can be done. I would prefer to work in this way instead of having to wait for 3 years until this loan forgiveness is resolved.

  14. I have student debt, along with a good majority of Americans. However, I have no idea why people are so upset when their loans cannot be forgiven. You went to school to gain education to get a job that paid well. Now that you have that education and job, you want to short change the government and/or institution? I dislike paying my student loans just like everyone else. However, I have greatly benefited from my education and I knew the cost that would be off the get-go. Therefore, unless there are extreme circumstances, I think loan forgiveness should not be available just for years of service.

    *Side note, I am all for lower interest rates, lower (more realistic) payments, and working with people in need.

    • Student loans are nightmare!! Even for those of us who gained a great educational experience. However, they really make you sacrifice your standard of living making the payments. At least, that’s how I feel.

      • I am not sure what planet you are from Jonathon but, as some have noted on this forum, there are real sacrifices to adjust to one’s standard of living. A “student loan” debt is not the only debt some people have to pay each month. It’s strapping, and when you have worked for an agency (described as one of the requirements) for so many years and being told “because you have consolidated after October 1977″ you are unable to receive the “Teacher Loan Forgiveness.” When you have been paying for (e.g.,) four consecutive years automatic debit totaling 48 payments, and now to apply for the “Public Service Commission Forgiveness” it is absolutely outrageous. A person like myself who has 6 more years left to retire (at age 66), will have to work an additional 4 more years (until age 70), to reap this benefit if I apply for the “Public Service Commission Forgiveness” type loan at this time in my life. To respond to your insulting note where it mentioned – “You went to school to gain education to get a job that paid well. Now that you have that education and job, you want to short change the government and/or institution?” May I remind you that, when something is promised, it is promised. When employees do not get raises for 6 consecutive years, yes! they do look back on the sacrifice they made to get to the point in their lives and ask, “what purpose did this serve” or “why did I advance to a Masters Degree, or a Doctoral Degree?” Your final sentence in your post reads – “I am all for lower interest rates, lower (more realistic) payments, and working with people in need.” You sound no more intelligent than an empty headed narcissistic crow who had your education financed by someone other than yourself. Well, guess what, never look down on anyone who fights or makes the honest sacrifice to elevate themselves. Good luck with your way of thinking.

    • what about calling at all hours and saying they have not received my application for disability forgiveness broken back and neck along with facial disfigurement they had me have my picture taken so they could see if I was disfigured they ignore your applications until you have to get a lawyer involved and the so called education that was going to be my ticket back to work . No One wants to hire someone in their late 50’s with health problems so all their promises like jobs etc. was just a way to get college enrollment up and make the schools profitable. I know of many people engineers and specialty air and space auto cad workers and designers who went back to school and they still cannot find a job one guy took a job at a Loews and he doesn’t even make enough to cover his bills yet they are taking out loan payments direct from his paycheck. What I want to know is how do all those Europeans get University educations for free when we must pay through the nose . Something is wrong with our system one that has always preyed on the middleclass.

    • We know Johnathan – you are the all-american who has done all the right things and fell your experience should reflect how others should move through life. However, people have different issues, problems and flight of life.

      If you are able to do all the American text book things GREAT – for some the education flight has been a rip-off and scam in some cases.

      Me personally – I think all students loans should be forgiven – they did it for the banks – then watch this economy grow.

  15. I tend to agree with you about the years of service. The program to pay for student loans was created because there is a need for teachers in a more stressful level of teaching , that you would have to agree you did not chose to teach in.

  16. I don’t understand, I have worked with special education students for 15 years, not at a title 1 school, so, this makes it where I can’t apply for a student loan repayment programs? Do I understand correctly, that a person working at an educational service center can apply for a federal student loan repayment program? I don’t understant this concept, people that work for years directly with students in a shortage area continue to be overlooked for programs simply because of the schools we are placed at within a district that happen to not be a title 1 school. This is one reason people never stay in the teaching field. I think that years of service should be considered, not just the fact that a person works at a title 1 school.

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