The Top Ways To Get Student Loan Forgiveness

Ways To Get Student Loan ForgivenessStudent loans can be a great investment in your future, or can be a huge burden if not fully thought out or abused. If you currently have a student loan or are thinking about getting student loans, you should know that student loans CANNOT discharged in bankruptcy. This means that they will stick with you for the rest of your life, unless you pay them off, or, if you are lucky enough, qualify for student loan forgiveness. Before going further, check out my Student Loan Calculator and read my post on Getting Out From Student Loan Debt for some other ideas on student loan debt.

Under certain circumstances, all or part of your student loan can be canceled in a process called Student Loan Forgiveness. To qualify, you must perform volunteer work, perform military service, practice medicine in specific communities, or meet other criteria. If you don’t qualify, refinancing your student debt presents an alternate opportunity to save thousands. Credible enables you to fill out one form and look at personalized offers from multiple lenders.

The great thing about student loan forgiveness, unlike other debt, is that the amount forgiven is NOT treated as taxable income.

Remember, if you want specific help, check out our program Ditch Your Student Loans. Also, the list below is just for Federal student loan forgiveness programs. If you want to see if your State offers any programs, check out this tool: Student Loan Forgiveness by State.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The #1 way to currently get student loan forgiveness is to work in public service for 10 years. President Obama announced the PSLF – Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which will grant student loan forgiveness on qualifying loans after 120 payments (10 years).

The great thing about public service is that the definition is very broad. Qualifying employment is any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a not-for-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes.

For example:

  • Government Workers (Federal, State, Local)
  • Emergency management
  • Military service
  • Public safety or law enforcement services
  • Public health services
  • Teachers
  • Public education or public library services
  • School library and other school-based services
  • Public interest law services
  • Early childhood education
  • Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly

The organization must not be a labor union or a partisan political organization.

If you want to learn more about PSLF and how you can apply, check out our program – Ditch Your Student Loans.

Volunteer Work

While some volunteer work can be a huge life commitment, organizations such as VISTA all you to have a semblance of life while volunteering. They also offer money to be used towards your student loan debt, which is great!

Peace Corps – If you volunteer for the Peace Corps, you get automatic deferment of Stafford, Perkins, or Consolidation loans. You can also get partial cancellation of Perkins Loans based on the number of years of service. Currently, you get 15% per year, with a max of 70%.

Americorps – If you serve for 12 months, you can receive $4,725 towards your student loans.

Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) – If you volunteer for 1,700 hours, you can receive $4,725 towards your student loans.


The military currently has a Student Loan Repayment Program. Each year, 15% of the student loan balance will be repaid by the program, up to the branch maximum. The current maximums are:
Army – $65,000
Army Reserve – $20,000
Navy – $65,000
Air Force – $10,000

To qualify, you must request this program at the time of enlistment or reenlistment. Also, you must score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test.


Students who become full-time teachers in an elementary or secondary school that serves low-income families can have a portion of their Perkins Loan forgiven. This program forgives 15% of your loan in each of the first and second years, 20% in each of the third and fourth years, and the remaining 30% in the fifth year.

This program will be phased out in lieu of Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Legal Studies

Many law schools forgive the student loans of students who serve in the public interest or for non-profits. These loan repayment assistance programs provide loan repayment or forgiveness, lower interest rates on loans, or postponed payment schedules. Most programs have income limitations and specify which types of employment qualify.

Furthermore, many 23 states offer loan repayment assistance programs: Arizona, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York (two programs), North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

For more information, check out the American Bar Association’s website on Loan Repayment Assistance Programs.

Medical Studies

If you are a medical student, there are several options available for student loan forgiveness.  While a career in health care and other medical services is always in demand, everyone knows that tuition for school can get very expensive, even if you are taking online courses. The thought of the burden caused from student loans can be daunting when considering pursuing a career in nursing. But forgiveness programs like the ones below offer some peace of mind knowing that you can go after that Master’s degree in nursing and help those in need of medical care without the fear of what is to come after graduation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers loan forgiveness programs through two programs:

National Health Service Corps: Complete a five-year commitment to providing medical care in “needed” areas, and you can receive up to $170,000 in loan forgiveness.

Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program: For two years of nursing service at a qualifying non-profit, you can have 60% of your loan forgiven. There is also an optional third-year, where you can have an additional 25% forgiven.

