Student Loan Forgiveness Guide

student loan forgiveness

There are various student loan forgiveness programs depending on whether you have a Direct Loan, a FFEL Program Loan or a Federal Perkins Loan. Since each of these types of loans have different forgiveness, cancellation and discharge options, it is important to understand the types of loans you have before making any assumptions.


Anyone with student loan debt is in a race to pay off that student loan debt as quickly as possible. For borrowers with over $100,000 in debt, it can be especially daunting to pay down your debt because it seems like a never-ending pile of debt that just won’t go away.

For certain borrowers, though, their student loans can actually be forgiven. That’s right. After a certain period of time and if they meet certain qualifications, the debt will disappear and they can break free of shackles of student loan debt.

What’s the secret?

Let’s start with Direct Loan and FFEL Program Loan Forgiveness.

Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness

Teachers are public servants who are often underpaid, but who create significant positive impact in our communities.

To give back to teaches for their selfless service to others, the federal government created a teacher student loan forgiveness program. The goal of the Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Program to encourage promising individuals to enter into the teaching profession and to give back to their communities in low income schools.

What are eligibility requirements for Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness?

You must be a full-time teacher for five consecutive years in a designated elementary or secondary school or educational service agency that serves students from low income families. Also, your loans must have originated after October 1, 1998.

Which loans are eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness?

Federal direct loans and Stafford Loans are eligible for teacher loan forgiveness, whereas Parent PLUS loans are not eligible.

How much of your student loan will be forgiven?

If you are eligible, you can have up to $5,000 forgiven (up to $17,500 for elementary/secondary special education teachers and secondary math and science teachers). If you have a direct consolidation loan or FFEL consolidation loan, then only the portion used to repay the original Direct or FFEL Loan will qualify for student loan forgiveness.

How do I apply for teacher loan forgiveness?

You can apply by using the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

What Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Public Service Loan Forgiveness forgives federal student loans for borrowers who are employed full-time in an eligible state, local or federal public service job or 501(c)(3) non-profit job who make 120 eligible on-time payments after October 1, 2007. This equates to 10 years of student loan payments.

The 10 years of student loan payments can be made under several qualifying plans:

  • Standard Repayment
  • Income-Based Repayment
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment
  • Revised Pay As You Earn
  • Income-Contingent

Most borrowers prefer an income-based repayment plan because they can lower their monthly student loan repayment, thereby taking full advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness by having a larger amount of their student loan forgiven.

What are eligibility requirements for Public Loan Forgiveness?

To be eligible, a borrower must either have a direct loan or a consolidated student loan, including loans under Family Federal Education Loans (FFEL), which existed before direct loans were introduced. To remain eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, FFEL (as well as Perkins Loans) must be consolidated under direct loans. You do not have to be employed at the same employer continuously for 10 years.

Which types of student loans are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

Direct loans or a consolidated student loan are eligible. This includes:

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford/Direct Loans
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Direct Loans
  • Federal Direct Consolidations Loans
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans (for parents and graduate and professional students)

How much of my direct federal student loan can be forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

100% of your student loan can be forgiven. There is no limit as there is with Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness.

How can I apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

You will need to submit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form. Then, you should submit the form to FedLoan Servicing. FedLoan Servicing will inform you if you are eligible, how many qualifying student loan payments you have made, and how many qualifying student loan payments remain for you to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The chart below summarizes other key types of student loan forgiveness and student loan cancellations, including the reason for discharge and the amount of the student loan that can be discharged.

Other Direct Loan and FFEL Program Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge

Reason For DischargeAmount DischargedComments
Permanent Disability 100%-
Death100%Parent PLUS Loans can be discharged upon the death of the parent, or if the student dies
Bankruptcy0%It is very rare for a borrower to discharge a student loan in bankruptcy so do not count on it

Cancellation of a student loan only occurs in very rare circumstances such as when repayment causes an economic hardship
Your school closed
100%This is a rare circumstance that occurs when your school closes during your enrollment

Effective date is January 1, 1986
False student loan certification
100%Your school falsely certified that you were eligible to receive a loan, but in fact you were not eligible

Alternatively, if someone falsely assumed your identity and took out a student loan in your name

Federal Perkins Student Loan Cancellation For Teachers

Who is eligible for a Federal Perkins Student Loan Cancellation Program? How much of your student loan can be forgiven?

Federal Perkins student loans can be forgiven up to 100% for teachers who work full-time at a qualifying low income public or non-profit elementary or secondary school in subject areas such as math, science and special education for a period of five years.

How is the student loan cancellation applied over the five years?

Year 1: 15% of your student loan

Year 2: 15% of your student loan

Year 3: 20% of your student loan

Year 4: 20% of your student loan

Year 5: 30% of your student loan

How do you apply for federal Perkins student loan cancellation if you are an eligible teacher?

You should contact the school from which you borrowed your loan and the school will determine your eligibility under the program.          

Other Direct Perkins Student Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge

Reason For DischargeAmount CancelledComments
Permanent Disability 100%-
Death100%-
Bankruptcy0%It is very rare for a borrower to discharge a student loan in bankruptcy so do not count on it

Cancellation of a student loan only occurs in very rare circumstances such as when repayment causes an economic hardship
Your school closed
100%This is a rare circumstance that occurs when your school closes during your enrollment

Effective date is January 1, 1986
Service in the U.S. Armed Forces in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area

Up To 100%100% for active duty service that began on or after August 14, 2008

50% if ended prior to August 14, 2008
Full-time firefighter
Up To 100%Service includes or began on or after August 14, 2008
Full-time law enforcement or corrections officer
Up To 100%-
Full-time nurse or medical technician
Up To 100%-
Full-time federal public defender
Up To 100%Service includes or began on or after August 14, 2008
Full-time employee of public or non-profit child or family services agency assisting high risk children in low income communities
Up To 100%-
Full-time member of Head Start, pre-kindergarten or child care program that assist children in low income communities Up To 100%Service includes or began on or after August 14, 2008

Student Loan Forgiveness: Summary Thoughts

It is important to understand your options with respect to student loan forgiveness. In addition to student loan forgiveness, you can consider the various student loan repayment plans, or even deferral or forbearance.

Alternatively, you can look to federal loan consolidation or private student loan refinance. 


Student Loan Refinancing – Best of the Best

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2.75% - 7.35%5 – 152 minutesSTART SAVING
2.21% - 8.97%5, 10, 15, 202 minutesSTART SAVING
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Doc Benjamins is not a lender and does not make loans. We are a free, independent and unbiased website that helps empower borrowers so they can make more informed financial decisions. The rates, terms and other student loan information provided on this website do not legally bind Doc Benjamins or the lenders referenced herein. The rates, terms and other student loan information are estimates and may change periodically and/or differ from your final rate and terms, which may be based on your individual credit profile and other factors as determined solely by the lender. If you would like to apply for a loan, please visit the website(s) of each lender and carefully review their rates, terms and conditions for further information.