Student Loan Forgiveness: What You Need to Know

Katie Taylor Updated on May 14, 2019

If a genie showed up on your doorstep and promised to grant you three wishes, it’s a pretty good bet that one of those wishes would be to make all of your student loans magically disappear.

Unfortunately, we can’t clear your balances with the snap of our fingers. (We would if we could. We promise.) But we can tell you about all the options you have to get those loans forgiven.

Student loan forgiveness is not exactly magic, but you’ll feel like it is when you see your loan disappear.

Public service loan forgiveness

As the Holy Grail of student loan forgiveness programs, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) promises student debt freedom after just 10 years of on-time payments—no matter how much debt you have remaining.

To qualify for PSLF, you must work for a public service employer such as a government agency, university, or a non-profit. The particular position you hold is irrelevant as long as you work for a qualifying employer.

You also have to make 120 on-time, full payments under an income-driven repayment plan while you work for the qualifying employer.

New call-to-action

To see if you qualify, fill out the PSLF Employment Certification Form. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that you fill the form out as soon as possible so that you don’t unintentionally make payments that don’t qualify for the program.

Perkins loan cancellation

If you have a Perkins loan, you may be eligible to have the loan balance cancelled in full. You’ll need to work in a qualifying profession, such as in public education, as a public defender, or as a law enforcement officer.

Volunteer work, such as in the Peace Corps, can also satisfy the cancellation requirements.

If you qualify, a portion of your loan will be forgiven after each year of full-time work, which generally must take place in a high-needs area.

To apply for Perkins loan cancellation, contact the school or loan servicer that provided your Perkins loan.

Teacher loan forgiveness

Many teachers take advantage of Perkins loan cancellation or PSLF, but there are also forgiveness programs specifically for public educators.

You may be eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives up to $17,500 of subsidized or unsubsidized federal student loans. To qualify, you must work five consecutive years at an approved school or education agency—generally one that serves a low-income population.

Learn more about student loan forgiveness for teachers

Medical professional loan forgiveness

With some of the highest average student-debt loads, medical professionals are great candidates for loan forgiveness.

Under the Federal NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, nurses that serve high-need populations in critical nurse-shortage areas can get up to 85% of their loans paid off after three years of employment.

Doctors and other medical professionals—such as pharmacists or dentists—have access to a number of loan forgiveness programs, such as National Health Service Corps loan repayment assistance or the Students to Service program. Under these programs, borrowers may earn up to $120,000 toward their loans for committing to work two or three years in high-need areas.

Loan forgiveness for lawyers

Lawyers don’t benefit from any federal forgiveness programs that are specific to attorneys. However, if you work in a qualifying job, you may be able to participate in PSLF or Perkins loan cancellation.

Several niche programs also exist. These provide repayment toward student loans for lawyers in particular fields, like the Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program, which may provide up to $60,000 to lawyers who work at the Department of Justice for three years.

Military loan forgiveness

Military personnel can take advantage of PSLF, but if you’ve served in the armed forces, you may also be eligible for National Defense Student Loan Discharge.

Veterans and active duty military who spent at least one year in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay areas may be eligible to have their loans partially discharged. If you believe you qualify for student loan discharge, contact your loan servicer.

Income-driven repayment plan forgiveness

If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan, your loans will be automatically forgiven after 20 or 25 years of on-time payments, depending on your plan.

Disability loan forgiveness

If you have become totally and permanently disabled, you may quality for complete discharge of your student loans. To apply, you’ll need to provide verifying documentation of your disability.

State-based loan forgiveness

Many states have repayment assistance plans for positions that serve specific needs—such as teachers who commit to work in particular low-income areas. Some states also have forgiveness programs for nurses, nurse educators, and other medical professionals.

Employer-based loan forgiveness

Employer student loan forgiveness programs vary from company to company. Some may offer a set amount annually, while others may require several years of employment before granting any student forgiveness.

Consider asking your human resources department if they have a student loan repayment program.

Student loan forgiveness is a great outcome for a lot of borrowers, but not everyone qualifies for one of these programs. If loan forgiveness isn’t in your future, don’t despair. You can take control of your student loan debt. 

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 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

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • Fixed rates: 2.49% - 6.31% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.88% - 6.15% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 2.49% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

#2 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • Fixed rates: 2.83% - 6.74% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.99% - 6.84% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#3 View More Details

SoFi is the leading student loan refinancing provider. 

  • Fixed rates: 2.49% - 6.94% APR
  • Variable rates: 2.25% - 6.59% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

$30 billion+ in refinanced student loans. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, there's no maximum on the amount you can finance. Some state restrictions may apply.

  • Serious savings: Save thousands of dollars thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.
  • No hidden fees, no catch: No application or origination fees. No pre-payment penalties.
  • Fast, easy, and all online: Simple online application and access to live customer support 7 days a week.
  • Access to member benefits: SoFi members get career coaching, financial advice, and more—all at no cost.
  • 98% of surveyed members would recommend SoFi to a friend

Save thousands on your student loans and pay off your loans sooner. Find your rate.

#4 View More Details

Ability to apply for cosigner release after 24 consecutive payments. 

View More Details
Visit NelNetBank View Loan Disclosure

Give Your Life’s Journey a Jump-Start.

If you’re ready to put student loans in your rearview mirror, Nelnet Bank student loan refinancing offers low rates and flexible terms to help you start getting ahead.

  • VARIABLE RATES: 1.95% - 5.62% APR See Disclaimer
  • FIXED RATES: 2.48% - 6.62% APR See Disclaimer
  • AUTO DEBIT SAVINGS: We’ll knock .25% off of your interest rate when you enroll in auto debit. See Disclaimer
  • NO ORIGINATION FEES: No application, origination, or prepayment fees on Nelnet Bank loans.
  • HARDSHIP PROTECTION: Hardship forbearance helps protect against unexpected loss of income. See Disclaimer

See How Much You Can Save: Estimate your savings with a student loan refinance from Nelnet Bank.

#5 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • Fixed rates: 2.95% - 7.63% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.90% - 5.25% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#6 View More Details

Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#7 View More Details

16 different loan term options – more flexibility to pay down your loan faster

  • Fixed rates: 3.24% - 5.54% APR
  • Variable rates: 3.34% - 5.69% APR
  • Minimum credit: 680
View More Details
Visit CollegeAve View Loan Disclosure

College Ave Student Loans offers major help and minor stress. We’ll help guide you through the process to find the right loan term and interest rate for you and the family budget.

  • Fast rate check: Get your new rate in 60 seconds 
  • Instant credit decision
  • Super flexible terms: 16 loan terms available from 5 to 20 years
  • No fees to apply

Click here to see more College Ave offerings and to start saving today! 


I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

Save Money Now