Do I Qualify For Student Loan Forgiveness? How To Find Out

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Blanket cancellation of $10,000 or $50,000 of student loan forgiveness seems unlikely. But there are still legitimate programs you qualify for depending on your circumstances.

Since taking office, the Biden administration has overhauled federal student loan forgiveness programs for public service employees, permanently disabled borrowers, soldiers deployed to war zones, and borrowers who attended for-profit sham schools. These changes have led to nearly $10 billion in student loan debt being wiped out.

Ahead, learn how you can qualify for student loan forgiveness, which types of loans are eligible, and how to apply.

How do I qualify for student loan forgiveness?

You qualify for loan forgiveness based on your employment, payment plan, health, and schools you attended. Here are some programs available to you, depending on your situation.

For government and nonprofit employees: qualify for loan forgiveness after working full-time in public service and making 120 qualifying payments under an eligible repayment plan (10-Year Standard Repayment Plan or an IDR Plan). Although the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been troubled, the Department of Education made sweeping temporary changes to allow more borrowers to benefit. You can take advantage of those changes by applying for the PSLF Waiver before November 2022.

For healthcare workers: eligible for the PSLF Program and income-based repayment forgiveness after making monthly payments for at least two decades. Near the start of the coronavirus pandemic, federal lawmakers introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Front Line Healthcare Workers Act. If passed, the Act would have forgiven the outstanding federal and private student loan debt of front-line healthcare workers treating patients with coronavirus. Despite having nearly two-dozen co-sponsors, the law died in Congress.

For disabled persons: can discharge their entire federal student loan balance after suffering a total and permanent physical or mental disability. Eligible disabilities range from chronic depression to stage IV cancer.

For military service members: qualify for PSLF and income-based repayment forgiveness. The PSLF Waiver allows months spent on active duty to count toward the 120 qualifying payments, even if the service member’s loans were on a deferment or forbearance rather than in repayment.

For parents: qualify for PSLF if the parent works in public service and income-based repayment forgiveness. Parent PLUS Loans can also be discharged if the child you borrowed the loan for dies. Unfortunately, the Department of Education does not forgive loans if the student becomes permanently disabled, only the parent. You can click here to read more about Parent PLUS Loan forgiveness programs.

For retirees: student loan debt does not go away automatically when you retire. However, seniors can make affordable monthly payments under an IDR plan for 20 or 25 years and get their remaining balance forgiven.

For borrowers who attended sham schools: may be eligible to eliminate their federal student loan debt if their school acted fraudulently. Borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, and a handful of other smaller schools have gotten forgiveness under the Borrower Defense to Repayment program. However, former Art Institute, Argosy, and University of Phoenix students have yet to receive similar relief.

Learn More: $10,000 Student Loan Forgiveness

What type of loans qualify for loan forgiveness?

Federal student loans all qualify for loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge, no matter what type of loan you have. But the eligibility requirements change depending on the forgiveness program.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. All Direct Loan Program loans are eligible for PSLF, including Direct Stafford Loans, Direct Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans. All loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program are eligible for PSLF and the PSLF Waiver if the loans are consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness. All Direct Loans and FFEL Loans, including joint spousal consolidation loans, can be forgiven after 20 years or 25 years of payments under the REPAYE, PAYE, IBR, or ICR plans. Perkins Loans are eligible only if included in a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness. All Direct Loans and FFEL Loans are eligible for this program. However, most educators with high student loan debt will benefit more from the PSLF Program, which can forgive the borrower’s entire federal student loan debt.

Total and Permanent Disability. All Direct Loans, FFEL Loans, Perkins Loans, and TEACH Grant service obligations can be discharged if a doctor, the SSA, or the VA determines you are severely and permanently disabled.

Borrower Defense to Repayment. All Direct Loans can be erased due to a school’s misleading conduct regarding employment statistics, job prospects, career services, etc. FFEL and Perkins Loans are eligible if you are willing to consolidate into a Direct Consolidation Loan or have already consolidated the loans into one.

Student Loan Forgiveness Applications

Learn more: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

Questions About Qualifying for Loan Forgiveness

Do postal workers qualify for loan forgiveness? USPS workers qualify for the PSLF Program, the temporary waiver, and income-based repayment forgiveness.

How many college classes do I need to teach to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness? College professors qualify for PSLF if they work full-time at a private, nonprofit school, or state school. Adjunct professors typically can qualify if they teach at least 12 hours per semester. Check your school’s handbook to see how many hours they give you per credit hour you teach.

I am an independent contractor for disabled children. Do I qualify for student loan forgiveness? Independent contractors for disabled children can qualify for PSLF if they work full-time for a government or nonprofit employer. If their employer is a for-profit organization, they still qualify for forgiveness after making 240 to 300 qualifying payments under an IDR plan.

I own a non-profit organization. Do I qualify for a student loan forgiveness program? A borrower who works full-time for a nonprofit organization that they own can qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. You’re eligible for PSLF if:

  • Your nonprofit is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) or provides a qualifying public service.
  • You work full-time and receive a salary from a nonprofit entity.

Alternatives if you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness

There’s hope even if you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness because you’re in default or have private student loans.

  • Negotiate a settlement. The federal government and private lenders are typically willing to waive collection fees, reduce the interest, and waive some of the principal balance. Contact the servicer or collection agency with your loans to negotiate a payoff. You can read this guide to negotiating a settlement to prepare.
  • File bankruptcy. Most borrowers can dig themselves out of student loan default with the loan rehabilitation program or loan consolidation. Unfortunately, those programs are usually one-time opportunities. If you’ve already exhausted those options and can’t afford a settlement, your only other option may be to file student loan bankruptcy and meet the legal standard for undue hardship.
  • Refinance. Although student loan refinancing isn’t loan forgiveness, it still could save you thousands of dollars in interest. To qualify, you’ll need a good credit score (650+) and enough income to cover your monthly expenses.

UP NEXT: Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

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