Can Sallie Mae Loans Be Forgiven? Your Options Explained

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Updated on June 17, 2024

Quick Facts

  • Private vs. Federal Loans: Sallie Mae primarily offers private student loans, which are different from federal loans and generally don’t qualify for federal forgiveness programs.

  • Company Restructuring: In 2014, Sallie Mae split into two entities: Sallie Mae (private loans) and Navient (federal loans previously issued by Sallie Mae).

  • Forgiveness Eligibility: Private Sallie Mae loans generally don’t qualify for forgiveness, except in rare cases like permanent disability or death.

  • Financial Hardship Options: If you’re facing difficulties, Sallie Mae offers deferment, interest rate reduction, refinancing, and in extreme cases, bankruptcy (subject to eligibility).

  • Future Forgiveness Prospects: Private loans, including those from Sallie Mae, are unlikely to be included in current broad student loan forgiveness proposals.

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Understanding the Type of Student Loan You Have

Determining the type of student loan you have is crucial because it directly impacts your eligibility for various relief programs, including forgiveness options.

Sallie Mae, a major student loan lender, underwent a significant restructuring in 2014, separating into two entities:

  • Sallie Mae, which now handles private student loans, and

  • Navient, which manages federal loans previously issued by Sallie Mae.

This split means that some loans originally issued by Sallie Mae may now be managed by Navient and could be eligible for federal forgiveness programs.

Why It’s Important to Know Your Loan Type

  1. Federal vs. Private Loans: Federal loans have more forgiveness and repayment options compared to private loans. Knowing your loan type helps you understand what programs you can qualify for.

  2. Eligibility for Forgiveness Programs: If your loan was transferred from Sallie Mae to Navient, it might be a federal loan, which could make you eligible for forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or income-driven repayment plans.

  3. Relief Options: Federal loans offer deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans that are not available for private loans. Private loans, managed by Sallie Mae, have different hardship options that you need to be aware of.

How to Determine if Your Sallie Mae Loan is Federal or Private

  • Loans Currently with Sallie Mae: If Sallie Mae currently manages your student loans, those are private student loans.

  • Loans Transferred to Navient: If your loans were moved from Sallie Mae to Navient, they might be federal FFEL Loans. This transfer makes them potentially eligible for federal forgiveness programs.

  • Navient Loans Moved to Aidvantage: If Navient transferred your loans to Aidvantage, those are federal loans, making you eligible for federal relief programs.

Steps to Identify Your Loan Type:

  1. Access Your Federal Student Loan Information: Log in to your account on to view all relevant information about your federal loans. This resource is the primary hub for all federal student loan details.

  2. Review Loan Details: Once logged in, review the listed loans to understand their types—such as Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans. This information is crucial because different loans have different eligibility criteria for forgiveness and repayment plans.

  3. Check for Private Loans: If you have loans that are not listed on, they are likely private. Private student loans are not tracked by the federal government. They require you to consult with the lending institution or your credit report for details.

So, Can Sallie Mae Loans Be Forgiven?

If your debt is with Sallie Mae (and not Navient), it is a private loan. Therefore it’s not eligible for forgiveness. Borrowers and their cosigners are generally expected to continue repaying the loans.

However, there are limited circumstances under which Sallie Mae will forgive loans.

Permanent Disability

If a borrower suffers from a permanent disability, either physical or mental, that prevents them from working, they may qualify for a disability discharge. This would wipe out the remaining loan balance.

Application Process:

  • Gather Medical Evidence: Obtain a statement from a qualified physician that confirms the disability and its permanency.

  • Submit Application: Complete and submit the Sallie Mae disability discharge application form along with the medical documentation.

  • Approval and Discharge: If approved, Sallie Mae will discharge the remaining loan balance. Borrowers may need to undergo a monitoring period to ensure the disability is permanent.

Important Notes:

  • Monitoring Period: Some borrowers may be subject to a three-year monitoring period to verify the permanence of the disability.

  • Tax Implications: Discharged loan amounts may be considered taxable income, and borrowers should consult with a tax advisor.


In the event of the borrower’s death, the remaining balance on the Sallie Mae private student loan can be discharged. But the cosigner may still be required to pay.

Note: If your loans are with Sallie Mae, you would not be eligible for Navient’s private student loan forgiveness option for school misconduct.

Options if You Can’t Afford Sallie Mae Loans

  1. Pause Student Loan Payments Temporarily: Sallie Mae will let you pause payments temporarily with a deferment if your income drops due to returning to school or still being in residency. However, forbearance opportunities are less common.

  2. Ask for an Interest Rate Reduction: Sallie Mae may allow you to temporarily lower your interest rate to get a more budget-friendly payment amount.

  3. Refinance for a Lower Interest Rate: Refinancing can help lower your interest rate and extend your repayment period. Use an online marketplace like Credible to shop around. Related: How to Consolidate Sallie Mae Student Loans

  4. File Student Loan Bankruptcy: If other options are exhausted, filing bankruptcy may be a solution. You must file a lawsuit known as an adversary proceeding and prove the loans pose an undue hardship.

Learn More: How to Get Rid of Private Student Loans

Future Prospects of Forgiveness

Despite discussions of broad student loan forgiveness by political figures, it is highly unlikely that such measures will include Sallie Mae private loans. These forgiveness plans typically focus on federal student loans. Relief initiatives from the Biden administration have also been limited to federal loans managed by the Education Department.

Related: What Happens if You Default on a Sallie Mae Student Loan?

Bottom Line

Although Sallie Mae borrowers can’t count on blanket student loan forgiveness to erase their debt, there are steps they can take to make their loans more manageable. If you need help figuring out your options, schedule a call to speak with a student loan lawyer for personalized advice.

UP NEXT: Private Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

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Do You Have to Pay Back Sallie Mae Student Loans?

Yes, you are required to repay your Sallie Mae student loans according to the terms of your promissory note. However, if you're facing financial difficulties, you may have options such as deferment, forbearance, or alternative repayment plans to help manage your payments. In rare cases, loan forgiveness or discharge may be available.

Can You Get Out of a Sallie Mae Loan?

Yes, you can get out of a Sallie Mae loan you've already borrowed in certain situations, such as becoming totally disabled, negotiating a settlement, or filing for student loan bankruptcy and receiving a discharge. If you haven't borrowed the Sallie Mae loan yet, you can cancel it before the funds are sent to your school.

Does Sallie Mae Offer Student Loan Forgiveness for Military Service Members?

Sallie Mae offers deferment and forbearance options for eligible military personnel on active duty, but they do not provide specific student loan forgiveness programs. However, military service members with Sallie Mae loans may qualify for loan forgiveness through federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness or the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge.

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