How to Get Student Loans Forgiven

By Kaitlin Hurtado on August 27, 2022

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For many college students, using student loans to fund their college expenses is a common situation. According to Forbes, more than half of students leave college with some debt – there is $1.75 trillion in total student loan debt, with $28,950 being owed per borrower on average. While taking out student loans is inevitable for many college students, having to repay them is a difficult task for many, placing financial strain on them. In some situations, however, federal student loans can be forgiven,  canceled, or discharged.

Student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge refer to the cancellation of a borrower’s obligation to repay all, or a portion, of the remaining principal and interest owed on their student loan(s). Cancellation and forgiveness, in general, are dependent on a borrower’s employment or participation in certain programs while discharge refers to certain circumstances a borrower faces. Keep reading for more information on student loan forgiveness and how to get student loans forgiven if you qualify.

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Student loan forgiveness through employment

Depending on your employment, you may be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

For example, if you are a teacher, you may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. At a minimum, you must teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency, and meet other qualifications. If you are eligible, you can receive forgiveness for up to $17,500 on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and your Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.

If you were interested in applying for forgiveness as a teacher, you would submit a completed Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer once you have met the eligibility requirements.

You may also look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If you work full-time for a government or not-for-profit organization, you may qualify for forgiveness on the remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying payments on your student loans (10 years of payments). In order to qualify for PSLF, you should be repaying your federal student loans under an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

It is important to note that you cannot get credit toward the Teacher Loan Forgiveness and PSLF during the same period. For example, if you are completing your five years of service for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you will not be getting the same credit toward PSLF.

Student loan forgiveness through military service

If you have served in the military, you can qualify for certain benefits and repayment options for your federal student loans, including student loan forgiveness.

Depending on the branch of the military you serve, a portion of your student loans may be paid by the Department of Defense (DOD). Or, if you have a service-related disability, you may qualify for the discharge of your student loans.

Borrower defense to repayment 

If your school misled you or engage in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws, you may be eligible for a type of student loan forgiveness referred to as “borrower defense.” This type can result in a discharge of some or all of your student loan debt.

If you can demonstrate that your school violated state law related to your loan or to the educational services provided, you can apply to get your student loans discharged. If you are applying, make sure you have documentation to support why you believe you qualify for borrower defense. The US Department of Education has awarded $2 billion of student loan forgiveness for this type of student loan forgiveness.

Important notes to remember

If you are applying for student loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge, you may still be required to make payments on your loans while your application is being reviewed, depending on your situation. If you are unsure, make sure to verify with your loan servicer to find out whether you need to continue making payments while your application is being reviewed.

Once you get confirmation on whether your application was approved, verify how much was forgiven. While you may hope that the full balance of your student loans will be forgiven, you may have only gotten a partial amount forgiven from your application. If that is the case, make sure you continue to make payments on the remaining balance. Under certain types of loan discharge, you may be able to receive a refund on some of the loan payments you have already made on your loan balance.

Student loan forgiveness can help ease the financial strain placed on many students after their college endeavors, whether they completed their college education or not. If these options are not something you think you qualify for, contact your loan servicer for what options you can consider, from a change in your repayment plan to a possible deferment or forbearance on your loan payments.

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