Securing Your Student Loan Forgiveness Refund: A Guide

#1 Student loan lawyer

Updated on February 15, 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on student loans has led to unprecedented financial relief efforts, including the Biden administration’s temporary loan relief programs.

One such initiative involves a possible “student loan forgiveness refund” during the payment pause period.

These refunds have significant implications for borrowers, allowing them to recover funds and manage their student loan debt more effectively.

Ahead, we’ll explore the different refund programs, their eligibility criteria, and steps on how to apply for a refund.

Student Loan Refund Programs

Understanding the various student loan refund programs is essential for personal finance management, especially for borrowers looking to reduce their debt. These programs provide relief for federal student aid recipients, offering refunds under specific conditions.

Payment Pause Refunds

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education introduced an interest-free forbearance period, pausing federal student loan payments for federally held loans.

This pause has been extended several times, currently in effect until December 2022.

As a result, monthly payments became voluntary during this time, and if you’ve continued to make payments, you might qualify for an automatic refund.

Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Refunds

Under President Joe Biden’s administration, a student loan debt relief initiative was announced with plans to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower. Pell grant recipients are eligible for up to $20,000 in relief.

You may be eligible for a refund if you’ve made payments exceeding this amount during the relief period. As the details of Biden’s plan are still being finalized, it’s crucial to stay updated.

This relief opportunity is on hold until the Supreme Court decides the plan’s legality.

Note: Parents who borrowed Parent PLUS Loans for their child’s education can submit their own application for relief and receive a refund.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Waiver Program Refunds

The PSLF Waiver, a temporary measure implemented by the White House, provides considerable debt relief for public servants. If this loan forgiveness program credits you for more than 120 qualifying payments on a Direct Loan or a consolidation loan, you may be eligible for a refund.

Learn More: PSLF Overpayment Refund

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Waiver Refunds

The IDR Waiver now acknowledges payments previously unrecognized for PSLF, such as those made under non-qualifying repayment plans or before consolidation loan procedures. Payments made under an income-driven student loan repayment plan may count towards your 120 required payments, potentially leading to a refund of excess payments.

Borrower Defense to Repayment Program Refunds

This program provides debt relief to borrowers misled or defrauded by their schools. If your claim is approved, you could have your federal student loans discharged, and you might be eligible for a refund of some or all of the past loan payments you’ve made.

This program, significantly impacted by the Sweet v. Cardona lawsuit, has resulted in more borrowers receiving relief.


Each program has unique eligibility requirements and procedures, so it’s important to communicate with your student loan servicer. Federal Student Aid recommends staying informed about potential refund opportunities through their website to better manage your student loan balance and monthly payments.

While these refund programs focus primarily on federal student loans, student loan borrowers with private student loans might consider options like refinancing for better interest rates with their lenders. Always stay updated with the latest information to make the most informed decision.

Who Qualifies for a Refund?

To qualify for a student loan refund, borrowers need to meet specific criteria relevant to the associated program.

Here’s an overview of the eligibility conditions under various student loan forgiveness programs, alongside scenarios where a borrower may receive a refund.

  • Payment Pause-Related Refunds: If you’ve made payments on your federally held student loans during the pandemic pause (forbearance period) instated due to COVID-19, you could qualify for a refund. Depending on your loan servicer’s policy, this refund may be directed to your bank account. This program applies to payments made between March 2020 and December 2022.

  • Biden’s Debt Cancellation Plan Related Refunds: Pending the specifics of the finalized debt relief plan, borrowers with payments exceeding the potential $10,000 debt forgiveness might be eligible for a refund. The refund would be based on the payment amount surpassing the cancellation limit.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Waiver Program: If you work for a government or non-profit organization and have made more than 120 qualifying payments on a Direct Loan or Direct Consolidation Loan, you may be eligible for a refund of the excess payments. But payments made on Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Federal Perkins Loans before consolidation do not qualify for this refund.

  • Income-Driven Repayment Waiver Refunds: Borrowers making payments under an income-driven repayment plan, not previously qualifying for PSLF, may now be eligible due to the temporary PSLF Waiver. As a result, these payments may count towards the required 120 payments, potentially leading to a refund.

  • Borrower Defense to Repayment Program: Borrowers who can prove their school misled or defrauded them could qualify for loan discharge and a refund of past loan payments. The extent of the refund will depend on the specifics of the school misconduct and the nature of your claim.

A borrower may receive a refund under several circumstances:

  • Voluntary payments made during the COVID-19 forbearance period.

  • Payments exceeding the potential $10,000 cancellation under Biden’s debt relief plan.

