How to Apply For Student Loan Forgiveness (2024)

#1 Student loan lawyer

Updated on April 21, 2024

Even though the Supreme Court blocked widespread student loan forgiveness, including additional relief for Pell Grant recipients, there are still ways to get your student loans forgiven in 2024. A major initiative called the One-Time Account Adjustment makes qualifying for existing programs easier. This has led to the cancellation of over $138 billion in debt for nearly 3.9 million borrowers.

This adjustment affects programs like:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): If you work for the government or a non-profit organization, you may be newly eligible to have your loans forgiven.

  • Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR): These plans base your payments on your income and could offer forgiveness after 20-25 years of on-time payments.

  • SAVE Plan Forgiveness: An additional income-driven repayment program offering forgiveness for those who borrowed $12 thousand or less in federal student loan debt for their undergraduate or graduate education.

Additional options exist, including:

  • Total and Permanent Disability Discharge: Borrowers with qualifying disabilities may have their loans discharged.

  • Borrower Defense to Repayment: For borrowers misled by their educational institutions.

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: For teachers at schools in certain low-income areas.

Additionally, new programs offer relief for borrowers facing financial hardship, those who’ve been in repayment for over 20 years but haven’t qualified for other forgiveness, and those impacted by factors like attending low-quality schools.

Let’s review the eligibility details and how to apply for the program that best suits your situation.

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3 Reasons Your Student Loans STILL Aren't Forgiven

Types of Loans Forgiven

Before diving into the application process, let’s break down which types of student loans are eligible for forgiveness under the current programs.

As of 2024, several federal student loans qualify for forgiveness, while private and some refinanced federal loans may not be covered.

  • Direct Loans: These loans, which include Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans, are eligible for forgiveness under the current programs. Direct Loans are the most common type of federal student loans.

  • Parent PLUS Loans: Parents who took out Direct PLUS Loans to help pay for their child’s education may also qualify for loan forgiveness, provided they meet the program’s requirements.

  • Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL): FFEL loans are eligible for forgiveness if the U.S. Department of Education holds them. But FFEL loans held by private lenders or guaranty agencies may not qualify unless consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

  • Federal Perkins Loans: Perkins Loans are eligible for forgiveness if held by the U.S. Department of Education. If a private lender or your school holds your Perkins Loan, you may need to consolidate it into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify for forgiveness.

Note: As of 2024, the forgiveness programs do not cover private student loans or federal loans that were refinanced with private lenders during the payment pause. If you have private loans, you may need to explore options for private student loan forgiveness, which can be difficult to obtain.

Similarly, if you have privately refinanced federal loans, you’ll need to look into refinanced student loan forgiveness or other repayment options, as these loans are no longer eligible for federal forgiveness programs.

Do You Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Many borrowers have been denied the forgiveness they deserve due to past errors and complicated program rules. Let’s explore the major initiatives in place to correct this and qualify you for relief:

The One-Time Account Adjustment

The One-Time Account Adjustment is a major effort by the Department of Education to fix longstanding errors in how federal student loan servicers manage borrower accounts. These errors often prevented borrowers from qualifying for forgiveness programs they were eligible for, such as Income-Driven Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

IDR Waiver Extension

What the IDR Waiver Forgiveness Extension Means

Why is This Important in 2024?

  • Automatic Review and Potential Relief: In 2024, the Department of Education will automatically review borrower accounts every two months and apply corrections. This means you could receive forgiveness unexpectedly, even if you didn’t think you were on track before.

  • New Opportunities for Forgiveness: Corrections made under this program might open up forgiveness options you weren’t previously aware of, especially if you’ve been making payments for a long time.

  • Reduced Loan Balances: The adjustment can retroactively credit qualifying repayment periods. This could bring you closer to forgiveness or even lead to a significant balance reduction.

