How to Apply for Student Loans Forgiveness (2022)

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Stanley Tate

#1 Student Loan Lawyer

Updated on November 13, 2022

Most people with federal student loans qualify for at least one forgiveness program that will wipe out some or all of their debt. The one you need to apply for depends on your employment history, how long you’ve had the loans, where you went to school, how much money you made during the pandemic, and your health.

In August, President Joe Biden finally announced his plan for mass debt cancellation. Biden will use executive action to wipe out $10 thousand for millions of Americans and $20 thousand for Pell Grant recipients. He also extended the student loan payment pause one final time until Dec. 31, 2022.

On Oct. 14, the Education Department released a beta version of the student loan forgiveness application. It released the official application a few days later. Over 26 million people have applied. But the department stopped accepting applications after a federal judge in Texas struck down Biden’s student debt relief program as an unlawful use of the HEROES Act. The Education Department has appealed Judge Mark Pittman’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but there are now legitimate concerns that the department will be able to deliver on the promised student loan relief.

This loan forgiveness program isn’t the only path out of student debt. Since Biden moved into the White House, the federal government has eliminated over $32 billion in student loan debt owed by hundreds of thousands of borrowers. Beneficiaries include public servants, people who have disabilities, military service members, and students defrauded by for-profit schools like ITT Tech, DeVry, and the Art Institutes.

Related: When Do Student Loan Payments Restart?

So far, the loan cancellation that’s been announced has been limited to federal student loan borrowers. Those struggling with private student loans have yet to receive any debt relief. And that’s unlikely to change — even with the Biden administration’s new announcement regarding sweeping debt forgiveness.

Related: Can Private Student Loans Be Forgiven?

If you owe a debt to the U.S. Department of Education, keep reading to learn more about how to apply for student loan forgiveness, including the latest broad-based student loan debt relief.

Roadmap:

Here are the student loan forgiveness programs and eligibility requirements that we’ll cover based on your situation:

  • You earned less than $125 thousand in 2020 or 2021 ($250 thousand for married couples).

  • You work full-time for the government or a nonprofit.

  • You make payments for at least 20 years.

  • You have a permanent disability.

  • Your school lied to you.

  • You teach in a low-income area.

  • Your school closed.

Learn More:

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

Update: A Texas judge appointed by former President Donald Trump overturned Biden’s plan to forgive federal student loan debts for tens of millions of Americans, calling the relief illegal and a “complete usurpation” of congressional authority by the executive branch. The Education Department appealed the district court’s ruling.

On Aug. 24, President Biden announced a broad federal student loan forgiveness plan that will knock at least $10 thousand from the loan balances of millions of borrowers in the coming weeks. Borrowers who received a Pell Grant are eligible for $20 thousand in relief.

You qualify for loan cancellation if your loans are owned by the Education Department* and:

  • You’re single, and your adjusted gross income on your tax return for 2020 or 2021 was less than $125 thousand.

  • You’re married, file taxes jointly or as head of household, and your adjusted gross income on your tax return for 2020 or 2021 was less than $250 thousand.

Many people for whom the department has income information will automatically have the forgiveness applied to their accounts. For millions of other borrowers, the department does not have income data. These individuals will need to send proof of their earnings during the pandemic.

The department initially announced it would release a simplified application process for borrowers to claim relief in early October. But following a series of legal challenges, including the lawsuit filed by six state attorneys generals from GOP states in Missouri challenging the cancellation, the department eventually released a beta version of the application on Oct. 14th. It launched the official application a few days later.

As promised, the application is simple. To apply, borrowers who meet the income requirements need only their name, Social Security Number, phone number, and email address.

Borrowers will have until next Dec. 31, 2023, to apply for loan cancellation.

Learn More: When Will Student Loan Forgiveness Start?

* Following a lawsuit filed by six Republican-led states, the Education Department decided to lock borrowers with commercially-held FFEL Loans out of this relief opportunity unless they submitted a consolidation application before Sep. 29, 2022. This abrupt change in policy sacrifices up to 4 million borrowers to save Biden’s debt relief plan for over 40 million Americans. Currently, that lawsuit is on appeal to the Eighth Circuit.

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 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.)

Learn More: PSLF Changes

You make payments for at least 20 years

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 temporarily fixed the “wrong loan” issue by expanding the PSLF Program once more to count payments toward FFEL Loans. Before it ended on Halloween, the Limited PSLF Waiver offered borrowers an opportunity to get credit for FFEL Loan payments, late payments, and payments made under an ineligible repayment plan.

The department has replaced the waiver with permanent changes that will continue to benefit public servants who are currently working for a qualifying employer.

  • 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.)

Learn More: PSLF Changes

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 disabilitydischarge.com.

  • 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 attended 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 attended 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 attended schools that 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, StudentAid.gov, 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.

Learn More: Borrower Defense to Repayment School List

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: After your fifth consecutive year of teaching full-time in a low-income school, you can apply.

  • Application: Download 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 you 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. Moreover, 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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