Staring at mounting student loan debt can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are a few options to get out of student loan debt — at least for federal loans. Debt relief for private student loans typically involves negotiating a settlement or bankruptcy.
When you look at your balance and see that despite making payments for years, you owe more than what you borrowed, it's natural to wonder how to get out of student loan debt. Will Biden forgive student loan debt? Do loans go away after a certain number of years? Is bankruptcy an option?
Honestly, unless you're severely disabled or attended a for-profit school that was shut down, there aren't any programs to forgive student loans. However, some options can keep monthly payments affordable, like income-driven repayment plans, and will wipe out your balance after a few years, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Ahead, learn ways to get out of student loan debt legally.
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 out of student loan debt without paying?
Although rare, it's possible to get out of student loan debt without paying — at least for your federal student loans. The types of loan discharge options available to you depend on your loan, job status, and sometimes the school you attended.
- 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. During the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers temporarily changed the rules to allow borrowers with FFEL loans to get credit towards the 120 qualifying payments.
- 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). These plans are beneficial if you want to escape student loan debt by leaving the country.
- 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 or the Social Security Administration or Veterans Administration certify your disability.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: forgives up to $17,500 for educators who teach particular subjects or work in low-income schools. You're eligible for this program even if you keep your loans in deferment or forbearance and never make a payment.
- 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.
The U.S. Department of Education has other programs that wipe out your loans if your school ripped you off, or closed while you were attending, or if someone stole your identity. Contact your student loan servicer or Federal Student Aid to learn how to apply for debt relief.
Learn More: Can Parent PLUS Loans Be Forgiven?
How to get rid of private student debt?
There are limited options to get rid of private student loan debt without paying. Private lenders typically don't offer student loan forgiveness programs. And many won't agree to discharge your loans if you're permanently disabled. If you're struggling to repay your private student loans, check out these alternatives to forgiveness:
- Leaving the country. Unlike federal loans, private student loans have a statute of limitations. While becoming an ex-pat won't stop your lender from collecting or reporting negatively to the credit bureaus, the statute of limitations may run out while you're abroad. But if you have a cosigner, they remain at risk of a student loan lawsuit if they live in the United States.
- Refinancing. A lower interest rate can save you thousands on your private student loans. Plus, it may offer you a lower minimum payment each month. To qualify for student loan refinance, you'll need a good credit score (680+) and a stable income.
- Negotiating a student loan settlement. A settlement usually becomes an option for private student loans after you default. While missing payments will damage your credit report, a settlement can save you 40-60% of your loan balance. You'll usually save more if you pay in a lump sum versus monthly payments. Note: You'll owe the IRS taxes on the amount cancelled.
- Filing student loan bankruptcy. It's typically easier to prove undue hardship and discharge private student loans than do the same for federal loans. And even if you don't get a full discharge, bankruptcy courts may allow you to get a partial discharge or negotiate a settlement.
Need help with your loans? Let's talk.
If you want to explore your repayment options and develop a strategy to get rid of your student loans, I'm here to help. My entire law practice is dedicated to helping student loan borrowers with federal and private loans.
Schedule a free 10-minute call with me today. We'll work together to develop a plan that allows you to meet your future goals.