Errors Being Corrected

The Department of Education hires loan servicers to help borrowers manage their loans. But watchdogs and auditors have repeatedly raised concerns about their work and lack of proper oversight. This has led to significant problems, including:

  • Servicers improperly placing borrowers in forbearance for extended periods, which causes interest to accrue and delays progress towards forgiveness. For example, a borrower struggling financially might be put in forbearance instead of an IDR plan, leading to thousands of dollars in additional interest over time.

  • Servicers failing to guide borrowers towards income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which could have significantly reduced their monthly payments.

What the Adjustment Fixes

The One-Time Account Adjustment addresses past servicer errors by:

  • Correcting miscounted payments: This includes crediting late or partial payments across all repayment plans.

  • Counting qualifying periods of forbearance: Time spent in forbearance of 12 consecutive months or 36+ cumulative months will now be counted towards forgiveness.

  • Including certain deferment periods: Months spent in deferment (except in-school deferment) before 2013 and economic hardship or military deferment after 2013 will now count.

  • Considering pre-consolidation time: Months in repayment before consolidating loans will be credited even if not on an IDR plan.

Automatic Application: The Department of Education will automatically apply these rules to all federal Direct and government-owned loans, ensuring that past errors don’t prevent borrowers from receiving forgiveness credit.

Who Benefits

  • Borrowers with Direct Loans and federally held FFEL loans will automatically qualify for the adjustment, receiving credit towards IDR and PSLF.

  • Borrowers with non-Direct loans (FFEL, Perkins, HEAL) must consolidate into the Direct Loan Program by April 30, 2024, to benefit.

  • Borrowers in repayment for 20-25 years could receive automatic forgiveness or overpayment refunds.

  • PSLF borrowers with at least 10 years of payments and certified employment will see automatic forgiveness.

  • Parent PLUS borrowers, usually ineligible for IDR, will benefit if they have 25+ years of repayment.

New Hardship Forgiveness for 2024

While the One-Time Account Adjustment will help many borrowers, there will still be those facing financial challenges who miss out. For those who do, the Biden administration proposes a hardship-based forgiveness pathway.

This new route should be safer from Supreme Court scrutiny than Biden’s earlier plans to cancel debt using his executive powers. Instead, the Education Department plans to amend the Higher Education Act through a process known as negotiated rulemaking. The ‘neg reg’ process prioritizes transparency, seeks stakeholder consensus, and closely aligns with the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirements.

The committee has wrapped up its final meeting. They are preparing to send their proposed draft regulatory text to the Federal Register. Once there, the public can comment and provide feedback before the new legislation goes into effect.

If implemented, the Secretary of Education will have the power to waive federal student loan debt for borrowers facing significant hardship, making full repayment unlikely or excessively burdensome.

What Qualifies as Hardship

Hardship may be determined using criteria similar to those for discharging student loans in bankruptcy, which include:

  • Inability to maintain a minimal standard of living.

  • The unlikelihood of financial situation improvement.

  • Efforts made in good faith to repay loans.

Who Benefits

The rulemaking committee identified five groups of borrowers who should be considered for relief:

  1. Those who owe more than they borrowed

  2. Those who have been repaying loans for 20 years or more

  3. Those who attended institutions that haven’t demonstrated successful student outcomes

  4. Those who are eligible for loan forgiveness but haven’t applied

  5. Those experiencing financial hardship

Hardship Definition

Similar to the way hardship is determined for bankruptcy, the proposed rules don’t provide a rigid definition of what qualifies as financial hardship for student loan forgiveness. Instead, they outline several factors the Secretary of Education could consider, including:

  • Household Income & Assets: Examining these factors will help determine a borrower’s ability to afford payments.

  • Debt-to-Income Ratios: Comparing current student loan payments (and other debt obligations) against income will highlight potential burdens.

  • Education-Related Factors: Information about attended institutions and degree completion can provide context for repayment struggles.

  • Other Indicators: This could include age, disability, receipt of public benefits, or other hardships the Secretary identifies.

This flexible approach allows for individualized assessment, ensuring those facing genuine hardship – even under unique circumstances – have a chance at relief.

