How to Apply for Student Loans Forgiveness (2023)

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Stanley Tate

#1 Student Loan Lawyer

Updated on March 9, 2023

President Biden’s impact on student loan forgiveness has been historic. Since moving into the White House, he has delivered more debt relief to more borrowers than any other U.S. president in history. And that’s not even factoring in the hundreds of billions of dollars of debt forgiveness currently on hold while the Supreme Court decides the fate of his student debt relief plan.

The Biden administration has taken several actions to make it easier for borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness. They have waived repayment rules, delivered on promises made to public servants, and helped defrauded borrowers shed debt from shoddy, for-profit schools. Also, they have extended the payment pause multiple times, which began under former President Trump.

Although federal student loan payments are set to resume as late as summer 2023, it’s important to recognize the progress made. The U.S. Department of Education estimates it has forgiven over $38 billion in loans for about 1.75 million borrowers since Biden took office. And there is still more to come.

Here’s how you can apply for the different student loan forgiveness opportunities.

You earned less than $125 thousand annually in 2020 or 2021

***President Joe Biden’s student loan relief plan is on hold as the Supreme Court weighs in on the plan’s legality. Legal experts expect the Court to announce its decision this summer.***

Biden’s student loan cancellation program has been met with both excitement and controversy. On the one hand, millions of borrowers stand to benefit from having their loan balances reduced by at least $10,000. For Pell Grant recipients, the relief could be as high as $20,000. This is a significant financial boon for those struggling to make ends meet amidst the ongoing pandemic.

On the other, implementing the program has been met with challenges. For example, a lawsuit filed by six Republican-led states blocked the Education Department from moving forward with the debt cancellation plan that promised to wipe out nearly $400 billion in federal loans for over 40 million borrowers. This has understandably caused frustration and disappointment for people counting on this relief.

To make matters worse, the same legal challenge has also prevented those with commercially-held FFEL Loans from accessing the program altogether. This is a significant obstacle for borrowers hoping to benefit from the student debt relief program.

Furthermore, the eligibility requirements for loan cancellation have been a point of contention for some. To qualify, borrowers must have an adjusted gross income below a certain threshold, depending on their filing status. While this may be a reasonable approach to target relief to those who need it most, it has left some feeling excluded.

Despite these challenges, the Education Deaprtment has released a simplified application process for borrowers to claim relief. Borrowers have until the end of 2023 to apply, and many with income information on file will have the forgiveness automatically applied to their accounts.

For those who need to provide proof of their earnings during the pandemic, the process is straightforward. You’ll need to complete a simple application on that asks you to confirm you meet the income requirements and provide your name, Social Security Number, date of birth, phone number, and email address.

Overall, Biden’s student loan cancellation program represents a significant effort to alleviate the burden of student debt on millions of Americans. While it may not be perfect, it is an important step towards a more equitable and just higher education financing system.

  • Whose eligible: You’re eligible if you earned less than $125 thousand in either 2020 or 2021 and have Ed-owned federal student loans, including Direct Loans, Parent PLUS Loans, consolidation loans, FFEL Loans, and Perkins Loans. Privately-held federal student loans do not qualify for the cancellation benefit. If you refinanced your federal loans with a private lender during the pandemic, you might be eligible for this program as well.

  • How to apply: The student loan forgiveness application portal is closed until the Supreme Court issues a ruling letting the Education Department move forward with Biden’s plan.

  • When to apply: If the Court rules that the plan is legal, the Education Department will reopen the application portal. Borrowers will have until the end of 2023 to apply for relief.

Learn More: When Will Student Loan Forgiveness Start?

You work for the government or a nonprofit organization

There are three options to get your loans forgiven after working in public service for at least 10 years. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is the main pathway to applying for forgiveness, but few borrowers meet the program’s complicated requirements.

Federal lawmakers tried to fix PSLF by temporarily expanding it to count payments made under the wrong repayment plan. But the TEPSLF program helped only a handful more people. It didn’t help people with government-backed bank loans known as Federal Family Education Loans.

In October 2021, the Biden Administration implemented more PSLF changes and temporarily fixed the “wrong loan” issue by expanding the PSLF Program once more to count payments toward FFEL Loans. The Limited PSLF Waiver offers an opportunity to get credit for FFEL Loan payments, late payments, and payments made under an ineligible repayment plan.

  • Whose eligible: You’re eligible if you work full-time for the government, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, or other qualifying employers that provide a public service and have a Federal Direct Loan. Use the PSLF Help Tool to learn if your employer qualifies.

  • How to apply: Submit the PSLF & TEPSLF Employment Certification form to FedLoan Servicing.

  • When to apply: You can submit the PSLF form to check how many payments you’ve made or after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments.

  • Application: Download PSLF Application (You use the same form for the PSLF, TEPSLF, and PSLF Waiver programs.)

You make payments for at least 20 years

If you’ve had your student loans for at least decades, you’re in line to get your debt forgiven. Student loan forgiveness after 20 years is a hidden benefit of switching to income-driven repayment plans. These IDR plans give borrowers affordable monthly payments tied to their discretionary income and family size and promise to forgive the remaining balance after at least 240 qualifying payments have been made.

