Student loan forgiveness
This page will help you navigate federal student loan forgiveness options and one-time federal cancellation, and help you answer questions about whether you qualify or how to apply. These benefits are only available on federal student loans.
Learn more about:
One-time student loan debt relief
Borrowers with federally-held loans and incomes under $125,000 (individuals) or $250,000 (married filing jointly or heads of household) can apply for up to $10,000 in student debt cancellation – or up to $20,000 if they received a Pell Grant in college. An estimated 43 million federal student loan borrowers could benefit, but most will need to fill out a simple .
What loans qualify for debt relief?
Only federal student loans held by the Department of Education (ED) qualify for cancellation. The following types of federal student loans with an outstanding balance as of June 30, 2022, are eligible for relief:
- William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans
- Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by ED or in default at a guaranty agency
- Federal Perkins Loan Program loans held by ED
- Defaulted loans (includes ED-held or commercially serviced Subsidized Stafford, Unsubsidized Stafford, parent PLUS, and graduate PLUS; and Perkins loans held by ED)
This means that subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans, parent PLUS loans, and graduate PLUS loans held by ED are eligible for cancellation. Federal Direct Consolidation loans are also eligible for relief, as long as all of the underlying loans that were consolidated were ED-held loans and were disbursed on or before June 30, 2022.
Consolidation loans comprised of any FFEL or Perkins loans that were not held by ED are also eligible, as long as the borrower applied for consolidation before Sept. 29, 2022.
Private loans (i.e., non-federal loans) are not eligible for debt relief.
How to apply for student loan debt relief
Keep an eye out for scammers. You might be contacted by a company saying they will help you get loan discharge, forgiveness, cancellation, or debt relief for a fee. This is a scam. You never have to pay for help with your federal student aid. Make sure you work only with ED and your loan servicers, and never reveal your personal information or account password to anyone. Verified emails to borrowers come from firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some other warning signs that you may be dealing with a student loan cancellation scam and what to do if you are contacted by a scammer.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
PSLF allows qualifying federal student loans to be forgiven after 120 qualifying payments (10 years), while working for a qualifying public service employer.
If you work or have worked in public service such as government (federal, U.S. Military, state, local, or tribal) or certain non-profit organizations, you might be eligible for the PSLF Program.
How to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Getting PSLF will require careful attention to detail. Here are some tips to achieve forgiveness as painlessly as possible.
Make sure you qualify. Use the to figure out your next steps. This tool is provided by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and is free to use. Submit the forms suggested by the PSLF Help Tool to document your qualifying employment and receive credit for your monthly payments.
Make sure you have the right type of loans. Only federal Direct Loans can be forgiven through PSLF. If you have other federal student loans such as Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or Perkins Loans you may be able to qualify for PSLF by consolidating into a new federal Direct Consolidation Loan. To learn more about consolidation visit the .
Keep proof of your payments. Save your digital receipts or monthly statements—for every payment!
Check your payment tally. The tracks your progress to 120 qualifying payments. Check it regularly to make sure it matches your records. You do not have to make the 120 qualifying payments consecutively.
Keep in mind: Some borrowers have reported that their servicers’ payment tallies do not match their personal records. Contact the servicer to try to resolve this issue. Submit a complaint with the CFPB or if you run into this problem.
Request credit for deferments and forbearances. Deferments prior to 2013 and extended periods of forbearance will be automatically counted as qualifying payments. To request credit for shorter forbearances—less than 12 months in a row, or under 36 months altogether—.
You can appeal if you’re denied. ED offers an online form to . To prepare to fill out the form, gather information about the payments you believe should be counted. This includes the dates of these payments; tax information for your public service employer at that time; and digital proof of your employment and payments, such as W2 forms and letters or statements from the loan servicer.
Stay on track for loan forgiveness
Public service employers and employees can use these guides to make sure they are on track for loan forgiveness.
- Includes firefighters, police officers, nurses, and other emergency service employees.
- Includes employees of any state, local, or tribal government, and of certain nonprofit agencies.
Income-driven repayment forgiveness
Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one . Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans cap your monthly payments based on your income and family size. If your income is low enough, your payment could be as low as $0 per month.
Depending on the IDR plan, the remaining balance on your loans may be forgiven after 20 or 25 years of repayment.
One-time adjustment to fix IDR loan forgiveness
On April 19, 2022, Department of Education (ED) announced several changes and updates that will bring borrowers closer to forgiveness under IDR plans. In July 2023, ED will do a one-time adjustment to count any month spent in repayment, some deferment periods (prior to 2013), and some forbearance periods toward loan forgiveness. For some borrowers, these changes mean that they will receive additional years of credit toward loan forgiveness. If you have loans that have been in repayment for more than 20 or 25 years, those loans may immediately qualify for forgiveness.
TIP: No student loan borrower will have to pay any fees to receive their credit toward forgiveness. If someone asks you to pay them to get you loan forgiveness, it’s a scam.
What counts towards the 20 or 25 years required for IDR forgiveness?
- Any months with time in repayment status (regardless of the payments made, loan type, or repayment plan).
- 12+ months of consecutive forbearance or 36+ months of cumulative forbearance.
- Months in deferment prior to 2013 (except in-school deferment).
- Any time in repayment prior to consolidation on consolidated loans.
What loans qualify for the IDR one-time adjustment
Only federal student loans managed by Department of Education (ED) qualify for the one-time IDR adjustment. Borrowers with Direct Loans or federally-managed FFELP loans will not have to take any action in order to benefit under the one-time account adjustment.
Borrowers with FFELP loans held by commercial lenders or Perkins loans not held by ED can benefit if they consolidate into Direct Loans. Borrowers must consolidate by May 1, 2023, in order to benefit from the one-time IDR account adjustment. Borrowers can apply for a .
TIP: Not sure what type of loan you have? using your FSA ID and select “My Aid” under your name. That page will display information about your federal loan amounts, including whether your loans are Direct or commercial FFELP. For more information, contact your student loan servicer.
How to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan
If you have a federal student loan, you may be able to enroll in an IDR plan online. The Department of Education’s (ED) online will tell you what types of loans you have. It is the best place to start if you need to enroll in income-driven repayment plan.
Repayment periods for IDR plans
IDR plans have different repayment periods.
Repayment term and forgiveness
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
20 years if all loans you're repaying under the plan were received for undergraduate study. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 years.
25 years if any loans you're repaying under the plan were received for graduate or professional study. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
20 years. The remaining balance after 20 years will be forgiven.
Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
20 years if you're a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 years.
25 years if you're not a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years.
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
25 years. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years.