  • Over 120 qualifying payments under the PSLF Waiver.

  • Payments under an income-driven repayment plan now qualify for PSLF due to the PSLF Waiver.

  • Successful Borrower Defense to Repayment claims due to school misconduct.

Keep in mind each refund program has unique requirements and processes.

Maintain regular contact with your loan servicer, which could involve calling their listed phone numbers to stay updated on any potential refund eligibility, the status of your loans, and payments.

You may also want to monitor any legal challenges or changes that could affect these programs, such as those related to the debt ceiling deal.

Note: Refunds primarily apply to federal student loan debt, but borrowers with private loans should also explore available options, such as refinancing.

How to Request a Refund

Requesting a refund for your student loans requires careful attention to detail and clear communication with your loan servicer.

Here’s a step-by-step process of how to go about this task, followed by the contact information for major loan servicers.

  1. Determine Your Eligibility: Understand which refund program applies to you based on the information provided in the previous section. Ensure you meet the criteria for a refund.

  2. Gather Your Information: Before you contact your loan servicer, gather your loan information, including your account number, and have your refund amount on hand.

  3. Contact Your Loan Servicer: Contact your loan servicer via phone or online to request a refund. If you’re unsure who services your loan, visit your student aid account dashboard and look under “my loan servicers” or call 1-800-433-3243.

  4. Request Refund: Clearly state that you’re requesting a refund for your payments, specifying which program you’re eligible for and the amount you’re claiming. It’s essential to note that only you can request a refund, even if someone else made payments on your behalf.

  5. Confirm Details: Confirm the timeline for receiving your refund and ensure your contact and banking details are current to avoid any delay.

Contact Information for Major Loan Servicers:

  • FedLoan Servicing: 1-800-699-2908

  • Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.: 1-800-236-4300

  • Edfinancial: 1-855-337-6884

  • MOHELA: 1-888-866-4352

  • Aidvantage: 1-800-722-1300

  • Nelnet: 1-888-486-4722

  • OSLA Servicing: 1-866-264-9762

  • ECSI: 1-866-313-3797

  • Default Resolution Group: 1-800-621-3115 (1-877-825-9923 for the deaf or hard of hearing)

Remember that patience is key in this process. Due to the volume of refund requests, your refund may take some time to be processed and issued. Always record your interactions with your loan servicer for future reference.

Related: Will Nelnet Loans Be Forgiven?

Tips on Handling Refunds

Receiving a student loan refund can provide immediate financial relief, but it’s important to have a plan for handling these funds wisely.

Here’s some advice on what to do with a potential refund and important caveats to consider before spending it.

Saving vs. Spending

  • Save Wisely: Consider depositing your refund check into a high-yield savings account. This will allow you to earn interest on the amount while keeping it readily available. This can be especially helpful if you need to repay the money in the future due to any changes in regulations or your financial situation.

  • Spend Responsibly: If you decide to use the refund, prioritize essential expenses or pay down other forms of high-interest debt. Remember, this refund is essentially borrowed money; using it for non-essential items can lead to financial strain later.

Caveats and Implications

  • Future Repayment: Bear in mind that depending on legal outcomes, you may be required to repay the refund. Consider this possibility before spending the refund.

  • Loan Balance: The refund might have increased your overall loan balance. This could impact your future repayment obligations.

  • Tax Implications: The refund may have tax implications depending on your specific circumstances. Consider consulting with a tax advisor to fully understand these potential effects.

  • Impact on Credit Score: If your loan is discharged and the credit tradeline is deleted from your credit report, this might impact your credit score. Consult with a credit expert if you’re unsure about this aspect.

  • Refund is Temporary: The refund program is temporary and might not apply to future payments. Keep this in mind when making future financial plans.

It’s important to make informed decisions when dealing with refunds from student loan payments. Consider seeking professional financial advice or support from a student loan lawyer or other certified professional if you’re unsure how to handle these funds.

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Will I get a refund from student loan forgiveness?

Yes, in some cases, you may receive a refund from student loan forgiveness. This could happen if you made voluntary payments during the COVID-19 forbearance period or if your payments surpassed the potential $10,000 cancellation in Biden's debt relief plan. Borrowers who've overpaid under the PSLF Waiver or made a successful Borrower Defense to Repayment claim may also qualify. Remember to consult your loan servicer to understand your specific situation.

How long does it take to get a student loan forgiveness refund?

Receiving a refund related to student loan forgiveness typically takes six to 12 weeks, although it can sometimes take longer. During this period, the refunded amount will be added back to your loan balance. Always check with your loan servicer for the most accurate information.