IDR Waiver & Adjustment: How to Qualify for Loan Forgiveness

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The IDR Waiver gives federal student loan borrowers retroactive credit toward loan forgiveness.

For years, student loan servicers steered struggling borrowers into forbearance instead of income-driven repayment options like IBR, which caps payments at a small part of a borrower's income and leads to loan forgiveness after 20 to 25 years of payments.

Those same companies also didn't accurately track borrowers' progress toward forgiveness, a problem that consumer advocate groups and an NPR investigation highlighted. To make matters worse, several servicers lacked a system for tracking payments and determining when borrowers qualified for loan forgiveness.

The Education Department responded by stating that it would use a one-time payment count revision for eligible IDR borrowers that will push them closer to loan forgiveness under the IDR forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs. It also stated it would develop its own data system to provide accurate and consistent payment counting practices.

Keep reading to learn what the IDR Waiver is and what you need to do to qualify for the payment-count revision.

What is the IDR Waiver?

The IDR Waiver, or IDR Adjustment, is a one-time account adjustment the Education Department is using to give millions of borrowers credit for qualifying payments made towards loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment plans and under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

In its press release about the program, the department said that the changes would fix mistakes in the way federal student loan programs are run, such as problems with forbearance steering and not keeping accurate records of IDR payments.

"Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it's certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they're eligible for...Today, the Department of Education will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans." U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

The department estimates that the revision will:

  • Forgive the balances of thousands of borrowers with older loans who have been paying for at least 20 years.
  • Clear the loan balances of at least 40 thousand government and nonprofit employees under the PSLF program.
  • Give at least three years of new credit to 3.6 million borrowers seeking IDR forgiveness.

Learn More: Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

* According to NPR, over 4 million borrowers have been in repayment for at least 20 years.

How the IDR Waiver works

The waiver will credit borrowers' accounts toward forgiveness under the IDR program, regardless of how much they paid, their repayment plan, loan type, or whether they were behind on payments. The changes will:

  • Give borrowers credit toward the income-driven repayment clock for all monthly payments — even if they aren't in a qualifying repayment plan like income-based repayment.
  • Count months spent on deferment (except for in-school deferment) before 2013.
  • Count time spent in long-term forbearances that lasted more than 12 consecutive months or 36 months or more in total.*
  • Increase the payment count for public servants using the PSLF Waiver to qualify for forgiveness.

This new credit is in addition to the forgiveness credit borrowers have received while in forbearance due to the pandemic payment pause.

Learn More: What Does Forbearance Mean on a Student Loan?

* Borrowers steered into shorter forbearance periods can contact the FSA Ombudsman to request an official account review.

Eligible loans

  • All Direct Loans, including Parent PLUS Loans.
  • Federal Family Education Loan Program loans owned by the Education Department.

If you had to keep making federal student loan payments throughout the pandemic, your FFEL loans are owned by a private company. They don't automatically qualify for the one-time adjustment or the Limited PSLF Waiver. You'll need to consolidate your FFEL Program loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan to benefit from the change.

Learn More: FFELP Loan Forgiveness

How to apply for the IDR Waiver

There is no IDR Waiver form or application process to complete to receive credit toward forgiveness. The Education Department immediately began working on the changes for the federal loans it owns. Borrowers should see the updated payment count applied to their accounts this fall. Borrowers who have commercially held FFEL Loans or Perkins Loans must consolidate before January 1, 2023, to participate in the program.

Use the Federal Student Aid website, studentaid.gov, to consolidate your loans. Once that's done, the department will conduct the one-time revision and update your IDR payment count by the end of the year. It will also implement a system to track payments and avoid future inaccuracies.

Learn More: Should I Consolidate My Student Loan Debt?

Other forgiveness programs

In the past two years, the Biden administration has introduced piecemeal fixes that have resulted in nearly $20 billion in student debt cancellation for 725 thousand borrowers. The changes have benefited public servants, active duty military service members, students defrauded by their colleges, and disabled persons.

Many of the changes are temporary. But the department is working to make them permanent.

Related:

Bottom Line

Confused about your eligibility for the IDR Waiver and one-time account adjustment? Let's talk. Schedule a call with me, so we can quickly determine what steps you need to take to get your loans forgiven.

UP NEXT: Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness

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