How to Apply

After the public comment period and approval of the final rules, the new hardship forgiveness program could potentially go into effect in July 2025.

Once implemented, borrowers might not need to apply for relief. The proposed process suggests a more automated approach than traditional loan forgiveness applications.

  • How Hardship is Determined: The Secretary of Education can waive loan balances if the borrower faces hardship that severely impacts their ability to repay or the cost of collection isn’t justified by the potential repayment.

  • Immediate Relief: The Secretary can use existing data to pinpoint borrowers with loans that are highly likely to default within two years. These borrowers, likely facing extreme hardship, could receive immediate relief.

  • Automated Relief Potential: The Department of Education could also grant further relief automatically by using data they already have. Borrowers experiencing demonstrable financial hardship might get forgiveness without submitting a separate application.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

What it is: If you work full-time for the government or a qualifying non-profit, your loans could be forgiven after 120 on-time payments. [Read more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program]

Who is eligible: This program is for employees of any government agency (federal, state, local, or tribal) and employees of non-profits with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

Eligibility Requirements: Here’s what you need to qualify: First, work full-time (at least 30 hours per week on average) at a qualifying organization. Second, enroll in a qualifying repayment plan (any of the IDR plans work). Finally, make 120 on-time payments on your Direct Loans.

How to apply: Start by completing the PSLF Employment Certification Form. You can find it online at using the PSLF Help Tool.

Related: Latest PSLF Updates

Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR)

What it is: IDR plans offer affordable payments based on your income and family size. Your remaining loan balance can be forgiven after 20-25 years of on-time payments.

Who is eligible: Anyone with federal student loans can enroll in one of the IDR plans: IBR (Income-Based Repayment), ICR (Income-Contingent Repayment), PAYE (Pay As You Earn), or SAVE (Saving on a Valuable Education). The SAVE Plan replaced REPAYE (Revised Pay As You Earn Plan).

Eligibility requirements: The key to getting IBR Forgiveness is to enroll in a qualifying IDR plan (contact your loan servicer), make payments based on your income for the required period (20-25 years), and recertify your income information every year.

How to apply: Good news – there’s no separate forgiveness application! Once you make your final qualifying payment, your loans are automatically forgiven.

SAVE Plan Forgiveness

How SAVE Plan Forgiveness Works

What it is: The SAVE Plan is designed to make repayment more affordable. It also offers faster forgiveness, especially for those with lower debt amounts. When enrolled in this plan, your loan balance won’t grow due to unpaid interest as long as you make your monthly student loan payments on time. Also, if you borrowed $12,000 or less, you could get forgiveness after just 10 years of payments. And even with larger amounts, you’ll still get forgiveness earlier than with other plans (the exact time depends on your balance).

Who is eligible: Anyone with federal student loans can enroll in the SAVE Plan. The special 10-year forgiveness applies if your original loan amount was $12,000 or less. If you borrowed more, each additional $1,000 adds a year before forgiveness (e.g., $13,000 = 11 years).

Eligibility requirements: Enroll in the SAVE Plan (contact your loan servicer) and make on-time payments for the required period (based on your loan balance)

How to apply: Most borrowers with Department of Education-owned loans don’t need to do anything – you’ll be automatically considered under SAVE. But if you’re looking for FFELP Loan Forgiveness or the same for Perkins loans, you must consolidate into a Direct Consolidation Loan for SAVE eligibility.


Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

What it is: If you have a total and permanent disability that prevents you from working, your federal student loans could be forgiven.

Who is eligible: You may qualify if your disability is certified by a doctor, the VA, or the Social Security Administration.

Eligibility Requirements: The key is providing official documentation proving your disability status.

How to apply: Start by getting the TPD Discharge application from your loan servicer or directly from Once you have that application, follow the application instructions carefully.

Borrower Defense to Repayment

What it is: If your school misled you about costs, degrees, or job prospects, this program can potentially cancel your federal student loans.

Who is eligible: It’s important to know that not everyone qualifies. You’ll need strong evidence the school deceived you to get your loans forgiven.

Eligibility requirements: The key is proving the school harmed you through misrepresentation or wrongdoing. This could include false promises, misleading advertising, etc.

How to apply: Start by submitting the Borrower Defense to Repayment application online at the Federal Student Aid website. They’ll guide you through the process.


Teacher Loan Forgiveness

What it is:  Teachers working in designated low-income schools or educational service agencies can receive up to $17,500 in forgiveness on their federal student loans. [Read more about Teacher Loan Forgiveness]

Who is eligible: Teachers who work full-time for five consecutive years in a qualifying low-income school or educational service agency and are highly qualified in math, science, or special education (additional requirements apply).

Eligibility requirements: You must hold a qualifying teaching certificate and have eligible federal student loans (Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Subsidized Federal Stafford, & Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans)

How to apply: First, obtain the Teacher Loan Forgiveness application form from your loan servicer or the Federal Student Aid website. Then, get your employment certified by the chief administrative officer at your school.

Note: Teachers with eligible federal Perkins loans may be able to cancel their whole loan through a separate program called Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers.

How to Maximize Loan Forgiveness

If you have multiple federal student loans, consolidating them could unlock a big forgiveness benefit – especially if you have older loans. Here’s how it works:

  • With the one-time adjustment, you can carry over past payments made on loans that usually don’t qualify for forgiveness. Imagine combining progress bars from your different loans, giving you a major head start!

  • Example: Suppose you made 50 payments on one loan and 100 on another. Consolidate, and your new loan gets credited with the HIGHEST count (100 payments!). This could bring you significantly closer to forgiveness.

  • Get started: Consolidate for free at []. No need to pay third-party companies.

  • Important: To benefit from the one-time adjustment, consolidate FFEL or Perkins loans into a Direct Loan by the end of April.

How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The key is finding the right program tailored to your circumstances. Let’s simplify the process with these questions:

  • Do you work (or have worked) for a government agency or qualifying non-profit? If YES, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program could be a great option.

  • Is your income significantly lower than your student loan debt? If YES, Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans offer manageable payments and potential forgiveness after 20-25 years. Recent changes like the one-time account adjustment and proposed hardship forgiveness could offer even more relief.

  • Did your school mislead you, leaving you with a worthless degree and crippling debt? If YES, the Borrower Defense to Repayment program might be your path to forgiveness.

  • Facing a mental or physical disability that prevents you from working? If YES, you may qualify for a complete discharge of your student loan balance.

  • Feeling overwhelmed or unsure where you fit? No worries! My team and I can help you explore your options and navigate the process of getting your student debt forgiven.

General Application Steps

While the specific steps vary between programs, here’s a general roadmap for applying for student loan forgiveness.

  • Know Your Loans: Make sure you understand the types of federal loans you hold and any potential eligibility restrictions for forgiveness programs.

  • Choose the Right Program: Research options like PSLF, IDR, TPD Discharge, etc., to find the best fit for your circumstances.

  • Start the Application: Visit the FSA website or your loan servicer’s site and follow the specific application process for your chosen program.

  • Gather Your Paperwork: Employment certification forms, paystubs, proof of income, or disability documentation are frequently required.

  • Wait and Follow-Up: Application reviews take time. Be patient and regularly check your loan status for any updates.

  • Stay Informed: Monitor your loan servicer or Department of Education communication for important updates or additional requests.

Where to Apply

  • PSLF: Apply through [] using the PSLF Help Tool. Employment certification forms go to MOHELA for processing.

  • IDR Plans: Contact your loan servicer to enroll. There’s no separate forgiveness application – it happens automatically after the qualifying payments.

  • SAVE Plan: Enroll with your loan servicer. Similar to IDR, forgiveness occurs automatically if you meet the requirements.

  • TPD Discharge: Submit the completed TPD Discharge application and supporting documentation to the Disability Discharge team. You can find the form on [].