If you are interested in research, the National Institute of Health offers a loan forgiveness program that repays up to $35,000 each year for qualifying research at either a non-profit or university, as well as directly at the National Institute of Health.

If you are interested in veterinary medicine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program where you can receive loan forgiveness of $25,000 per year for three years, as long as you work in a designated area.

Finally, many individual colleges offer different types of loan forgiveness programs, so check with your local college.

Other Options

If you haven’t done so yet, make sure that you download my free eBook on Student Loan Debt below. Also, stop by our Student Loan Debt Forums and talk to others who may be looking for student loan forgiveness programs.

And finally, for a small price, I highly recommend this book: Student Loan Debt – Getting In Smart, Getting Out Painlessly. Check it out.

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  1. says

    Unfortunately none of the above applies to me. But at least student loans have a nice defferment program in case you lose your job. Also, payments don’t kick in (if I remember correctly) for the first six (or is it 3?) months after graduation.

  2. hairbear says

    I read one time, if your income was at the level for a federal loan you could transfer it to a federal loan. Is that true.

  3. Mom Cents says

    Welp ~ I guess I’m stuck with my loans! I did get them consolidated under a pretty low interest rate almost 10 years ago. I’ve got a game plan to speed up repayment and be done in 3 years….so I’m excited about that!

  4. Zoulad says

    I have a private student loan from Chase at 14% INTEREST. Everytime I call to work something out, I keep getting the run around. I mean, it’s mind blowing that I made that stupid mistake. I m tryting to get a lower rate and reduce the payments, any help please ?

    • Dave says

      Try using a credit union to refinance. I did that with USSFCU and worked with lendkey to get a much lower rate.

  5. chelsie says

    I am a nurse where do i look for the programs you mentioned for nursing. I have about $40k in student loans and the payments are a huge burden.

  6. George says

    My wife has student loan that has buried us for that last 30 years. I became disabled 4 years ago with Multiple Sclerosis which makes it hard for us to pay the loan and other things. Can her school loan be forgiven being that her husband (me) is disabled and not able to work? Thanks for your time.

  7. Holly says

    I applied for the teacher loan forgiveness program but was denied. I had a federal loan prior to 1998 so event though I am a special education teacher in a low income urban district I don’t qualify. Do you have any suggestions for getting around this stipulation?

  8. Kevin says

    I have a disability that will last forever unless a doctor creates a miracle drug to cure anyone with my disability, I am sure, I will have it forever. I am currently on SSDI and can provide paperwork if needed and also provide doctors certification if needed. Is there any student forgiveness programs for Students with Disabilities.

  9. Janeen says

    I have subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Graduated with my medical assisting degree, not certified. I couldn’t pass the test. Plus my college has a bad rep so I can’t find a job. Is there loan forgiveness for that, not being able to get a job in you field? Thanks for your time.

    • says

      Sorry there is not student loan forgiveness simply because you cannot get a degree in your field. It was your choice to attend that school and get that type of job. Your best bet is to study hard for the test on your own, pass it, and get a good job. Because no matter what you do, you’re going to have to pay these loans one way or another.

  10. says

    I was wondering if your 10 years of public service could be part time? I have worked as a federal employee (forest fire fighter and wilderness trail crews) for the last 10 years, seasonally.

      • Terry Haston says

        I have been a full time firefighter for 26 years. I have a federal student loan in my name for my son’s college. He has been a full time firefighter for 5 years. Can I get loan forgiveness after 120 payments?

  11. rachel says

    I am a speech language pathologist working with special education kids in a public school that qualifies under Title 1, will I qualify for loan forgiveness after five years?

  12. Mariela says

    What if I were to work at a non profit organization full time for a couple of years and transition to a teacher in a low income school, could those years combined make up for the 10 years? I hope that makes sense.

  13. Merrill says

    My daughter has her Masters in Marrige and Family counseling. She is working for the state as a substance abuse counselor. Are there any loan assistance or forgiveness plans?

  14. Jonathan says

    “Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) – If you volunteer for 1,700 hours, you can receive $4,725 towards your student loans.”

    That works out to be $2.78/hr. Probably not the most efficient way to pay off your student loans.

  15. Tom says

    You mentioned that “The great thing about student loan forgiveness, unlike other debt, is that the amount forgiven is NOT treated as taxable income.” I know President Obama’s Administration has proposed this as new policy in March 2015 but I haven’t heard if it has went through. Did they recently pass this proposal into policy to have student loan debt forgiveness non-taxable? Also is this for all federal student loans that are forgiven or is it just for students who use the special payment plans. Can a student who is in default receive non-taxable student loan forgiveness as well? Do you know if there is a good online reference for this info?


