Student Loan Forgiveness for Single Mothers

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Updated on February 16, 2024

Are you struggling to pay off your student loans as a single mother? You’re not alone. According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, single mothers face unique challenges in paying off student loan debt. Ten years after leaving school, they still owe over three times as much debt as their classmates.

This presents a significant burden for single mothers, who may have less time and energy to devote to paying off their loans and may also face additional financial pressures, such as childcare costs and the need to support their families on a single income.

It’s plain as day: Single moms (and dads) need student loan forgiveness if they want any chance at providing for their kids, saving for retirement, buying a home, and living the American dream.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness for Low-Income

Can single moms get student loan forgiveness?

Yes, single moms can get student loan forgiveness. Several options are available, including the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, President Biden’s broad debt cancellation, and discharge due to a total and permanent mental or physical disability.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any forgiveness programs specifically designed for single parents. But there are still options available to help single moms get relief from their student loan debt. More on those below.

Related: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

IDR Forgiveness is a promise from the federal government to student loan borrowers to wipe out their remaining debt after they’ve made 20-25 years’ worth of monthly payments under one of the four types of income-driven repayment plans:

  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR plan)

  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR plan)

  • Pay As You Earn Plan (PAYE plan)

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE plan)

Income-driven plan forgiveness can be incredibly helpful for single mothers, especially those with low incomes. It lets them lower their monthly loan payments and free up more money for living expenses while getting rid of their student debt.

The Education Department announced an added benefit during the pandemic: retroactive forgiveness credit.

Starting last fall, the department began reviewing borrowers’ accounts to increase their IDR payment count for:

  • The number of payments they’ve made under any student loan repayment plan.

  • The time they spent in deferment before 2013, except when they were still in school.

  • The time they spent in forbearance periods of at least 12 consecutive months and over 36 cumulative months.

The changes will immediately wipe out the debts of 40 thousand borrowers and push millions more at least three years closer to crossing the forgiveness finish line.

To qualify for the income-driven repayment forgiveness and IDR Waiver programs, your loans must be owned by the U.S. Department of Education. Only Ed-owned loans qualify. If you went to college before 2014 and have privately-held Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans, or Federal Family Education Loans, you must consolidate them into a Direct Loan and switch to an IDR plan to be eligible for forgiveness. Check the Federal Student Aid website,, to see who owns your loans and apply for consolidation, if necessary.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Single moms who hold full-time jobs with the government or a nonprofit organization can have their loan balance erased after 10 years. The PSLF Program has helped teachers, nurses, social workers, and other public servants eliminate over $32 billion in federal student debt in the past two years alone.

But that wasn’t always the case. The program was broken until the Biden administration introduced several fixes that relaxed many of the complex eligibility requirements that blocked hundreds of thousands of Americans from the debt relief they were entitled to. These changes have made the program much more accessible to those who need it. Read more about the PSLF Waiver.

Qualifying for PSLF is now a lot easier. You simply need to spend a decade working for an eligible employer and make 120 qualifying payments towards Direct Loans, and the government will forgive your remaining balance tax-free.

President Biden’s cancellation plan

Last August, President Joe Biden announced a sweeping plan to cancel federal student debt for tens of millions of Americans, many of whom are single mothers and fathers who desperately need relief. The plan will eliminate up to $10 thousand per borrower, or up to $20 thousand for those who received Pell Grants, which is financial aid given to undergraduate students who show financial need.

Nearly 26 million people have applied for this relief, but so far, no one has had their debt canceled due to legal challenges in Missouri and Texas. These cases are currently being considered by the Supreme Court, which will decide whether the president had the authority to cancel around $400 billion in federal student debt using executive action. If the Court rules he did, applications for debt cancellation will likely reopen, and those who have not yet applied will be able to do so.

A ruling is expected to come this summer.

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

The Education Department will discharge the remaining you owe on your federal student loans if a physical or mental disability leaves you unable to work. The relief is tied to your disability. So if you borrowed Parent PLUS Loans to pay for your child’s education and your kid is disabled, you can’t get the debt forgiven because you can still work.

Related: What Disabilities Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?

To apply, you must submit documentation to support your claim from your doctor or psychiatrist, the Social Security Administration, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Check out for more information.

Help for private student loans

Private lenders like Sallie Mae and SoFi have limited forgiveness options compared to federal student loans. Typically, lenders will forgive your balance only if you become permanently disabled and can no longer work or you die. They won’t agree to lower your balance or eliminate your interest because you work in public service, made payments for years, or paid back what you originally borrowed.

A handful of jobs have repayment programs that can repay federal and private student loan debt. But those programs are usually limited to lawyers, healthcare professionals, and military service members.

If you’re a single mom struggling with private student loan debt, look to refinance. While refinancing won’t lower your balance, it can lower your payments if you can get a lower interest rate and longer repayment term. You’ll need a good credit score and enough income to cover your bills and the new loan to get the best rates. Use an online marketplace like Credible to shop with many student loan refinancing lenders at the same time.

Refinancing isn’t an option for everyone — especially if you’ve been a single mom for a while and have had to cover the bills by yourself. You may not have the credit score to get approved or enough money to cover the student loan payments.

Your only options may be to stop paying in hopes of negotiating a settlement or head to bankruptcy court and ask the judge to discharge your student loans. Neither choice is ideal, but they may be your only shot at getting rid of the debt.

Related: How to Get Rid of Private Student Loans

Help for single mothers paying for college

Federal student loans are available to any single mother, despite their credit score, income, or family size. You’re eligible as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a Social Security number. You will also need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the school’s deadline. Your school will use this information to award you grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal loans to help pay for college.

Related: Do I Have to Reapply for FAFSA Every Year?

These funds can cover tuition, housing expenses, transportation, child care expenses, and other higher education costs such as books, lab fees, and more. If you need additional financial support as a college student, check with your employer or state to see if they offer any repayment assistance programs, such as tuition reimbursement or programs to help offset the cost of food and healthcare.

Bottom Line

The federal government has programs that offer single mothers a way out from under the debts they incurred years ago to pay for their college education. Some programs provide immediate relief, and others take a decade or more.

If you’re struggling with private student loans, refinancing may get you a lower interest rate, but it won’t reduce the balance. You’ll need to negotiate a settlement or file bankruptcy for that to happen.

UP NEXT: Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness?

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