Perkins Loans Forgiveness—Do You Qualify?

Katie Taylor Updated on May 6, 2019

If you funded your education with Perkins Loans, you may have heard about a number of forgiveness programs and have been disappointed to learn that your student loans don't qualify. While you're probably always interested in ways to lower your student loan payments, having them canceled completely would be reason for serious celebration.

While not all forgiveness programs apply to all loans, the good news is that there are loan cancellation and discharge programs specifically for Perkins loan holders. 

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Are Perkins Loans eligible for forgiveness?

Your Perkins Loans may be eligible for forgiveness if you work or volunteer in a qualified position.

Forgiveness of Perkins Loans is most common for teachers. However, you may also qualify you to take advantage of Perkins Loan forgiveness if you're a nurse, public defender, or a firefighter. 

Perkins Loan forgiveness for teachers

If you're a teacher in an elementary or secondary school and you have Perkins loans, your student loans may be eligible for forgiveness. 

To qualify, you must teach in a public or nonprofit school and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Specialize in a critical shortage area (such as math or science)
  • Work with students with disabilities, or
  • Work in a school that serves low-income students.

You must also teach full-time and for a full academic year.

If you qualify for Perkins Loan Cancellation, you could receive forgiveness for:

  • 15% of your loans during your first and second years
  • 20% your third and fourth years, and
  • 30% your fifth year—up to 100% of your total Perkins loan balance. 

What if you work in education, but you're not a teacher? Are you still eligible for Perkins Loan forgiveness?

That depends. 

Some positions may be viewed as teaching for purposes of Perkins Loan forgiveness—such as a school librarian or guidance counselor. Other services, such as physical therapy or counseling related to special education, may qualify if you are able to show two things:

  1. That you're licensed, certified, or registered by your state's education agency, and
  2. That you're providing the services as part of educational curriculum for handicapped children. 

However, if you're a supervisor or administrator, you aren't eligible unless you provide direct and personal educational services to students. 

If you don't meet the criteria for Perkins Loan forgiveness, you may qualify for other student loan forgiveness programs for teachers. 

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Perkins loan forgiveness for military, medical, and other professions

If you have Perkins Loans, but you're not a teacher, don't despair. There are forgiveness options for non-educators, like nurses and law enforcement officers. 

If you hold an eligible position, you'll likely need to work in that role for between five and seven years to have full cancellation of your Perkins Loans. The chart below from the Department of Education provides more detailed information about careers that qualify for forgiveness.  

Cancellation Conditions Amount Canceled

Cancellation Conditions

Amount Canceled

Teacher cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time nurse or medical technician cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time firefighter cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time qualified professional provider of early intervention services for the disabled cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time faculty member at a tribal college or university cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time speech pathologist with master's degree working in a Title I-eligible elementary or secondary school cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Librarian with a master's degree working in a Title I-eligible elementary or secondary school or in a public library serving Title I-eligible schools cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time law enforcement or corrections officer cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time attorney employed in a federal public or community defender organization cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time employee of a public or nonprofit child- or family-services agency providing services to high-risk children and their families from low-income communities cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time staff member in the education component of a Head Start program cancellation

Up to 100 percent for seven years (at a rate of 15 percent per year for the first six years and 10 percent for the seventh year) of eligible service

Full-time staff member in the education component of a prekindergarten or child care program that is licensed or regulated by a state cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for seven years (at a rate of 15 percent per year for the first six years and 10 percent for the seventh year) of eligible service

Military service in the U.S. armed forces in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area cancellation

Up to 50 percent for four years (at a rate of 12.5 percent per year) of eligible service for borrowers whose active duty service ended before Aug. 14, 2008 

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service for borrowers whose active duty service includes or began on or after Aug. 14, 2008

AmeriCorps VISTA or Peace Corps volunteer cancellation

Up to 70 percent for four years (at a rate of 15 percent for the first and second years and 20 percent for the third and fourth years) of eligible service

Perkins Loan discharge 

In rare situations, you may be able to get your Perkins Loans discharged completely. 

These include:

  • Bankruptcy, if payment would create an undue hardship
  • Closure of your school while you're still a student there
  • Your death, or
  • Total and permanent disability

How to apply for Perkins Loan forgiveness

Unfortunately, there's no quick application form for Perkins Loan forgiveness, but don't let that stop you. If you think you're eligible, contact the school that made your loan and let them know you're interested in Perkins Loan cancellation. 

Even if you're not eligible for Perkins Loan cancellation or discharge, there may be ways to reduce your student debt load. Learn how refinancing could help you save hundreds each month.  

Published in: Forgiveness

About the Author
Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a content writer and editor with expertise in law and policy, finance, and entrepreneurship. She writes for startups and small businesses about everything from bookkeeping to telecom. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and SheKnows.com. She is continuing to pay off law school loans and lives in Richmond, Vermont with her wife, son, and an unruly dog. Read more by Katie Taylor

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