    • says

      Hi Tom, the student loan forgiveness plans referenced on this page (PSLF, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, Law School assistance, and Public Health Care assistance) are all non-taxable. Here’s another article detailing it:

      However, many other student loan forgiveness programs, including the “secret student loan forgiveness programs” we covered are taxable. These are programs that are involved with repayment plans. Also, any “student loan discharges”, such as a discharge for death or permanent disability, is taxable income.

      If you are in default, you cannot qualify for any student loan forgiveness program. You must rehabilitate your loans first before being eligible.

      As for a resource, I’d like to think we’re the best resource online for this info. I also offer a DIY coaching program to help you with your loans, and one-on-one coaching as well. You can find out more here: Ditch Your Student Loans.

  16. Josh says


    I have a 40,000 dollar loan from ASU in Social and Behavioral sciences and am currently working on my MBA from GCU in Arizona. Is there any help to pay off my loans? I do IT work and can only pay the minimum…

  17. Lisa says

    I have debt from getting my bachelors degree in teaching. I teach math at a middle school. I currently am paying my loans back under the loan forgiveness program and have made 12 payments out of 120. I want to get my masters in math education but am scared to take out more loans. Will the loans I take out jump on board with my current payback plan or can masters degree loans even qualify for loan forgiveness? I do not need 2 payments!!!!

    • says

      It depends on the type of loans you get. But before you even consider that, please ask yourself – how much more money will you make by getting a master’s degree and how much will it cost? If it doesn’t boost your income enough to pay for itself in less than 5 years, it’s simply not worth it, and I highly recommend you not do it. While education is great, unless you can truly afford it, you’ll just be miserable in life dealing with your loans.

  18. Stephanie H. says

    I taught for 5 years in a Title 1 school and received $5,000 toward my loan. I stopped teaching after 7 years to stay at home and now homeschool. I still owe close to 33k in loans and was told if I had worked for 3 more years I could have had them forgiven. :( I am very passionate about homeschooling my kids. Is there anything I can do?

  19. Mary says

    My son-in-law takes care of foster children. Would this be in any way be considered service to the state? With this job, even though he is paid, it is not considered income. Any ideas?? Thanks!

  20. heather says

    I have a bachelors degree in history but instead work full-time at a church. Would working at a church qualify for the public service loan forgiveness?

      • David says

        Hi Robert. Thanks for the info. Why would ministry (biblical) work not qualify? A minister would be employed full time by a church, a registered non-profit organization. I’m asking because I am trying to decide what to do with my loans now. I work for a church.

        • says

          No, directly being a minister is not considered public service for loan forgiveness. However, being a full time employee of a school or preschool run by a church would be considered public service. Being a teacher or providing early childhood education is considered public service, but ministry alone is not.

  21. Kelly says

    I was just told that I am going to receive Social Security Disability Benefits. I am enrolled to start college in August with financial aid and student loans. What if after I graduate I am unable to work. Can my loans then be forgiven?

    • says

      If you are unable to work because you are totally and permanently disabled, which does qualify you for SSI benefits, but at a the 100% disabled level, you could receive student loan cancellation. That is a bit different than forgiveness, in that you will owe taxes on any amount forgiven under this plan.

  22. Matt says

    Hello Robert,
    First, I want to say I love your website, it provides a lot of information in a clear and concise way. However, I am still confused on what the best plan of action is for me to hopefully get some of my student loans forgiven. I am hoping you can provide a simple answer for what I should do or my best options.

    I work as a physical therapist for the federal government so I’m pretty sure I qualify for the PSLF. I have worked for the government for the entirety of my career totaling 4 1/2 years. All of my loans are federal student loans. My original student loan balance was $31,495 and my current balance is 20,204. I am on the 10 year repayment plan from my current lender (federal government sold my loan to a lender). Would it be worth it for me to change the repayment plan at this point so that whatever I have left over after 10 years would be forgiven and if so what type of plan would you recommend? Would the 4 1/2 years I have already worked for the fed government be considered or would the 10 years start from the date I changed my repayment plan?

    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • says

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for reaching out. To start, you’re comboing your repayment plan and your potential forgiveness plan.

