Completing higher education programs is a noble pursuit, and can help you get the job of your dreams! Unfortunately, rising costs have also left millions of students straddled with overwhelming student debt. There are some ways to get student loan forgiveness, essentially getting rid of your student debt – but you must meet very specific requirements.
It’s no secret that student loan debt is a massive issue here the United States. The latest statistics reveal that there are 44 million Americans who owe student debt, totaling $1.5 trillion in total debt! The average graduate now owes close to $30,000 upon graduation – which can be a suffocating burden for many.
A lot of people search for student loan forgiveness programs in order to help them manage their debt. But is student loan forgiveness legit? Does it actually work?
What is Student Loan Forgiveness?
At its most basic, student loan forgiveness involves the government – or in some cases the education institution themselves – “forgiving” your debt by paying it off for you.
You’ll have to meet very specific requirements, and follow the guidelines closely. Most programs target specific professions, including teachers, doctors, certain lawyers, nurses, etc.
The biggest program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), which is a program of the US Department of Education. The PSLF program is designed to forgive student debt for teachers, government workers and others in “public service” positions. Applicants must meet specific requirements, as outlined below.
There are other programs, as well. Most are based on your career path after graduation, and generally reward careers that are considered public service. There are also some programs for military service members.
Keep reading for specific ways to get student loan forgiveness through various programs.
How to Get Student Loans Forgiven
Seeking student loan relief? See if you qualify for one of these programs:
1. Work in Public Service for 10+ Years
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) is a US Government program that provides student loan forgiveness for public service employees. This popular student loan forgiveness program can eliminate your entire federal student loan debt, if you meet the qualifications.
To qualify for this program, you must work full-time in a public service job, including government jobs, non-profit work at a 501(C)3, full-time volunteers with PeaceCorps/AmeriCorps, etc. See the full list of qualifying jobs here.
You must also make 120+ on-time qualifying monthly payments using a designated repayment plan. So, in other words, you need to maintain full-time employment in public service while making monthly payments towards your student loans, for a full 10 years. You also need to fill out the student loan forgiveness form found here.
Do note that this program only qualifies for federal student loans made under the Direct Loan program. It does not apply to private loans or other federal student loans. See the FAQ page here for more information.
Keep in mind that this program has very strict requirements for student loan forgiveness, and many people end up getting rejected. Be sure to closely follow the requirements and check up annually to confirm your on-track!
2. Teach in a Low-Income School District
There are several programs that provide student loan forgiveness for teachers. Most target those who serve low-income communities. The biggest program is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, directly from the US Government, which may provide relief of up to $17,500 of Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.
To qualify, you must teach at a qualifying low-income school for 5 consecutive academic years. See full details here.
3. Join the Military or Reserves
Various military agencies have programs in place to help service members pay off their student loans.
For example, the Active Duty Army Student Loan Repayment program can pay up to 33.33% of your principle each year for up to 3 years, if you meet certain requirements as an active duty army service member. Similarly, members of the National Guard may also qualify for relief – and there are other programs for members of the Navy, Air Force and others.
See this detailed guide for more info!
4. Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation
If you have Federal Perkins loans (which are issued directly by your school), you may qualify for Perkins loan cancellation programs. You’ll need to contact the Financial Aid department at the school you went to for details.
Generally speaking, these cancellation programs may be available to the following professions:
- Law enforcement
- Select military personel
- Peace Core volunteers
- Teachers in qualifying areas
- Other select professions
5. Make On-Time, Income-Based Repayments for 20+ Years
There are programs in place to make servicing student loans more affordable by requiring payments based on your income. So, lower income debtors can make smaller payments than those with higher incomes. These include Pay As You Earn and the Revised Pay As You Earn programs.
These programs have the benefit of forgiving any remaining balance after 20 years (or 25 years, depending on the program) of on-time payments. These programs do not require you to be in a specific profession or occupation. Learn more here.
State-Specific Student Loan Relief Programs
As a bonus, keep in mind that there are various programs in specific states that may help with student loan relief. Some even provide private student loan forgiveness for private loans.
These programs are commonly for teachers, with over 10 states having some sort of assistance program in place for teachers. See this guide to student loan forgiveness for teachers for details.
There are too many to list here, but we encourage readers to do some research for student loan relief programs in your area.
Don’t Qualify for any Student Loan Forgiveness Programs?
What if you don’t qualify for any loan relief programs? Besides searching for state-specific programs in your area, here are some things you can consider:
Consolidating your student loans for a simpler experience.
Asking for help in your community, from your family, etc. to pay off high-interest student loans.
Lastly, we encourage readers to do more research about specific programs that they may qualify for. There are a lot of different options, and eligibility requirements may change over time.