Student Loan Forgiveness for Low-Income Borrowers

#1 Student loan lawyer

Updated on March 2, 2024

While no specific student loan forgiveness programs are exclusively designed for individuals with long-term low income, various federal options are within reach that may significantly lighten your financial burden.

Notably, income-driven repayment plans, crafted to adjust your monthly payments based on income and family size, can serve as a lifeline, paving the way toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Based Repayment Forgiveness, and Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

State-based loan forgiveness programs and employer-based student loan repayment assistance further expand this horizon of relief, presenting opportunities you may be eligible for. Join us as we demystify these programs and help you navigate the path to freedom from student loan debt.

Short Summary:

  • Income-driven repayment plans lay the groundwork for loan forgiveness, providing relief after 20-25 years of qualifying payments.

  • The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can eliminate student loan debt after 120 qualifying payments.

  • State and employer programs extend additional financial relief for professionals committed to underserved areas, sweetened by tax advantages under the CARES Act.

Related: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

Wait for Biden’s Cancellation Plan

President Biden’s student debt relief plan, distinct from broad federal student debt cancellation, provides one-time relief. Under this U.S. Department of Education initiative, eligible borrowers could receive up to $20,000 if they previously received a Federal Pell Grant or up to $10,000 if they didn’t, based on income thresholds as shown on their income tax return.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness Income-Limit

But courts have temporarily blocked this relief program, halting application acceptance. If you’ve already applied, your application will be held.

Eligibility is determined by individual income, less than $125,000, household income under $250,000, and having loans held by ED. Check for updates.

The following federal student loans with an outstanding balance as of June 30, 2022, qualify:

  • William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans

  • Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by ED or in default at a guaranty agency

  • Federal Perkins Loan Program loans held by ED

  • Defaulted loans, including ED-held Subsidized Stafford, Unsubsidized Stafford, Perkins Loans, Graduate PLUS, and Parent PLUS Loans.

  • Federal Direct Consolidation loans, given that all consolidated loans were ED-held and disbursed on or before June 30, 2022.

Additionally, Consolidation loans involving any FFEL or Perkins loans not held by ED qualify if the borrower applied for consolidation before September 29, 2022.

Explore Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Student loan debt on a low income can feel like climbing a steep mountain with no summit in sight. But here’s your trail map: Income-Driven Repayment plans. These strategies take the edge off your monthly payments by linking them to your income and family size. After 20 to 25 years of faithful payments, they stage a grand finale, making your remaining loan balance vanish into thin air.

IDR plans not only to ease your debt burden but also prime you for loan forgiveness through programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. If clearing your debt is your ultimate goal, these plans ensure you pay the bare minimum. In short, IDR plans are your GPS for navigating the rugged terrain of your student loan debt.

Here are the four types of IDR plans:

  • Income-Based Repayment: Geared towards those facing financial hardship, IBR limits your monthly payments to 10% of your discretionary income. After 20 years, they wave a magic wand, and your remaining balance evaporates. Note that you’re only in the game if your loans kicked off after July 1, 2014.

  • Pay As You Earn: PAYE is like IBR’s kinder sibling, offering lower monthly payments and shorter terms before your remaining balance gets written off.

  • Revised Pay As You Earn: Think of REPAYE as PAYE 2.0, with better repayment conditions. You’ll make the cut if your standard 10-year plan payments surpass those under REPAYE. Your remaining balance receives a pardon after 20 or 25 years. Note: There’s actually a PAYE 3.0 coming later this year that caps student loan interest capitalization and leads to forgiveness faster. Check out the new income-based repayment plan.

  • Income Contingent Repayment: ICR comes with flexibility and no initial income prerequisites. You pay either a fixed percentage of your income or a fixed amount based on your loan balance. After 25 years, the remaining balance takes a bow.

Take note: The Education Department is tweaking accounts to credit past repayment periods, deferment, and forbearance towards income-based repayment forgiveness. Learn more about the IDR Waiver.

Holding non-direct loans? You may want to consolidate them before we ring in 2024 to reap this adjustment’s benefits. And yes, it’s free on the Federal Student Aid website.

Stay updated with changes in federal regulations, reach out to your loan servicer, and keep pushing forward to that glorious finish line of loan forgiveness.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness for Single Mothers

Consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Dedicated to serving your community on a low income? The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is your golden ticket. It washes away your student loan debt after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments while working full-time in the government or nonprofit sectors.

The PSLF doesn’t just lighten your financial load—it unlocks your ability to focus on sparking change in your community. Other lifelines like the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the PSLF Waiver, and the IDR Waiver are also ready to lend a hand if you’ve been knocked back from PSLF before or need extra help.

Understanding the rules of the game increases your shot at successful loan forgiveness. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Eligibility: Secure a full-time job with a qualifying non-profit organization or government agency and make 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan. The payments can be non-consecutive, but they must be made while you’re on the payroll of an eligible employer. And remember, don’t wait ten years to check your eligibility. Keep an accurate record of your employment and loan payments. If you’re not sure about your employer’s eligibility, get in touch with your loan servicer.

  • Application Process: Your annual task list should include completing and submitting the PSLF form as you clock in your qualifying payments. Your PSLF servicer, MOHELA, will review the form to verify its accuracy and check if your loans and employment meet the PSLF or TEPSLF Program criteria.

A heads-up for FFEL loans or Perkins loans holders: to qualify for PSLF, you need to consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan by October 31, 2022. Staying updated on deadlines and shifts in federal regulations could make or break your chances of successful loan forgiveness. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from your loan servicer throughout the application process.

Investigate Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Teachers are the architects of our future, shaping young minds, especially in low-income public schools. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program acknowledges this commitment by offering up to $17,500 in federal Stafford loan forgiveness. If you’ve served in qualifying schools for at least five uninterrupted academic years, this program is your thank-you note from the federal government. It’s their way of backing educators who are committed to uplifting students in need through quality education.