      To start, always select the repayment plan that makes the most sense financially, regardless of forgiveness. If you’re able to make payments under the current standard plan, you’re likely to not qualify for much lower payments with IBR or PAYE – you’re income is likely too high. Never hurts to try, but if affordability isn’t a problem, don’t sweat it.

      For forgiveness, you can qualify for PSLF, and it’s valid for any work and payments done after October 1, 2007. So the last 4.5 years count towards PSLF as long as you can certify the work. You have to fill out a PSLF certification form for each year worked. If you can’t go back and get it certified, then you have to start from when you can.

      If you’re going to simply pay off the loans before the PSLF kicks in anyway, it’s moot though.

  23. Mary says

    Hi. I borrowed 55K with 6 Federal Loans for Grad School. I paid off 2 of 6. I was left with 4. I owe 75K now, despite paying more than min every month. It’s like a black hole. I tried to see if I could do bi-monthly payments (to get an extra payment in) and or if I had more $ one month to pay extra and have that applied to principal. My lender, Great Lakes, doesn’t allow either. Everything I pay is only applied to my very high interest. I went to school during the financial crisis when we bailed the banks out but screwed students and homeowners. I was told then I would be able to refinance later. This was a lie. My rates were 6.5% and 8.5%. Very high. I recently made the mistake of consolidating with the DOE loans and now my rate is worse, 7.75%. I am on the Pay As You Earn program as I have variable income. I am an actor who has a survival job that pays the bills. The thing about being an actor is you never know how much money you will make per month and you need to keep your costs low so that you can take gigs when you get them. I am trying to figure out if I should try to move the loans to something like SoFi or Earnest or hope that the Democrats take over Congress and Elizabeth Warren can get a student loan refinance or forgiveness of some sort to help people like me who need the protection of IBR’s (because of variable jobs/income) but can’t afford 7.75% interest rates. Do you have any advice for me please? If my math is right I’ll end up paying TRIPLE what I borrowed. Which is insane.

    • says

      If you’re on PAYE, it doesn’t matter what the interest rate or loan balance is. And you won’t pay triple what you borrowed. The reason is your loan balance is forgiven after making 20 years of payments. Plus, your payment amount is assessed annually, so month-to-month you shouldn’t see fluctuations in your payment.

      The only time you should consider going with a private lender is if you can make the standard payment each month and you’re not using any Federal programs. You currently are on an PAYE payment, and are using PAYE for forgiveness. Don’t refinance with a private loan. Just make the payments required and enjoy the forgiveness in the end.

  24. JJ King says

    None of the reasons listed above apply to my situation. What feedback do you have regarding total disability? My student loans are from the late 90’s. I became disabled in late 2006. At that time I submitted all of the required documentation. They continued to send my paperwork back for some stupid thing or another. Each time I resubmitted – they kidded back again. During that time I cared for my late Mother, my late Husband, as well as my own illness. At some point a few years ago they attached my only source of income – my social security disabilities payments. What can I do at this point?

  25. Ani Agarwal says

    My wife has 3 different federal loans (2 stafford loans and 1 Graduate PLUS loan), which she had taken for her Medical graduate education from 2009-2012.
    We are wondering if there’s any way to get them to reduce the interest rates on them?
    If not, is there any way (and any benefit) of refinancing these loans?
    Lastly, if we continue payments on IBR for 25 years, and our remaining amount gets forgiven, will be owe taxes on the forgiven amount?
    Thanks for your help!

    • says

      The only way to reduce your interest rate is to refinance your loans. Refinancing can make sense if you’re comfortable making payments on the Standard plan, and will never rely on any forgiveness or repayment program. If you meet that criteria, you can save money refinancing to a lower interest rate. Since you currently are on IBR, this doesn’t make sense because you will lose that perk.

      If you continue on IBR, you will owe taxes on the amount forgiven. We break down what that looks like here:

  26. clayton says

    Thanks for taking the time to give advise. I currently have about 137K in medical loans through Stafford, grad plus. I can make monthly payments but really need to try to get the monthly cost lower and currently cannot qualify for any loan forgiveness programs. Besides sofi and other refinance options out there, I was mainly curious if you know anything about the company AFBC (American financial Benefits Center) as they claim to lower my payments and have a shorter payoff They seem to good to be true?!

    • says

      Never heard of the company but likely too good to be true. They will simply offer to help you apply for a lower repayment plan for your Federal loans – no guarantee you’ll qualify and they will still make you pay them.

