FFEL Loans: How to Get Them Forgiven

#1 Student loan lawyer

Updated on December 26, 2023

Most FFEL Loans can now be forgiven. This is thanks to changes President Biden and the Department of Education made during COVID-19. As part of its pandemic-relief measures, the department created a one-time account adjustment. This adjustment gives you forgiveness toward two forgiveness programs:

  1. Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

  2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programs

The One-Time Payment Count Adjustment also called the IDR Waiver, counts your time in repayment and some periods of forbearance and deferment towards loan forgiveness under both programs.

All federal student loan borrowers can get IDR Forgiveness credit. But to qualify for the PSLF Program, FFEL borrowers must have worked full-time for the government or a nonprofit since October 1, 2007.

To use these opportunities, you need to change your FFEL Loan to a Direct Consolidation Loan. You can do that for free on the Federal Student Aid website, StudentAid.gov.

You must move quickly. You have until April 30, 2024, to combine your FFEL Loans into the Direct Loan Program to get forgiveness credit.

Related: Should I Consolidate FFEL Loans to Direct Loans?

What is a FFELP Loan?

FFEL Program Loans, or Federal Family Education Loan Program loans, were private student loans backed by the U.S. government. They were available from 1965 to 2010. Private banks made these loans, but the government insured them. Because private lenders were involved, these loans are often referred to as privately held federal student loans.

There were four types:

  • Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.

  • FFEL Grad and Parent PLUS Loans

  • Federal Consolidation Loans.

If you went to school before 2010, you might have a FFEL Loan.

As of the end of 2022, about 9.2 million borrowers still had FFEL Loans, adding up to $208 billion. These loans differ from Direct Loans, Perkins Loans, and Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL).

  • Direct Loans are given out by the U.S. Department of Education and funded by the U.S. Treasury. Unlike FFEL Loans, these are not from private lenders.

  • Perkins Loans were loans managed by your school and backed by the federal government. This program ended in 2017.

  • HEAL Loans were for students in certain health professions.

Note: FFEL, Perkins, and HEAL loans can be turned into direct consolidation loans. This change could let you qualify for the new SAVE repayment plan and expanded student loan forgiveness options.

Every FFEL Borrower Qualifies

Over the past year, my team and I have helped hundreds of FFEL borrowers get their entire loan balance forgiven through this new program. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never made a payment under an income-driven repayment plan, have made just a handful of payments, been in forbearance nearly the entire time, or been in default for years. You qualify for this program.

The question isn’t whether you qualify. Instead, it’s whether you have enough credit to get your loans forgiven right away or must keep making monthly payments under an IDR Plan to get your remaining balance forgiven.

Types of Forgiveness Credit

You can get credit towards PSLF and income-based repayment forgiveness in five ways:

  1. Time you were paying back any federal student loan, even if you missed payments.

  2. Forbearances that lasted 12 months or more in a row.

  3. Forbearances that added up to over 36 months across your loan’s life.

  4. Deferments before 2013, except for when you were in school.

  5. Economic hardship and military deferments from 2013 onwards.

What Forgiveness Credit Means

For IBR Forgiveness and PSLF, you need a certain number of qualifying payments for loan forgiveness.

When we talk about credit, it’s like getting a mark for a payment you should have made. For example, if you had FFEL Loans since 2003 and spent 10 years in repayment, 7 in forbearance, and 3 in deferment, then after changing to a Direct Loan, you might get 240 credits for forgiveness. That’s 120 for repayment, 84 for forbearance, and 36 for deferment.

How Much Credit You Need

  • Undergraduate Loans: If your loans were only for undergraduate studies, you need 240 credits (20 years).

  • Graduate Loans: For loans taken for graduate school, you need 300 credits (25 years).

  • Public Service: For the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you need 120 credits since its start on October 1, 2007.

  • Parent PLUS Loans: If you have a FFEL Parent PLUS Loan or combined your FFEL Loans with a Parent PLUS Loan, you also need 300 credits (25 years).

We’ve developed a free tool to help you determine how much credit you might receive under the IDR Waiver. It reviews your FSA File from StudentAid.gov. This tool has helped thousands see the benefits of combining their FFEL Loans into the Direct Loan Program, unlocking significant forgiveness credit they would otherwise miss.

Why FFEL Borrowers Are Getting Credit

The Education Department is giving forgiveness credit to fix mistakes made by student loan servicers. An investigation during the payment pause showed problems. Servicers like Navient often put borrowers into forbearance instead of income-driven repayment plans. This increased interest on loans, sometimes by thousands of dollars. It also did not count towards forgiveness.

These services also wrongly told borrowers that FFEL Loans were eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. But FFEL Loans did not qualify for this relief. They would only be eligible if you changed them to a Direct Loan first.

Once the Education Department discovered these widespread issues and the harm they caused, the one-time payment count adjustment was created. This gives you the forgiveness credit you would have gotten if you had correct information from the start.

Every FFEL Borrower Should Consolidate

The IDR Waiver is so beneficial that I recommend all FFEL borrowers consolidate to benefit from it. Some common worries include:

  • Interest Rate Hike: Many worry about increased rates after consolidation. Your new rate will be a weighted average of your existing loans’ rates, so a big jump is unlikely.

  • Monthly Payment Concerns: There’s a fear of unaffordable monthly payments. Direct Loans offer better student loan repayment options like SAVE, which can reduce your monthly payments.

  • Forgiveness Credit Loss: Some think consolidation erases forgiveness credit. Usually, yes, but the one-time account adjustment prevents this.

  • Credit Score Impact: Borrowers often worry about harming their credit scores. The consolidation process rarely hurts your credit, as the Education Department doesn’t check your score for approval. Adding student loans to your credit report usually doesn’t hurt your score.

Bottom Line

Don’t let the opportunity to have your FFEL Loans forgiven slip away – time is limited! Even if you didn’t get relief under Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, other options are still available. Need help to understand the details or to navigate the process? Book a time to talk with our team.

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FAQs

Is the FFELP Consolidated Loan type eligible for Biden's loan forgiveness?

FFEL Consolidation Loans are eligible for certain types of loan forgiveness, including PSLF and IDR Forgiveness, through loan consolidation into the Direct Loan Program. They were also eligible for the president's broad cancellation plan, which the Supreme Court ultimately scuttled.

FFEL vs FFELP?

FFEL and FFELP are often used interchangeably, but they refer to the same program: the Federal Family Education Loan Program. FFELP was a federal student loan program in which private lenders provided loans guaranteed by the federal government. This means the government would pay the lender back if a borrower defaulted on a loan.

Are Navient FFELP Loans eligible for forgiveness?

Yes, Navient FFELP Loans can be forgiven under different forgiveness programs, including the IDR Waiver. Navient borrowers should consolidate their FFEL Loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan before April 30, 2024, to meet the eligibility requirements.

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