Mastering the eligibility rules, enrollment steps, and the application process is key to making the most of Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Knowing the ins and outs of your lender, the types of loans you have, interest rates, and the possibility of Perkins loan cancellation or Teacher Cancellation helps you manage your student debt like a pro.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Find Your Fit: You’ll be eligible for the program if you’ve been a full-time teacher at a low-income elementary or secondary school, or an educational service agency, for five consecutive academic years. You’ll hit the jackpot if you teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or special education. The program uses loan forgiveness as a carrot to draw more educators to high-need areas and create a ripple effect of success in their communities.

  • Apply Wisely: After teaching for five consecutive years, you can submit the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer. Be ready to show proof of employment, like pay stubs or W-2 forms, and other documents, like a copy of your teaching certificate. Bear in mind the application process can stretch over 2-3 months, so patience is a virtue here. Don’t be shy to ask your loan servicer for help throughout the process, and keep your eyes on the prize—loan forgiveness.

Look into State-Based Forgiveness Programs

In a bid to support professionals in fields such as healthcare, law, and education who commit to working in underserved areas, numerous states offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). Besides providing financial relief, these state-based student loan forgiveness programs allow you to focus on leaving a lasting impression in low-income communities. Each state sets its unique qualifying professions, eligibility requirements, and program structures, so doing your homework is key.

Here’s a glance at how different professionals can benefit:

  • Healthcare Professionals: Healthcare workers often grapple with hefty student loan debt, but state-based forgiveness programs offer a lifeline. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) loan repayment assistance program promises up to $50,000 to licensed providers who pledge to work for two years at a qualifying site. Numerous states also run their own programs. For instance, the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program extends up to $50,000 ($25,000/year) to practitioners in shortage areas, and the Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program offers up to $20,000 annually for a two-year commitment in an Indian health program site.

  • Legal Professionals: Lawyers in public interest law also have an array of loan forgiveness and repayment assistance options. Some law schools offer their own LRAPs to graduates in public service, while certain states, like Florida, provide forgivable loans to public service lawyers through initiatives like the Florida Bar Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

  • Teachers: Several states have tailored loan forgiveness programs for educators alongside the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. These state-run programs often mirror the federal scheme regarding eligibility and benefits, proving a valuable resource for teachers serving in high-need areas.

Make sure to look into the specific programs available in your state to find the ones that suit you best.

Check Employer Loan Repayment Assistance

Employer-based student loan repayment assistance is increasingly becoming a valuable employee benefit. It serves as an effective incentive for potential employees, helping them make strides in repaying their loans while fostering a supportive working environment.

Keep these points in mind:

  1. Ask About Assistance Programs: Whether you’re entertaining a job offer or discussing benefits with your current employer, don’t hesitate to inquire about available student loan repayment assistance programs.

  2. CARES Act Tax Advantages: The CARES Act offers tax benefits to incentivize more employers to offer student loan repayment assistance. Employers can provide up to $5,250 in tax-free student loan payments annually per employee. The employer and the employee are tax-exempt for this amount, making it more feasible for employers to offer this benefit and alleviate the student loan debt burden for many borrowers.

  3. Participating Employers: Companies and organizations such as Aetna, Ally Financial, Betterment, SoFi at Work, Vault, Gradifi, and have incorporated student loan repayment assistance into their benefits packages.

Remember, don’t hesitate to ask about student loan repayment assistance programs that could help you manage your debt more effectively.

Be Alert for Loan Forgiveness Scams

Navigating the world of student loan forgiveness can be tricky, especially given the existence of scams that aim to deceive borrowers. As you explore various programs, remain vigilant of potential red flags to ensure you don’t fall prey to fraud.

Consider these crucial points:

  • Misleading Subject Lines: Scammers often lure borrowers with deceptive email subject lines, such as “Biden student loan forgiveness” or “Trump student loan forgiveness.” Be wary of these unsolicited communications or offers that may seem too good to be true.

  • Verify Before Sharing: Always verify the legitimacy of a program before sharing any personal information or making payments.

  • Consult Your Loan Servicer: If you’re unsure about a loan forgiveness program, consult your federal loan servicer. They can provide reliable guidance, accurate information about your program eligibility, and assistance navigating the loan forgiveness application process. You can also get help from a student loan lawyer for trusted guidance.

Bottom Line

Remember, many loan forgiveness options exist for low-income earners.

From income-driven repayment plans to federal and state-based programs, a debt-free future is attainable. Don’t navigate this alone. Let’s explore your possibilities together.

Book a strategy call with our team today for personalized guidance toward a brighter financial future.

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest student loan news

*No spam in your inbox. Unsubscribe any time

Share On Social

Stop Stressing


What is considered low income for student loan forgiveness?

Under the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness plan, borrowers with an income lower than $125,000 (or $250,000 for couples) can receive up to $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness.

Is there an income requirement for loan forgiveness?

Yes, there is an income requirement to qualify for loan forgiveness. To be eligible, your adjusted gross income must have been less than $125,000 as an individual in either 2021 or 2020.

Who qualifies for the student loan forgiveness program?

Who qualifies for the student loan forgiveness program? To qualify, individuals must have federal student loans, earn less than $125,000 annually (or $250,000 per household), and make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Those who meet these criteria may be eligible for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation by May 5, 2023.

Who doesn’t qualify for loan forgiveness?

Those not qualifying for loan forgiveness include those with private student loans and high-income borrowers. Thus, it is important to understand loan forgiveness requirements to determine eligibility.

What is considered low income for student loan forgiveness?

Accordingly, to be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness, borrowers must have an income below $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for households/families. This qualifies as low-income for student loan forgiveness.