  • Borrower Defense to Repayment: Apply online at

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Apply directly to your loan servicer.

Application Deadlines

  • One-Time Account Adjustment: Consolidate eligible FFEL and Perkins loans into a Direct Loan by April 30, 2024, to benefit from this adjustment.

  • Other Programs: Most forgiveness programs have no strict deadlines. You can apply whenever you meet the eligibility requirements.

Note: As things can change, double-check deadlines and application processes on official sources like the FSA website or your loan servicer.


What if Your Application is Denied?

Getting a denial letter for student loan forgiveness can be a setback, but don’t give up! Here’s what you can do:

  • Understand the Denial: Carefully review the letter explaining the reasons. Did you miss a requirement, is there an error, or do your circumstances need re-evaluation?

  • Gather Your Evidence: Collect any supporting documents – employment records, proof of payments, updated income information – whatever might strengthen your case.

  • Talk to Your Servicer: Your loan servicer can clarify the denial and discuss any options for appeal or providing additional information.

  • Fight the Decision: If you believe the denial was a mistake or your situation has changed, file an appeal. Ask your servicer about the process, or get help from the FSA Ombudsman.

  • Get Professional Help: Student loan experts (attorneys, advisors) can assess your situation and guide you through the process, maximizing your chances of success. If you’d like our assistance, schedule a call.

  • Stay Updated: Forgiveness rules can change. Monitor official sources for updates that might open new possibilities for you.

  • Don’t Give Up! If forgiveness isn’t possible right now, consider alternative repayment plans, consolidation, or other debt management strategies to ease the burden.

Other Considerations

While forgiveness programs offer significant relief, it’s important to be aware of a few additional factors:

  • Forgiveness Limit and Taxable Income: In the past, forgiven student loans were often considered taxable income. But thanks to the American Rescue Plan, federally-held student loan forgiveness is tax-free through December 31, 2025. It’s unclear what the rules will be beyond that, so keep an eye on updates.

  • Exploring Loan Refinancing: Refinancing with a private lender can sometimes secure a lower interest rate, saving you money over time. But refinancing federal loans means losing eligibility for programs like IDR or PSLF. Weigh the potential savings against the loss of forgiveness options before making this decision.

  • Impact of Pell Grants on Forgiveness: Did you receive Pell Grants? They played a role in the earlier widespread student loan forgiveness that was blocked. Depending on how future forgiveness proposals are structured, your Pell Grant history could impact the amount of forgiveness you receive.

Bottom Line

Over the past three years, the federal government has taken significant steps to help student loan borrowers. These include:

  • Pausing student loan payments

  • Lowering interest rates on loans to zero

  • Improving several existing student loan forgiveness programs

Despite facing legal challenges, the Department of Education is working diligently to implement President Biden’s various student loan forgiveness plans. The goal is to provide relief to millions of eligible borrowers throughout 2024.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re unsure whether you qualify for any of the programs listed above. Schedule a call with me today, and I’ll help you review your situation and determine the best course of action to eliminate your remaining balance.

UP NEXT: Student Loan Forgiveness for Healthcare Workers

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Can I still apply for student loan forgiveness?

Yes, you can still apply for student loan forgiveness programs in 2024, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-driven repayment plan forgiveness, and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Eligibility requirements and application processes vary depending on the program, so research your options and contact your loan servicer for guidance.

Has student loan forgiveness been approved yet?

As of March 2024, some student loan forgiveness programs, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and the One-Time Account Adjustment, have been approved. But the broader student loan forgiveness plan proposed by President Biden faced legal challenges. Ultimately, the Supreme Court struck it down.

How do I know if I automatically qualify for student loan forgiveness?

You may automatically qualify for student loan forgiveness if you have Direct Loans or federally-held FFEL loans and meet certain criteria, such as working in public service, having a permanent disability, or making payments for 20-25 years on an income-driven repayment plan. Check with your loan servicer to confirm your eligibility.

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