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How to Get Student Loan Forgiveness

Depending on factors such as your occupation, loan type, and income level, you may be eligible to have your federal student loan debt fully or partially forgiven through one or more government programs.

Published May 12, 2023

12 min read

Federal borrowers have been contending with a lack of clarity around student loan forgiveness for a long time. Between multiple temporary extensions of the federal student loan payment and interest pause that’s been in effect since March 2020, and the Biden Administration’s student loan relief plan under review by SCOTUS, it’s been a challenge for borrowers to get a clear sense of whether their debt will be forgiven, how much, and when.

While this “in limbo” period could end in 2023 with a SCOTUS decision and/or a clear end to the payment pause, the good news is that there are several ways for federal borrowers to qualify for student loan forgiveness regardless of either outcome. You can still apply to federal forgiveness programs such as income-driven repayment (IDR), Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and get on the path to student loan forgiveness.

Let’s take a closer look at the different forgiveness programs available, how to check your eligibility, and apply to different ones.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

Depending on factors such as your occupation, loan type, and income level, you may be eligible to have your federal student loan debt fully or partially forgiven through one or more government programs. To explore eligibility for different forgiveness programs, follow the links to our different resources below and read on to understand if you meet the requirements for different programs.

You can also schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our student loan specialists at GradFin1 to learn more about paths to potential forgiveness and how to qualify. It’s important to note that these programs are only available for federal student loans – private student loans are not eligible for forgiveness.

Biden Administration's Proposed Changes

There are currently proposed changes to the PSLF and IDR programs that could change eligibility, requirements, and potentially the amount of money you could save. For more information, visit studentaid.gov or schedule a consultation with a GradFin student loan specialist.

Forgiveness programs to consider

As you research your options, some of the federal student loan forgiveness programs you might consider, depending on your line of work, include:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) – a program available only to full-time employees of the government or qualifying nonprofit organizations that offers forgiveness after 10 years of qualifying payments
  • Income-Driven Repayment Plan (IDR) – a program consisting of four different plans that offer forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of repayment
  • The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program – a program available only to full-time teachers employed at low-income school districts

Additionally, nurses might consider the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (Nurse Corps LRP). This program, available through a branch of government separate from the Department of Education called the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA), offers different percentages of forgiveness for nurses based on length of employment. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program

Public sector professionals – such as doctors, nurses, first responders, and teachers –employed by qualifying nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible for PSLF. The program allows borrowers to have their Federal Direct Loans forgiven after ten years of qualifying payments (120 payments total) under an IDR plan.

The program requirements for PSLF can be complicated to explore on your own ­– and the rules and requirements can change. For example, if you have federal student loans other than Federal Direct Loans, you could be eligible for PSLF if you consolidate them into Federal Direct Loans.

Learn more about PSLF here, or contact our GradFin specialists for a free consultation to get your PSLF questions answered. For the most up-to-date information on the PSLF program, visit the Federal Student Aid website at studentaid.gov/publicservice.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR)

Unlike PSLF, IDR plans are not prohibitive based on your employer, and are available to borrowers working in the private sector. IDR plans offer forgiveness on your remaining loan balance after 20 or 25 years of repayment, depending on which plan you choose. The four types of IDR plans are:

  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Your monthly payment amount on IDR plans is calculated by taking a number of factors into account, including your family size and discretionary income. Determining which IDR plan is right for you will depend on your personal financial situation. Weigh the pros and cons of each plan before you make your decision, and see our Guide to Federal Student Loan Repayment Programs which includes the table below.

  • Plan
  • Monthly Payments
  • Repayment Period

Income-Based Repayment (IBR)

Monthly Payments:
  • 10-15% of your discretionary income (and your spouse’s if filing jointly)
  • Never more than federal 10-year Standard Repayment Plan amount
Repayment Period:

20-25 years depending on when you become a new borrower


Pay as You Earn (PAYE)

Monthly Payments:
  • 10% of your discretionary income (and your spouse’s if filing jointly)
  • Never more than federal 10-year Standard Repayment Plan amount
Repayment Period:

20 years


Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE)

Monthly Payments:
  • 10% of you and your spouse’s discretionary income even if you are filing separately
  • Can be more than federal 10-yeear Standard Repayment Plan amount
Repayment Period:

Undergrad: 20 years Graduate: 25 years


Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Monthly Payments:

The lesser of the following:

  • 20% of your discretionary income or
  • What you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over the course of 12 years, adjusted according to your income
Repayment Period:

25 years

One-time Adjustment Deadline 

If you’re a borrower with commercially managed FFEL, Perkins, or Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program loans, be sure to apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan by the end of 2023, to take advantage of this forgiveness opportunity. To learn more, schedule a free call with a GradFin specialist.

