Loan Forgiveness

Repaying student loans can be challenging for anyone. But, if you teach or work in public service, you may be able to have part of your loan debt forgiven.

To help borrowers in those situations, programs exist that can partially or completely forgive student loans. Don’t let education debt discourage you from your career of choice—that career may qualify you for forgiveness.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Teacher Loan Forgiveness encourages entering and continuing in the teaching profession.

In order to qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness:

  • You must have been teaching full time for 5 consecutive years at an eligible low-income school or eligible location operated by an educational service agency. For a list of eligible schools, check the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory.
  • You cannot have an outstanding balance on a Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) or Direct Loan (DL) program loan as of October 1, 1998, or on the date you obtained a FFELP or DL loan after October 1, 1998.

If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible for this forgiveness depending on when you began teaching and the type of teaching you do. Any loan you are looking to have forgiven must be made before you complete your 5 years of qualifying teaching service.

Borrowers Who Began Teaching Before October 30, 2004

You may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $5,000 if:

  • You are a full-time elementary school teacher and demonstrate knowledge in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the elementary school curriculum.
  • You are a full-time secondary school teacher in a subject area relevant to your major.

You may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 if:

  • You are teaching as a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher in a qualifying secondary school or as a highly qualified special education teacher.

Borrowers Who Began Teaching After October 30, 2004

You may be eligible for forgiveness of either:

  • Up to $5,000 for teaching as a highly qualified, full-time teacher in an eligible elementary or secondary school.
  • Up to $17,500 for teaching as a highly qualified special education teacher or a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher in an eligible secondary school.

Note that you can combine your full-time service at qualifying elementary and secondary schools to meet the 5-year requirement period.

If you think you qualify, fill out a Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application (pdf, 0.08 MB), then contact your servicer.

Borrowers With Perkins Loans

If you have Perkins loans and meet the state requirements, you may qualify for the following:

  • Up to 100% of your Perkins loans can be forgiven.
    • 15% per year for the first 2 years.
    • 20% for years 3 and 4.
    • 30% for year 5.
  • The forgiveness covers all accrued interest for all 5 years.

You may also qualify for a deferment during this 5-year time period. To find out if you meet the requirements for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, contact the school that holds your loan.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness encourages public service careers by forgiving the balance of borrowers’ loans after they make 120 qualifying payments.

Qualifications for this program include the following:

Keep in mind, the standard repayment schedule works by splitting your loan amount into 120 equal payments (or 12 payments per year for 10 years). So, after making 120 payments, you may not have a balance left to be forgiven unless you are making reduced payments under ICR or IBR. Also, if you qualify for forgiveness, your balance that is forgiven may be taxed.

Eligible Loans

Only non-defaulted loans made under DL are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. DL loans include the following:

  • Direct Stafford loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loans
  • Direct PLUS loans
  • Direct Consolidation loans

Payments you have made under FFELP are not eligible. If you have FFELP loans, you can gain eligibility by consolidating your loans into DL.

You can keep track of your eligible employment and loan payments with this employment certification form (pdf, 0.22 MB) and get more details about this program from the U.S. Department of Education.

Perkins Loan Forgiveness

In addition to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness benefits listed above, Perkins loan borrowers may be able to have a portion or their entire loan balance forgiven if they work in one of these categories:

  • Teacher, Speech Pathologist, or Librarian at a Title I-Eligible School
  • Nurse or Medical Technician
  • Child or Family Services
  • Early Intervention
  • Head Start
  • Law Enforcement or Correction Officer
  • Military Service (active duty)
  • Public Service (Such as Public Defender)
  • Pre-Kindergarten or Childcare
  • Firefighter
  • Volunteer Service

Cancellations are incremental forms of forgiveness. In other words, a portion of your debt will be forgiven each year that you are eligible. Forgiveness cancels interest as well as the balance of the loan.

In order to qualify for cancellation, you must apply as soon as you are eligible. If you were eligible in the past but did not apply, that portion of your debt cannot be canceled. To apply, contact your school.

Eligible Public Service Jobs

  • A full-time job in emergency management, government (excluding time served as a member of Congress)
  • Military service
  • Public safety
  • Law enforcement
  • Public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health care support occupations, as such terms are defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Public education
  • Social work in a public child or family service agency
  • Foreign language faculty, and part-time faculty at community colleges, as determined by the Secretary
  • Public interest law services (including prosecution or public defense or legal advocacy on behalf of low-income communities at a nonprofit organization)
  • early childhood education (including licensed or regulated childcare, Head Start, and State funded prekindergarten)
  • Public service for individuals with disabilities
  • Public service for the elderly
  • Public library sciences, school-based library sciences and other school-based services, or at an organization that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of such Code
  • Teaching as a full-time faculty member at a Tribal College or University as defined in section 316(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and other faculty teaching in high-needs subject areas or areas of shortage (including nurse faculty)