There is no easy way to get rid of student loans without paying them back. But there are forgiveness and discharge options if you can qualify for them.
Staring at mounting education debt from college can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are a few options to get out of paying it — at least for federal loans. The only way to get out of paying private student loans with many lenders is to die. But even death may not let you escape having to pay the loans back.
Keep reading to learn how to get rid of student loan debt legally — sometimes without paying.
Disclaimer: I am a student loan lawyer, but this article contains generalized information and should not be taken as legal advice. If you want legal advice that pertains to your specific situation, you should schedule a free consultation with me.
How to get rid of student loan debt without paying?
Although rare, it’s possible to get out of student debt without paying — at least for your federal student loans. The loan discharge options available to you depend on your loan, job status, and sometimes the school you attended.
Here are some of the easiest to access federal student loan forgiveness programs are:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program wipes out your remaining balance after making 120 student loan payments while working full-time for the government or a nonprofit. Borrowers with a tiny income and a large family who qualify for a $0 are still eligible for the PSLF Program. Also, during the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden temporarily changed the rules to allow borrowers with FFEL loans to get credit towards the 120 qualifying payments. Read more to learn how to qualify for the PSLF Waiver.
- Income-driven repayment plan forgiveness writes off the loan amount after you make at least 240 monthly payments under an affordable student loan repayment plan: Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), or Income-Based Repayment (IBR). Each caps payments to between 10% and 20% of your discretionary income. These plans are beneficial if you want to escape student loan debt by leaving the country. Learn more about IDR loan forgiveness.
- Total and permanent disability discharge cancels debt after you experience a severe mental or physical injury. The eligibility requirements allow you to qualify if your doctor, the Social Security Administration, or Veterans Administration certify your disability.
- Borrower Defense to Repayment helps student loan borrowers who attended a school that misled them or committed fraud. You can have your loans forgiven if the school’s actions led you to take out the loan in the first place. Learn how to apply for Borrower Defense to Repayment.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program forgives up to $17,500 for educators who teach particular subjects or work in a low-income school or educational service agency. You’re eligible for this program even if you keep your loans in deferment or forbearance and never make a payment.
- Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation erases the balance teachers owe on Perkins Loans if they work full-time in a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school system serving low-income families.
- Death discharge: forgives the borrower’s loan balance when they die. The federal government will not collect the debt from the borrower’s spouse or children.
Find out about how to apply for student loan forgiveness.
Learn More: $10,000 Student Loan Forgiveness Program
How to get rid of private student debt
Private student loan forgiveness programs are usually only available if you have a permanent disability or die. But even then, the private lender can come after the cosigner or any assets left behind.
One option is to file for student loan bankruptcy. But that process is complicated and expensive. You have to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and then file an adversary proceeding. You can try to keep costs down by handling the process yourself, but it might be easier to prove undue hardship by hiring a student loan lawyer. This will help you increase your chances of getting a discharge.
If you are having a hard time making your payments, your best option is to talk to your student loan servicer about renegotiating your payment or taking a break from payments for a little while. You could also use an online refinance marketplace tool like credible.com to find lenders offering a lower interest rate or better repayment terms.
Looking for ways to get out of student loans? Let’s talk.
If you’re struggling with student loan debt, there are options available to help you get out of it. You can look into federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Income-Driven Repayment plan forgiveness, or if you have private student loans, student loan bankruptcy.
Keep in mind that forgiveness isn’t an option for defaulted loans. You’ll need to use consolidation or student loan rehabilitation to get defaulted federal student loans in good standing before they’re eligible for forgiveness programs.
I’ve helped many people like you successfully qualify for forgiveness options and find the best repayment options for their loans. Schedule a free 10-minute talk so we can discuss how I can help you do the same.