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A guide to student loan forgiveness

Young couple looking at paperwork and a laptopYoung couple looking at paperwork and a laptop

With the federal student loan payment and interest freeze officially expiring January 31, 2022, some borrowers are once again exploring their options to buy a bit more time. Forbearance and deferment both refer to temporarily postponing or reducing federal student loan payments. The difference is with deferment no interest will accrue to your loan balance while forbearance means interest WILL continue to accrue on your loan balance. The terms forgiveness, cancellation and discharge are all commonly used to refer to more permanent arrangements. If you’re no longer required to make payments on loans due to your job, it is generally referred to as loan forgiveness or cancellation. If you’re not required to make payments on your loans because of other circumstances, including a school closure or disability, it is more commonly referred to as loan discharge.

What are some common types of student loan forgiveness?

Public service - To receive loan forgiveness under this program, you must be a full-time employee (at least 30 hours per week) in a public service, government or non-profit job, and make 10 years of on-time monthly payments after consolidating your federal loans in a qualified repayment program. The most common public service careers are in education, law enforcement, health, public law, and veterinary medicine. This student loan forgiveness option is available for Direct Federal Student Loans, Direct Plus loans and Direct Consolidation loans. Private student loans are not eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

School teacher - To qualify for the Teacher Forgiveness Program, you need to teach full-time at a qualifying, low-income school for five full and consecutive years. The U.S. Department of Education publishes the list of low-income elementary schools and secondary schools each year. Those teachers are eligible to have from $5,000 to up to $17,500 in loans forgiven.

Closed school – If your school closes either while you are enrolled or shortly after you have withdrawn, you could be eligible for discharge of you federal student loans.

Military - From the Coast Guard to the Marines, each branch of the military has its own student loan forgiveness program. Forgiven loan amounts usually depend on the level of rank achieved. Contact your branch to learn more about options.

Will I be eligible for student loan forgiveness if I refinance my student loans?

Federal loans offer specific protections for some borrowers including loan forgiveness, deferment, and forbearance. The option for student loan forgiveness, deferment, and forbearance will be lost by refinancing a federal loan to a private loan. If you have refinanced your federal loan to a private student loan, you will not be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

How do I apply for student loan forgiveness?

You should contact your loan servicer if you think you qualify for one of these forgiveness programs. If you have a Perkins Loan, you should contact the school that made the loan or the loan servicer the school has designated.

What are my next steps?

The First Tech Student Loan team is very familiar with federal programs and will be able to help you determine which programs make sense for you. First Tech offers a Check My Rate option, which gives you an idea of what you can expect to pay before you apply for a loan. You’ll also find advice on saving and borrowing money for college in the First Tech Educational Resources area.

For more information about student loan forgiveness policy, visit https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation.