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How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness is generally only offered to federal student loans and will require you to meet specific eligibility requirements for your respective forgiveness program. After meeting those requirements generally, you will need to submit an application to formally request forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness isn’t available to everyone, but for those who are eligible for forgiveness it can remove some, if not all, of your student loan debt. Understanding program qualification requirements and various application processes can be confusing, but we will walk you through your federal student loan forgiveness options. If you are not sure about your specific loan terms and your eligibility for forgiveness, contact your student loan servicer to learn what student loan forgiveness options are available to you. 

What is Student Loan Forgiveness?

Student loan forgiveness can eliminate student loan debt if you meet the criteria for an existing forgiveness program. Student loan forgiveness isn’t your only option to eliminate your debt your student loan debt, there are also student loan discharge options. The main difference between student loan forgiveness and discharge are the circumstances that qualify you for one or the other. Generally, student loan forgiveness is offered to borrowers who have met a certain service requirement, like working 10 years for an eligible public service employer for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Student loan discharge is offered to borrowers facing unfortunate circumstances, like fraud, total and permanent disability of the borrower, or death. 

When it comes to student loan forgiveness, the amount forgiven can be fully or partially canceled. Dependent upon the type of loan you have (federal or private), your repayment plan, career, employer, and personal finance situation there may be forgiveness programs available to you. While being relieved from your student loan debt sounds like an attractive option, know that it is not available to everyone and for those that are eligible, there are strict requirements that must be met to be approved. 

Student loan forgiveness programs such as the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) require that you qualify for forgiveness, usually through your type of employment and typically requires repayment for a certain number of years before an application can be submitted. 

Forgiveness or cancelation may take several years to qualify for. As of right now, student loan forgiveness is not considered taxable until 2025, which has been a recent change. If you are being contacted about a student loan forgiveness option that seems too good to be true, it probably is. You want to make sure you validate any forgiveness program directly with your student loan servicer (through your portal or by calling a phone number your received from a trusted source). Unfortunately, there are student loan forgiveness scams out there looking to take advantage of people in need. And as experts in student loan repayment, we can confirm to you, there is no such thing as a program called Obama Student Loan Forgiveness, or Biden Student Loan Forgiveness—essentially, if you are offered a forgiveness program with the use of a president’s name, don’t entertain the phone call and hang up. 

MORE>>>How to Avoid Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

Eligibility Requirements for Student Loan Forgiveness

It’s not uncommon for forgiveness programs to have unique requirements along with a specific application that must be submitted before loan forgiveness is considered  Be aware that there should be no cost in applying for loan forgiveness through a federal program as there is also no application fee. You can get application forms from your loan servicer or from the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid Repayment forms. 

PSLF Requirements

The U. S. Department of Education announced on Oct. 6, 2021, that some requirements for the PSLF will be waived for a limited time, until and through Oct. 31, 2022. Let’s touch on how PSLF works and the requirements prior to the waivers. 

Essentially prior to the waivers, to qualify for PSLF you would need to make 120 qualifying payments on an eligible Direct Loan, in an eligible repayment plan, while working full-time for an eligible employer. Borrowers in the FFEL program had the option to consolidate into the Direct Loan program with a Direct Consolidation Loan, however, they would need to make 120 qualifying payments after consolidating. Borrowers in the Direct Loan program would need to make 120 qualifying payments, in an eligible repayment plan. Eligible repayment plans include the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, and any income-driven repayment plan. Qualifying employers include any US, federal, state, local or tribal government, or an eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 

After meeting the requirements and completing 120 qualifying payments, you can submit an application for PSLF. However, it is recommended that you annually complete an Employment Certification Form (ECF) annually. The ECF allows you to determine how many qualifying payments you have made, and to make sure you are on the right track for PSLF. 

The U.S. Department of Education offers the PSLF Tool to help you complete ECFs and the PSLF application. 

PSLF Limited Waivers

Prior to the waivers, under two percent of PSLF applications were being approved. When the Biden administration announced the waivers, they essentially made it far easier to qualify and they expect to forgive billions of dollars due to these implemented waivers. 

Under the PSLF waivers, borrowers will have all months in a repayment status counted (regardless of type of federal student loan, repayment plan, and if payments were made on time), as long as the borrower meets the employment requirements—only months in repayment will be counted as a qualifying payment if the borrower was working full-time for an eligible employer. Periods of forbearance of 12 consecutive months or greater or 36 cumulative months or greater, and months spent in deferment prior to 2013 will be counted under the waiver. The Department of Education will also include Economic Hardship Deferment beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2013.  Please be advised that in fall 2022, the Department of Education will begin making account adjustments to include these periods. It may be a good idea to monitor your account or check with your loan servicer to ensure these periods have been added.

