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How can I get my student loan completely forgiven?

Student loan debt can feel like a life sentence for some unable to get out from under the financial burden, but there are federal programs that cancel debt.

Federal programs that cancel student loan debt

The White House announced a plan to wipe out up to $20,000 in student debt in August. However, that program has been put on ice after being challenged in the courts and it could be months until there is a definitive decision on the matter.

In the meantime, President Biden has extended the moratorium on repaying student loans until the end of August or the lawsuits are settled, whichever comes first. But even if White House lawyers should fail to convince the Supreme Court of the legality of Biden’s debt forgiveness, there exist other legitimate federal programs that can erase all of a borrower’s student loan debt. Here’s a look…

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Those who work for the government or qualifying nonprofits may be eligible to have all of their federal student loan debt forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which was signed into law in 2007 by then-President George W. Bush. The Biden administration has made improvements to the program which requires that a borrower make 120 qualifying monthly loan payments, the equivalent of 10 years. After that the remainder of the loan balance no matter the amount is forgiven tax-free.

Income-driven repayment forgiveness

Income-driven repayment (IRD) plans cap monthly student loan payments at a percentage of your monthly income and based on your family size. There are four main types that set up affordable payment plans for borrowers who have large loans relative to their income. Monthly payments could be set as low as zero dollars.

Those enrolled in one of these payment plans can have their remaining balance, with no limit to the amount, forgiven after 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. According to the National Consumer Law Center as of March 2021, only 32 people had benefited from IRD forgiveness even though around 2 million borrowers enrolled in the program had been making payments for at least 20 years.

Additionally, Federal Student Aid (FSA) is conducting a one-time adjustment to help those who were steered into short-term forbearance against Department of Education guidelines instead of toward IRD plans. FSA estimates this will result in the immediate debt cancellation for tens of thousands of student loan borrowers.

Those who think that they were harmed by that policy can have their account reviewed by filing a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman at StudentAid.gov/feedback.

Perkins loan cancellation

Borrowers with federal Perkins loans that teach full time in a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school system performing qualifying duties can have up to 100 percent of their loans canceled. For every full academic year worked, you are eligible to have a portion of your loan canceled.

Other programs that will erase student loan debt

Federal student loan borrowers are required to repay the funds given to them for their higher education. However, if you become disabled and are no longer able to work or unfortunately die, the FSA provides Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge or Discharge Due to Death for each respective situation.

There are other instances where you could have your federal student loan debt discharged. Sometimes a school goes under, and if you were enrolled at the time or left recently before it happened you may qualify for a Closed School Discharge. For federal student loan borrowers whose school misled them or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws, they may be eligible for Borrower Defense Loan Discharge.