You may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness. Your participation in certain student loan repayment programs or your employment in specified fields could qualify your federal loan for forgiveness or cancelation. Read on to find out more about the student loan forgiveness process and other helpful information.
According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, there are also some circumstances in which you could have your loan discharged. Not all applicants will qualify for loan forgiveness or discharge. Moreover, student loan forgiveness programs are in a state of flux at the time of writing. In recent years, the Department of Education has been extremely limiting in the number of forgiveness applications it will approve. However, the global pandemic has invoked ongoing discussion about possible new legislation aimed at relieving the student debt burden during this time of economic downturn. This means that loan forgiveness policies and programs are, today, subject to quick and sudden change.
We invite you to visit Inflection Weekly for updates on loan forgiveness programs and other important policy issues in higher ed.
Otherwise, read on for a closer look at existing student loan forgiveness programs and find out how you can apply.
Student loan forgiveness is typically based on your participation in certain programs, including repayment programs and employment-based forgiveness opportunities. These federal loan forgiveness programs are aimed at relieving the burden and improving the financial outlook for borrowers who fall into an array of categories. If you think you might qualify, begin the process by contacting your loan servicer or visit the Office of Federal Student Aid and find the forgiveness program application that applies to you.
Loan forgiveness programs have become a popular topic of political debate as various public office-holders look for ways of addressing the student loan debt crisis. As a result, loan forgiveness programs are subject to change, expansion, or elimination based on current policy orientation. However, at the time of writing during the 2019-2020 academic season, the following are current loan forgiveness programs.
REPAYE/PAYE/IBR/ICR Plan Forgiveness: It may be possible for you to enter into an income-based repayment plan. There are a number of income-based repayment plans, each with its own terms and structure. In most cases though, with an income-based repayment plan, if your loan remains unpaid in full after 20 or 25 years, the remaining balance will be forgiven. Be aware that you may be responsible for income tax on the forgiven sum.
State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP): Many states also offer their own student loan forgiveness programs. Terms and eligibility will vary. Visit The College Investor to learn more about possible forgiveness programs in your state of residence or the state where your college or university is located.
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation: The need-based Federal Perkins Loan program was discontinued by the Trump Administration in 2018, which means no new Federal Perkins Loans are being granted. However, prior recipients of the Perkins Loan who become full-time nurses, medical technicians, disability intervention providers, speech pathologists, and others may be eligible for total loan cancellation.
Visit the Federal Student Aid portal to find out if you are eligible for the Perkins Loan cancellation program.
In addition to repayment-based forgiveness programs, there are numerous Professional Loan Repayment Programs related to specific professional pathways. For instance:
Student Loan forgiveness, which may be used interchangeably with loan cancellation, typically refers to a program provided through the federal government in which the borrower’s debt is forgiven after meeting certain repayment or employment conditions.
Discharge, by contrast, is more often applied to conditions in which the borrower is unable to repay the amount, or applies in cases where the debt is invalidated by a school’s fraud or closure.
Situations in which a borrower may receive discharge for being unable to pay include bankruptcy, total disability, or death. Military veterans with disabilities are often eligible for this disability discharge on both public and private student loans.
In the case of school fraud or closure, borrowers may be eligible for loan discharge under the conditions of:
Visit the Office of Federal Student Aid for applications to each of these forgiveness or discharge programs.
The programs outlined above refer largely to federal student loans. Private loans are not eligible for forgiveness under these terms. If you are struggling to repay private student loans, you may have a few other options:
Take a look at our Focus on Repaying Your Student Loans to learn more about deferment and forbearance.
If you think you might qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation, start the process by contacting your federal loan servicer. The Office of Federal Student Aid provides a portal to the companies which currently serve federal student loans.
You may be eligible to embark on an income-driven repayment plan, which could put you on the path toward forgiveness. Or you may be involved in a profession such as nursing, military, or public service that could qualify you for employment-based forgiveness. Your loan servicer should be able to provide you with more details on how to apply.
If your loan servicer is unable to provide you with sufficient information or application access, reach out directly to the Office of Federal Student Aid with questions at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
Unfortunately, the Department of Education has, in recent years, become extremely selective about approving applications for loan forgiveness. For instance, according to Forbes, in 2018, only 640 borrowers were approved for public service loan forgiveness out of 132,000 applications. At an approval rate of under .5%, most applications were rejected on the grounds of ineligibility, or because of missing or incomplete information.
In all likelihood, this doesn’t fully account for a 99+% rejection rate, and instead suggests that the Department of Education has largely contracted the federal student loan forgiveness program in recent years. This does suggest that those who wish to apply must make every effort to avoid missteps by:
If you are rejected for student loan forgiveness and you are facing financial hardship, contact your loan servicers to ask about deferment or forbearance.
To learn more about assistance programs and loan repayment options, check out our Focus on Repaying Your Student Loans.
If you think student loan refinancing might be right for you, learn more about the benefits and terms of eligibility from our Focus on Refinancing Your Student Loans.***
Learn more about applying to and paying for college with a look at our Guide to the College Admissions Process.
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