      If you want a lower payment, call your lender. Even if you can’t qualify for IBR or PAYE, you could always switch to the extended repayment plan which lowers your payments while making your loan term longer. Oh, and it’s free and takes a 15 minute phone call.

  27. Karen Rorick says

    I have a large student loan debt various types of loans. Ihave some loans with an interest rate of 9%. Is there any way to consolidate all my federal loans into one with a reasonable interest rate?

    • says

      You can consolidate all your Federal student loans on There’s not a way to change the interest rate unless you refinance into a private loan – which may not make the most sense unless you can afford your payments currently. You can always change your repayment plan to lower your payments as well.

  28. Roger Scott says

    Hello Robert,

    Ok this is embarrassing but before I go any further, I will give you the quick STAT line on me. This one is a doozy.

    Nelnet Direct Consolidation of all student loans (undergrad, grad school, and 1 semester in Physical Therapy School) = $182,000 (rounded up..includes interest). (176,300 + 5,644)

    Interest rate – 7.125%

    Income-based repayment plan – of which I am not paying much, if anything on at this time. Next actual due date is 2/28/16.

    So, for about the last 20 years, I had not earned enough money to really even touch my student loan amount. I earned by Bachelors in 1996, Masters in 2000, and took out a Grad Plus loan for my 1 semester of Physical Therapy School in 2009.

    I had well over $12-13,000 in credit card bills that I finally paid off last year when I was working as a Strength & Conditioning Coach for a Major League Baseball organization (in the Minor Leagues). My credit score had gone as high as between 680 and 700 and as low as below as 580-600.

    I have made plenty of mistakes, and we won’t go any further there. It’s what I do from right now that matters most. I am 43, and just got married last October. I am tackling this SOB of a loan head-on, and it is a mountain, obviously. I am looking at all of the loan forgiveness possibilities, etc. I don’t really qualify for the most of them.

    But, I found Here is link for it:

    Though it is more medical/dental/nursing, I actually found a Fitness Specialist position on their job site. I have a pretty extensive background in training elite athletes from high school to professional. The position is centered in a Wellness Center environment but I do believe I fit the bill for the job. Here is that link if needed:

    Would it make sense that if I were to get hired for that job…or another one (if they were to post another Fitness Specialist opening), that I could conceivably be eligible for up to $20,000 per year (with 2 year minimum commitment) and a top salary of nearly $63,000.

    I figured that over a 2 year period, if eligible for $40,000 max loan repayment, plus $88,000 net salary (by overestimating the taxes on a max $63,000 salary at 30% = $19,000, which nets annually at $44,000), then it is actually possible to earn $128,000 out of this.

    And I were to stay a 3rd year (another 44,000 + 20,000) = $64,000…then we could be home free with $192,000 earned.

    I may as well add this in… I would suggest we rent out our brand new town home here in north Atlanta (Absolutely not selling it-would be moving back afterward) for hopefully close to $2000 / month ($1000 profit after paying mortgage). After property taxes, that could end up being an additional $18,000 for 2 years ($26,000 for a 3 yr job).

    My Wife would be quitting her high paying job and coming with me (which would allow her to fly back and forth to see her older teenage boys here in ATL.)

    Grand Total = $146,000 (2 years)
    = $218,000 (3 years)

    Problem would be solved..I think.

    But…of course we would have to live in a shack somewhere cheap…in the absolute middle of nowhere…haha.

    Big picture, Robert, does this make any sense at all…financially? Is it really possible to pull this magic trick off? The rest of it surely makes zero sense if you knew my Wife and I..haha. We love Atlanta too much.

    Sorry to make this so incredibly lengthy, but you can likely better answer this with all of the gory details. I thank you so very very much for your time and efforts here Robert! I look forward to hearing from you at some point.

    Highest Regards,
    Cumming, GA

    • says

      It makes sense, but also remember that when you’re on the IBR plan, you’ll get loan forgiveness at the end of 25 years of payments. I don’t know when you started on IBR, but it sounds like you could have already been on it for about 10 years or more.

      Instead of uprooting your life, continue to file your taxes married, filing separately, so her income doesn’t impact your IBR payment amount, and ride out the remaining time until you get forgiveness. However, if your income rises, your payments will rise as well. You will also owe taxes on the forgiveness amount.

      Here’s an article on it: Income Based Repayment Forgiveness

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