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Student Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge

You may qualify for federal student loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge meaning that, under special circumstances, the federal government may forgive part, or all of your student loans as well as potentially cancel or discharge your loans.

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Federal student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge essentially mean the same thing but apply to different situations. For example, if you do not have to pay your student loans due to your job, this is typically called forgiveness or discharge. On the other hand, if you cannot afford to repay your loans due to permanent disability or the closure of a school where you received your loans, this typically leads to student loan discharge. For a complete list of the various types of federal student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge programs, visit the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Some of the most common types of student loan forgiveness and discharge include:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  • Closed School Discharge
  • Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income elementary school, secondary school or education service agency, you may be able to receive up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. Learn more about the program, eligibility requirements, and access an application form for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program here.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you are employed by the government or for a not-for-profit organization, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program may forgive the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time. For more information on this student loan forgiveness program and to receive a form, click here.

Closed School Discharge

If your school closes while you are enrolled or soon after you withdraw, you may qualify for a Closed School Discharge of up to 100% discharge of your Direct Loans. To verify whether you are eligible for the Closed School Discharge and to learn more about the application process for getting your loan discharged, click here.

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

Depending on your mental or physical impairment, you may qualify for a total and permanent disability discharge on your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation. Be prepared to show documentation that proves you are totally or permanently disabled. If you believe you qualify for a total and permanent disability discharge, find out how to apply here.

Student Loan Borrower Responsibility

If your application for student loan forgiveness, cancellation or discharge is denied, you are still responsible for repaying your student loans. If you believe that your application was unjustly denied, contact your loan servicer for more information. If you do end up having to repay your loans, you have multiple Student Loan Repayment options from which to choose. Check out your Student Loan Repayment options here.

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Last Reviewed: January 2021