Student loan forgiveness for nurses

Nurses with student loan debt have a few options for student loan forgiveness. In addition to PSLF and IDR, nurses might consider the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, a forgiveness program through the federal Health Resources & Services Administration. The program pays up to 85% of student loan debt for qualified nurses who work for a minimum of two years in either:

Additionally, after your two-year service contract, you could be eligible for a third year and an additional 25% of your loans. Review the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program Fact Sheet and learn more here.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

If you’re a teacher with federal student loans, you may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. The program provides up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness for highly qualified teachers who teach full-time at a low-income school or educational service agency for five consecutive academic years and meet other qualifications. You may receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness if you were:

  • a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher who taught students at the secondary school level; or
  • a highly qualified special education teacher at either the elementary or secondary level

For teachers that did not teach mathematics, science, or special education, you may receive up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness if you were a highly qualified full-time elementary or secondary education teacher.

Also note that you could potentially receive forgiveness under both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the PSLF program but not for the same period of teaching service. Additionally, any time spent teaching to receive benefits through AmeriCorps cannot be counted toward your required five years of teaching for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Learn more about the details and eligibility requirements for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program here.

Federal student loan cancellation and discharge

In addition to forgiveness, you may be able to get student loan debt relief through cancellation or discharge. Though these terms are used differently in reference to different types of programs, they essentially mean the same thing – the ending of an obligation to pay back loan debt. Below are some examples of cancellation programs.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

If you have Perkins Loans, then Perkins Loan Cancellation may be available to you if you do eligible public service or volunteer work. These programs provide partial or full cancellation of Perkins loans if you perform certain kinds of service such as teaching at a Title I school or working in a law enforcement profession. Learn more about Perkins loan cancellation on the Student Aid website.

Closed school discharge

Under uncommon circumstances, your federal loans may be discharged ­– meaning that you’re no longer obligated to pay back your loan. Conditions that may lead to discharge include bankruptcy, disability, and school closure. If your school closes while you’re enrolled or shortly after you leave school with federal loans still outstanding, then the government may forgive all or part of those loans depending on when the closure occurred relative to the date you took out your loans. Learn more here.

How to apply for student loan forgiveness

If you think you could qualify for federal student loan forgiveness, a good first step to take is to contact your loan servicer and get an understanding of what types of federal student loans you have and if you need to consolidate them. You should also gather the following documentation and have it readily available:

  • A verified FSA ID – this is the account username and password that allows students (and parents) to identify themselves electronically to access US Department of Education systems.
  • Your financial information
  • Your personal information
  • Your spouse’s information (if applicable)

Applying for IDR and PSLF. If you’re thinking of applying for PSLF or IDR our GradFin team can help. A GradFin student loan specialist can help you track progress on your application and keep you current on the latest requirements for different forgiveness programs. The application for IDR on the Student Aid website – which must be completed for any of the four IDR programs as well as for PSLF enrollment – must be completed in a single session. Fortunately, most people complete the application in 10 minutes or less, according to the studentaid.gov. Typically, IDR application processing should take less than two weeks, however, it’s also not unusual for applications to sit under review for months. So, the sooner you start, the better.

Applying for the Nurse Corps LRP. For nurses applying to Nurse Corps Loan Repayment, first check if the application cycle is open. If it is, then:

  1. Read the Nurse Corps LRP Application and Program Guidance (APG)
  2. Submit your application through the Customer Service Portal

Applying for Perkins Loan cancellation. If you’re applying for cancellation of a Perkins Loan, the application must be made to the school that made the loan or to the school’s Perkins Loan servicer. The school or its servicer can provide forms and instructions specific to your type of cancellation. Learn more about how to apply on the Student Aid website.

For more information on what paths to student loan forgiveness are available to you and how to apply to different federal programs, schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with a GradFin student loan specialist here and get your questions answered.

Forgiveness terms to know

Refers to the federal Income-Driven Repayment Program, comprised of four different plans.
Income-Based Repayment, one of the four IDR plans.
Pay As You Earn, one of the four IDR plans.
Revised Pay As You Earn, one of the four IDR plans.
Income-Contingent Repayment, one of the four IDR plans.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a 10-year federal student loan repayment program available to government and qualifying nonprofit employees.
Nurse Corps LRP
Pays up to 85% of student loan debt for qualified nurses who work for a minimum of two years in either in a CSF or NF.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
A program for teachers offering forgiveness of Direct Loans or FFEL Program loans.
Perkins Loan Cancellation
For Perkins Loan holders, provides partial or full cancellation of Perkins Loans for certain kinds of public service and volunteer work.

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  1. 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. For full program requirements, visit: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.

  2. GradFin and Laurel Road are brands of KeyBank N.A.

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