A 2017 Federal Reverse report found that 42 percent of Americans who went to college ended up taking on some kind of debt, such as student loans, in order to pay for their education. For many of these Americans — many of whom owe $28,400 or more — not much would be better than to have all of that debt forgiven.
The good news is that many people can get student loan debt forgiven. There are a number of federal programs and other methods for student loan forgiveness. Depending on which method you pursue, you might either end up having a portion, or the total amount, of your student debt forgiven or otherwise paid for by a third party. Learn about the following programs that may help you get your student loans forgiven:
Student Loan Forgiveness for Public Service
One of the most well-known programs for student loan forgiveness is meant to reward public servants by wiping away their student debt. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) will completely forgive the federal student loans of applicants who work in one of the following qualifying jobs:
- Any government job in any level of government. This includes working as a teacher or being a member of the armed forces.
- Any job at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
- Nonprofit jobs at organizations that don’t qualify for 501(c)(3) status, but still fulfill an exempt purpose according to the IRS.
If you are working in a qualifying job for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, then you will need to enroll in an income-driven student loan repayment plan and make 120 total payments (that’s 10 years) under that plan. Once you’ve done these things while working at your qualifying job, the remaining balance on your federal student loans will be completely forgiven. In order to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you must provide proof of employment to the Department of Education.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Teachers working in public schools do count as government employees, making them eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. However, for teachers who are interested in other opportunities, or who do not want to wait 10 years to have their student loans forgiven, there are other options.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP)
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP) will forgive up to $17,500 of Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans or Federal Stafford Loans for teachers who:
- Teach at a low-income school or education service agency.
- Teach at that school or agency full-time for at least five years.
- Have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in education and are fully certified as teachers in their state of employment.
Teachers who meet these requirements can apply for the TLFP through the Department of Education.
Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers
If you have a Federal Perkins Loan and you are a teacher, you may be eligible for the cancellation of up to 100 percent of your loan, if you work full-time as a teacher, fulfilling one of the following requirements:
- Teaching at a school that serves low-income families.
- Teaching children with disabilities or special needs.
- Teaching in the field of mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or in another field determined by your state to have a shortage of qualified teachers.
In order to apply for Perkins Loan cancellation for teachers, contact that institution from which you received the loan.
State Level Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Individual states often experience a shortage of qualified teachers in certain fields of study, or in specific regions of the state. Since state-level funding is more volatile, state programs may come and go from year to year. Contact your local government to find out if there are opportunities for state-funded student loan forgiveness for teachers.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
If you’re trying to pay off your student loans as a nurse, there are options for you, as well. Nurses are often in high demand across the country and because of this, nurses who work in particular areas or fields of great need may be eligible to have some or all of their student loans forgiven.
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
This program, sponsored by the HRSA, will forgive up to 85 percent of an applicant’s student debt at the time of their application as long as they are one of the following:
- A licensed registered nurse.
- An advanced practice registered nurse or nurse practitioner.
- A faculty member who teaches nursing.
In order to receive student loan forgiveness, qualified non-faculty nurses must work in facilities with a critical shortage of nurses. Faculty must work in an accredited school of nursing.
Applicants for the program initially agree to a two-year commitment, after which 60 percent of their initial student loan debt will be forgiven. After that, an additional year is available for nurses who wish to earn another 25 percent in student loan forgiveness for a total of 85 percent of the initial balance at the time of application.
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation for Nurses
Perkins Loans may also be canceled for nurses who work full-time in nursing for five years. Perkins Loans are managed by individual schools, so contact your loan service provider or the school from which you received the loan, in order to learn more about Perkins Loan cancellation for nurses.
State Level Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Many states will also offer programs that forgive all or some of a nurse’s student loan debt, following service in areas that are experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses. Since state-level funding is less predictable, state programs may come and go from year to year. Contact your local government to find out if there are opportunities for state-funded student loan forgiveness for nurses.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Military
Serving in the military counts as a government job for the purposes of the PSLF Program, so servicemembers are eligible for loan forgiveness following 10 years of service under an income-based repayment plan. Servicemembers who are interested in more immediate loan relief have a few options:
Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)
The College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) is available to recruits in any branch of the armed forces. New recruits will be offered a certain amount in loan forgiveness as an incentive for joining up. However, different branches will adjust the amount of loan forgiveness that they offer depending on their recruitment needs at any given time. There are some terms of the CLRP that are fixed across branches of the military:
- This must be your first time serving in the military to be eligible.
- By accepting CLRP loan forgiveness, you forfeit your right to GI Bill benefits.
- You must have a high school diploma. A GED is not an acceptable substitute for a diploma in this case.
- No branch can offer more than $65,000 in total loan forgiveness.
Private Student Loan Forgiveness
Most student loan forgiveness programs are only applicable to federal student loan debt. Generally, private lenders do not offer loan forgiveness for private student loans. Depending on the terms, third-party programs that offer loan assistance, such as employer incentive programs, may be applied towards private student loans.
Even if you can’t get private student loan forgiveness from your lender, it is still possible to find repayment terms that work better for you. By refinancing your student loans you can negotiate a new repayment plan with your lender that better suits your own situation.