Wouldn’t it be nice if you could magically snap your fingers and wish away that pesky student loan debt? You may not whisk it away that easily; however, a number of student loan forgiveness programs are available to those who work in education, public service, and health care. Even Federal Aid and certain states are helping graduates pay off their student loans.
If you find yourself struggling — like most students — to pay off that student loan debt, then student loan forgiveness may save you. This article offers a complete list of student loan forgiveness programs.
PSLF – Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you are working in public service, be aware that a variety of fields qualify for PSLF. For this forgiveness, the focus is on the company you are employed by. After 120 qualifying payments — regardless if these payments are consecutive — you can qualify for 100% loan forgiveness of all direct loans including subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, and consolidated loans (wouldn’t that be nice?). To apply, you must fill out and submit the Employment Certification Form every year, or when you change jobs.
To qualify for this forgiveness, you are required to be a full-time employee at a state, local, or federal government agency or at a 501(c)(3)-designated organization. You are also required to make 120 on-time loan payments under an income-driven repayment plan:
- IBR – Income-Based Repayment
- PAYE – Pay As You Earn
- REPAYE – Revised Pay As You Earn
- ICR – Income-Contingent Repayment
For more information on these federal repayment plans, read Student Loan Repayment: Your Options.
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation
The Perkins loan cancellation and discharge program can forgive a percentage of your student loan debt after each year of qualifying service. This means it’s possible to get up to 100% of your Perkins loan completely canceled. This cancellation program is eligible for teachers, librarians, speech-language pathologists or any type of education professional. Firefighters, law enforcement officers, public defenders, service volunteers, military personnel, and nurses may also be eligible. In order to qualify for this program, you must have a federal Perkins loan and work in a qualifying profession for at least one year. Be mindful that requirements vary by profession and involve working in high-needs areas.
Student Loan Forgiveness – Teachers
Teachers have a variety of student loan forgiveness programs at their disposal. Along with PSLF and Perkins cancellation, there is Teacher Loan Forgiveness through Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI), which is a national loan forgiveness program that helps teachers pay off their student loans. In order to qualify, you must be working in a qualifying school for at least five consecutive years.
The subject you teach will impact the loan forgiveness amount. For example, elementary school teachers can receive up to $5,000. However, high school teachers who teach science, math, or special education may receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness. Eligible loans include subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans as well as subsidized and unsubsidized federal Stafford loans. Be sure to review the requirements:
- Highly qualified teacher
- Full-time teacher for five consecutive years
- Loans originated after October 1, 1998
- Loans must not be in default
- Must work for a qualifying organization
Complete and submit the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to apply. If you’re a teacher, this is not your only option. Many states offer repayment assistance for teachers, so research what you qualify for.
Student Loan Forgiveness – Nurses
Nurses have access to a variety of federal and state loan forgiveness programs. Do you work as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or nurse faculty member in an underserved area? Then you may qualify for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program and have up to 60% of those student loans paid over two years of employment. By working an additional year, you may be eligible to forgive another 25% of those student loans. Applications for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program are accepted once a year, so check the requirements and guidelines ahead of time before turning in that application.
Similar to teachers, many states also offer repayment assistance for nurses.
Loan Repayment Assistance – Doctors and Health Care Professionals
Many programs seek to assist physicians and pharmacists with paying off their student loan debts. Let’s break them down:
- NHSC – National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Assistance
- This program awards up to $50,000 to licensed health care providers. If you are a primary care doctor, dentist, or a behavioral/mental clinician, then you may be eligible as long as you commit to working for two years at a qualifying site.
- Students to Service Program
- Are you in your last year of medical service? You might qualify for massive loan assistance because this forgiveness program provides up to $120,000. However, you must commit to working as a health provider at an approved site for three years.
- IHS – Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program
- You must commit to two years of service practicing as a doctor in Alaskan Native and American Indian communities. This program will repay up to $40,000 of your student loans.
- NIH – National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs
- If you’re a health professional in a research career and commit to two years of research at a qualifying nonprofit, NIH may repay up to $35,000 of your student loans.
- Doctors in the Armed Forces
- Army doctors can receive up to $120,000 from the Active Duty Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program. Additionally, the Navy Financial Assistance Program can offer up to $275,000 in loan assistance.
- State LRAP Programs
- Loan assistance may be available from your state. For example, the Massachusetts Student Loan Forgiveness Program can award up to $50,000 to health professionals who are working in underserved areas.
Loan Repayment Assistance – Lawyers
Both national and state loan forgiveness programs can help pay off the debt from your former law school.
- Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program
- Earn up to $60,000 in loan assistance if you’re a lawyer who worked at the Department of Justice for three years. However, you must have at least $10,000 in federal loans to qualify.
- John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
- This program helps lawyers who are working in the public sector. Therefore, you could earn up to $10,000 per year if you’re a public defender.
- Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program
- About 70 attorneys a year are offered up to $5,600 in student loans. This program uses a lottery system in order to pick winners who work at qualifying organizations.
- State and University LRAPs
- Lawyers can qualify for state or local repayment assistance programs. Additionally, some universities actually help alumni pay back their student loans. Talk to your alma mater about how to get that repayment assistance.
Military Student Loan Forgiveness
The Navy, Army, Air Force, and National Guard offer loan repayment assistance programs for armed forces members and veterans. For example, the Army’s College Loan Repayment Program pays one-third of your loans every year for three years. The National Guard LRAP awards up to $50,000 and the Navy program contributes up to $65,000.
Student Loan Discharge for Special Circumstances
In rare situations, students may get their entire student loan debt canceled. Cases where you may qualify for student loan discharge include:
- Loan cancellation for total and permanent disability
- Unpaid refund discharge
- Closed school discharge
- Student loan discharge bankruptcy
- Discharge for false certification or unauthorized payment
- Student loan discharge – due to death
- Borrower defense discharge
If you feel as though you qualify, please contact your loan servicer for more information.
Don’t worry if you don’t qualify for ANY student loan forgiveness. There are plenty of options when it comes to repaying your student loans!