Related: Pros and Cons of Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Until recently, the eligibility requirements for this relief opportunity were quite strict. You had to switch to an income-based repayment plan and then make at least two decades’ worth of payments under that plan. Unfortunately, there was no way to get credit for payments made prior to switching plans.

But last April, the Biden administration announced a one-time account adjustment that would credit borrowers for payments made under any repayment plan and time spent in long forbearances and some periods of deferment. This is great news for borrowers who have struggled with student loan debt for years.

The Education Department is currently working on applying the IDR Waiver to borrowers’ accounts, and they expect to finish the process by this summer.

  • Whose eligible: All federal student loan borrowers are eligible for relief, but those with commercially-held loans must consolidate by May 1, 2023, to qualify.

  • How to apply: There is no application process. The department is automatically reviewing the accounts of all borrowers whose loans it owns.

  • When to apply: There is no application deadline, but if you have commercially-held FFEL or Perkins Loans with AES, Navient, or Nelnet, and the like, you must combine those loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan by May 1, 2023.

  • Application: There is no application for income-driven repayment forgiveness.

You have a permanent disability

The Department of Education wipes away the balances on your federal student loans if you suffer a severe and permanent disability that leaves you unable to work full-time. You can still work and earn an income, but that income ordinarily must be below the Poverty Guideline amount for a family of two, regardless of your family size. The Education Department has temporarily waived the three-year monitoring period during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

  • Who’s eligible: You’re eligible if a doctor, SSA, or VA determines you are severely and permanently disabled. Your disability can be mental or physical.

  • How to apply: Submit the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Application to Nelnet or through

  • When to apply: You can apply for a TPD discharge after the doctor signs the discharge application or the SSA or VA determine you are totally and permanently disabled.

  • Application: Download TPD Discharge Application

Many lenders also offer private student loan forgiveness if you become permanently disabled. Check with your loan servicer to see how to apply.

Learn More: Student Loan Forgiveness for Disability Options

Your school lied to you

Over the years, government officials have shut down many for-profit institutions that defrauded students. The borrower defense loan discharge program allows you to file a claim to have your debt forgiven if you believe your school misled you and broke state fraud laws.

The relief program has not worked smoothly since first being used under the Obama administration to help people who went to Corinthian Colleges. When President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, took office, the process for approving applications slowed to a crawl. The Education Department focused on defending litigation rather than finding ways to quicken the process and grant borrowers the relief they were entitled to under the law.

The new education secretary, Miguel Cardona, has announced the department was scrapping his predecessor’s policy and replacing it with a simplified, fair path to relief when a school’s misconduct has harmed them.

In June 2021, the department announced it would wipe out $500 million for 18 thousand borrowers who went to ITT Technical Institute. And this June, it struck a deal to wipe out $6 billion in federal student loan debt for around 200,000 former students who went to schools they said had defrauded them. Those schools include large chains like the Art Institutes and a few still operating colleges, including DeVry University, Grand Canyon University, and the University of Phoenix.

  • Who’s eligible: You’re eligible if you attended a school that misled you or engaged in other misconduct. You can also show the school violated state law related to your loan or the educational services provided.

  • How to apply: You can apply on the Federal Student Aid website,, or submit a paper application to the Department of Education.

  • When to apply: You can apply anytime after your school’s misconduct.

  • Application: Download Borrower Defense to Repayment Form.

You teach in a low-income area

Teachers who work for their local school district, nonprofit school, or educational service agency may qualify for PSLF and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs. If that’s you, you’ll get more of your loans forgiven under PSLF than you will under the program specifically for teachers. That relief program forgives up to $17,500 of your loans if you’re a highly-qualified math, science, or special education teacher working at a low-income school.

  • Who’s eligible: You’re eligible if you teach full-time as a highly qualified teacher working in elementary or secondary school in a low-income school. You can check the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory to see if your school qualifies.

  • How to apply: Submit a paper application to your student loan servicer.

  • When to apply: You can apply after your fifth consecutive year of teaching full-time in a low-income school.

  • Application: Download the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application.

Learn More: How Teachers Can Get Federal Loan Forgiveness

Your school closed

You could get rid of your federal student loans if your school closed while you were in attendance or within 120 days of leaving. If your school closes years later and you’re stuck with a worthless degree and crushing debt, this type of discharge won’t help you. You’ll need to look into borrower defense to repayment or student loan bankruptcy.

  • Who’s eligible: You’re eligible if you were enrolled when the school closed, were on an approved leave of absence when the school closed, or withdrew within 120 days before the school closed, and you didn’t complete your program of study at the school or a new school.

  • How to apply: Submit a paper application to your student loan servicer.

  • When to apply: You can apply after your school closes.

  • Application: Download Loan Discharge Application: School Closure.

Bottom Line

In the past three years, the federal government paused student loan payments, lowered the interest rate on loans to zero, and improved several existing student loan forgiveness programs. Despite stiff legal challenges, it’s working to put Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan into action to provide relief to millions of eligible borrowers before payments resume in January.

If you’re unsure of your ability to qualify for the programs listed above, schedule a call with me today. I can help 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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