How Do You Get Your Student Loans Forgiven

Last Updated on May 19, 2022

How Do I Get My Student Loans Forgiven?

Student loans are a huge burden. They can put a strain on your financial life, and they can make it hard to buy a house or get married. But what if there was a way to get rid of them? There is—and it’s called student loan forgiveness.

What Is Student Loan Forgiveness?

Student loan forgiveness is when your student loans are cancelled, either in part or in full, by an organization or government entity. In some cases, you might be able to have your debts completely erased; in others, the debt might be reduced so that it doesn’t take up as much of your income.

There are several different types of student loan forgiveness programs available to eligible candidates:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) – If you work for the government or non-profit organizations full time and make 120 monthly payments while working at these institutions, then the remainder of your debt will be forgiven after 10 years (or 20 if you’re married). This program was introduced in 2007 and has been extended several times since then; it will likely continue being extended until 2022 at least.
Student Loan Forgiveness 2021| How to Pay off Your Student Loans

How Do You Get Your Student Loans Forgiven

If you repay your loans under a repayment plan based on your income, any remaining balance on your student loans will be forgiven after you make a certain number of payments over a certain period of time. Learn more about IDR plans and how to apply.

If you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Keep reading to see whether you might qualify.

To ensure you’re on the right track, you should submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF Form) annually or when you change employers. We’ll use the information you provide on the form to let you know if you are making qualifying PSLF payments. This will help you determine if you’re on the right track as early as possible.

*This provision will be waived through October 31, 2022 as part of the limited PSLF waiver. Learn more.

Suspended Payments Count Toward PSLF and TEPSLF During the COVID-19 Administrative Forbearance

If you have a Direct Loan and work full-time for a qualifying employer during the payment suspension (administrative forbearance), then you will receive credit toward PSLF or TEPSLF for the period of suspension as though you made on-time monthly payments in the correct amount while on a qualifying repayment plan.

To see these qualifying payments reflected in your account, you must submit a PSLF form certifying your employment for the same period of time as the suspension. Your count of qualifying payments toward PSLF is officially updated only when you update your employment certifications.

Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a hand-drawn signature, or security certificate-based signatures are not accepted.

Note: In-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF.

Have questions? Find out what loans qualify and get additional information about student loan flexibilities due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Qualifying Employer

Qualifying employment for the PSLF Program isn’t about the specific job that you do for your employer. Instead, it’s about who your employer is. Employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal) – this includes the U.S. military
  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also counts as qualifying employment for the PSLF Program.

The following types of employers don’t qualify for PSLF:

  • Labor unions
  • Partisan political organizations
  • For-profit organizations, including for-profit government contractors

Contractors: You must be directly employed by a qualifying employer for your employment to count toward PSLF. If you’re employed by an organization that is doing work under a contract with a qualifying employer, it is your employer’s status—not the status of the organization that your employer has a contract with—that determines whether your employment qualifies for PSLF. For example, if you’re employed by a for-profit contractor that is doing work for a qualifying employer, your employment does not count toward PSLF.

Other types of not-for-profit organizations: If you work for a not-for-profit organization that is not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, it can still be considered a qualifying employer if it provides certain types of qualifying public services.

Full-time Employment

For PSLF, you’re generally considered to work full-time if you meet your employer’s definition of full-time or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.

If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job at the same time, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.

If you are employed by a not-for-profit organization, time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing as a part of your job responsibilities may be counted toward meeting the full-time employment requirement.

Eligible Loans

Any loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualifies for PSLF.

Loans from these federal student loan programs don’t qualify for PSLF: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program. However, they may become eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.

Under normal PSLF Program rules, if you consolidate your loans, only qualifying payments that you make on the new Direct Consolidation Loan can be counted toward the 120 payments required for PSLF. Any payments you made on the loans before you consolidated them don’t count. However, if you consolidate these loans into a Direct Loan before October 31, 2022, you may be able to receive qualifying credit for payments made on those loans through the limited PSLF waiver. 

student loan forgiveness

In certain situations, you can have your federal student loans forgiven, canceled, or discharged. Learn more about the types of forgiveness and whether you qualify due to your job or other circumstances.

Types of Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge

The summaries below offer a quick view of the types of forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge available for the different types of federal student loans.