FFEL, Perkins, and other loan borrowers  will still need to consolidate their loans into the Direct Loan program, however the months in repayment on or after Oct. 1, 2007, will count as a qualifying payment. FFEL, Perkins or other federal student loan programs,  for example, those from older loan programs, such as Federally Insured Student Loans [FISL] or National Defense Student Loans [NDSL]), you must consolidate those loans into the Direct Loan program by Oct. 31, 2022.  Borrowers only have until Oct. 31, 2022, to consolidate their loans into the Direct Loan program. 

Direct loan borrowers who were making payments in an ineligible repayment plan can now have their months in repayment count towards their 120 qualifying payments. 

There is one exception, Parent PLUS Loans. Parent PLUS loans, even Direct PLUS loans made to a parent, are not eligible for PSLF unless the borrower consolidates the loan with a Direct Consolidation Loan. The Direct Consolidation Loan is eligible (even if a Parent PLUS loan was included) for PSLF and qualifying payments will be counted on that loan. 

Prior to the Oct. 31, 2022 deadline, FFELP, Perkins, and other loan borrowers looking for student loan forgiveness must do the following:

  1. Consolidate loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan or submit a consolidation application by Oct. 31, 2022.
  2. Have submitted a PSLF Certification and Application Form to the PSLF Servicer or have used the PSLF Help Tool on to generate your form of request that the Department uses to determine whether your employer qualifies or not on or before Oct. 31, 2022, so long as the submitted form is approved later. 
    Borrowers with less than 120 payments will still get credit towards the 120 payments, and lock in credit, for qualifying payments under these waivers. Do not wait as the waivers will expire on Oct. 31, 2022! If you have worked for an eligible employer, at any point, lock in your qualifying payments.

Loan Forgiveness Programs

The following federal programs have been created to help those looking for federal student loan forgiveness. Click on the following links for more information about forgiveness programs that you feel may apply to you:

Student Loan Relief beyond Student Loan Forgiveness

If the programs above are not applicable to you but you still need help making your monthly student loan payments, talk with your loan servicer about different options to help.

Change your Repayment Plan

Your choices for possible student loan repayment plans vary depending on the kind of student loans borrowed, federal or private. Federal student loans have a variety of repayment options, and you can change repayment plans at no cost to you. Private student loans also have repayment plans, but no matter if you have a federal or private student loan, you should contact your loan servicer if making your monthly payment is becoming difficult, to learn what if any options are available to you.

Consolidate or Refinance

In trying to deal with multiple student loan lenders, you may want to explore what loan refinance or consolidation can do for you. A Federal Direct Consolidation Loan can take two or more federal student loans and turn them into one new loan. No private loans can be included with federal direct loan consolidation. 

Private refinance loans (also called private student loan consolidation) can refinance federal student loans, private student loans, and loans financed by states or schools together.  It’s important to note, that refinancing federal loans with a private lender will forfeit any federal loan benefits you may have. 

If you can find better terms such as a lower APR and repayment terms that fit your budget, then it might be advantageous to explore refinancing your student loans. While you are not required to include all your loans, if you are looking to reduce your number of monthly bills, consolidation can be a helpful option. 

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Apply for Deferment or Forbearance

Deferment or forbearance enable your lender to temporarily modify the payment obligation on your education loan. Both private and federal student loans offer deferment and forbearance, but the terms will vary. Forbearance can temporarily cease your monthly payments, temporarily reduce the monthly payment amount, or extend the timeframe for the repayment. Federal student loans offer a variety of deferment types depending on your circumstances, and each has its own set of eligibility criteria. 

During a deferment, you are not required to make monthly or quarterly principal payments. When you are placed in either deferment or forbearance, the interest on your loan may continue to accrue (build) and will be capitalized (added to the loan balance) if left unpaid. If you are in possession of a subsidized federal student loan such as a federal Perkins Loan or a Direct Subsidized Loan, the government will pay the interest during a deferment. Loans such as PLUS loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans require you to be responsible for the interest while in deferment.  If not paid, the interest will be capitalized with the balance of the loan when repayment resumes. 

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