The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

PSLF Resources

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application
  • Limited PSLF Waiver Information
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program FAQ
  • Submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reconsideration Request

Qualifying for PSLF

To qualify for PSLF, you must

  • be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization (federal service includes U.S. military service);
  • work full-time for that agency or organization;
  • have Direct Loans (or consolidate other federal student loans into a Direct Loan);
  • repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan*; and
  • make 120 qualifying payments.

To ensure you’re on the right track, you should submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF Form) annually or when you change employers. We’ll use the information you provide on the form to let you know if you are making qualifying PSLF payments. This will help you determine if you’re on the right track as early as possible.

*This provision will be waived through October 31, 2022 as part of the limited PSLF waiver. 

Suspended Payments Count Toward PSLF and TEPSLF During the COVID-19 Administrative Forbearance

If you have a Direct Loan and work full-time for a qualifying employer during the payment suspension (administrative forbearance), then you will receive credit toward PSLF or TEPSLF for the period of suspension as though you made on-time monthly payments in the correct amount while on a qualifying repayment plan.

To see these qualifying payments reflected in your account, you must submit a PSLF form certifying your employment for the same period of time as the suspension. Your count of qualifying payments toward PSLF is officially updated only when you update your employment certifications.

Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a hand-drawn signature, or security certificate-based signatures are not accepted.

Note: In-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF.

Have questions? Find out what loans qualify and get additional information about student loan flexibilities due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Qualifying Employer

Qualifying employment for the PSLF Program isn’t about the specific job that you do for your employer. Instead, it’s about who your employer is. Employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal) – this includes the U.S. military
  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also counts as qualifying employment for the PSLF Program.

The following types of employers don’t qualify for PSLF:

  • Labor unions
  • Partisan political organizations
  • For-profit organizations, including for-profit government contractors

Contractors: You must be directly employed by a qualifying employer for your employment to count toward PSLF. If you’re employed by an organization that is doing work under a contract with a qualifying employer, it is your employer’s status—not the status of the organization that your employer has a contract with—that determines whether your employment qualifies for PSLF. For example, if you’re employed by a for-profit contractor that is doing work for a qualifying employer, your employment does not count toward PSLF.

Other types of not-for-profit organizations: If you work for a not-for-profit organization that is not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, it can still be considered a qualifying employer if it provides certain types of qualifying public services.

Full-time Employment

For PSLF, you’re generally considered to work full-time if you meet your employer’s definition of full-time or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.

If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job at the same time, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.

If you are employed by a not-for-profit organization, time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing as a part of your job responsibilities may be counted toward meeting the full-time employment requirement.

Eligible Loans

Any loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualifies for PSLF.

Loans from these federal student loan programs don’t qualify for PSLF: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program. However, they may become eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.

Under normal PSLF Program rules, if you consolidate your loans, only qualifying payments that you make on the new Direct Consolidation Loan can be counted toward the 120 payments required for PSLF. Any payments you made on the loans before you consolidated them don’t count. However, if you consolidate these loans into a Direct Loan before October 31, 2022, you may be able to receive qualifying credit for payments made on those loans through the limited PSLF waiver. 

Qualifying Payments

A qualifying monthly payment is a payment that you make

  • after Oct. 1, 2007;
  • under a qualifying repayment plan;
  • for the full amount due as shown on your bill;
  • no later than 15 days after your due date; and
  • while you are employed full-time by a qualifying employer.

Most of the PSLF qualifying payment rules have been suspended through October 31, 2022. Under this temporary waiver, you may get credit for payments you’ve made on loans that would not normally qualify for PSLF. These payments will count even if you didn’t pay the full amount or on-time. However, only payments made after Oct. 1, 2007 can count as qualifying payments. For more information, visit the limited PSLF waiver page.

You can make qualifying monthly payments only during periods when you’re required to make a payment. Therefore, you can’t make a qualifying monthly payment while your loans are in

  • an in-school status,
  • the grace period,
  • a deferment, or
  • a forbearance.

If you want to make qualifying payments, but you’re in a deferment or forbearance, contact your federal student loan servicer to waive the deferment or forbearance. However, you can still receive credit toward PSLF during the COVID-19 payment pause.

Your 120 qualifying monthly payments don’t need to be consecutive. For example, if you have a period of employment with a nonqualifying employer, you will not lose credit for prior qualifying payments you made.

The best way to ensure that you are making on-time, complete payments is to sign up for automatic debit with your loan servicer.

About the author

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