If you have federal student loans and feel the pressure of debt weighing on you, you might be looking into student loan forgiveness. Through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, you might qualify to get your federal student loan debt forgiven. Read on to learn about these programs, the student loan forgiveness forms you’ll need and how to apply for student loan forgiveness.
Major student loan forgiveness programs
Federal student loan borrowers can get 100% of their loan balances forgiven under PSLF or IDR. There are some major differences between the two programs though.
Under PSLF, borrowers commit to working in the public sector for 10 years and must make 120 payments to qualify. The payments don’t have to be consecutive, and your employer must be a 501(c)(3) or a government agency to qualify.
The income-driven repayment plan is a bit different. There are four repayment plans under the IDR umbrella, where you pay 10% to 20% of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years. If you pursue student loan forgiveness under one of these programs, you must submit a student loan forgiveness form.
How to apply for student loan forgiveness (and the forms you’ll need)
The first step to applying for student loan forgiveness is filling out the student loan forgiveness form. The process can vary based on the program, which is explained in detail below.
The second portion of the form is agreeing to the terms and conditions of student loan forgiveness. For example, you have made 120 payments and worked for a qualifying employer. You also must agree to have your loans transferred to FedLoan Servicing, the official loan servicer for PSLF.
Once you fill out those two sections, the third section can be completed either by you or your employer.
Section 4 of the PSLF student loan forgiveness form will need to be filled out by an official representative from your employer who can verify your employment.
Once the PSLF student loan forgiveness form is complete, you can submit it. You have several ways you can submit your PSLF application:
1. Send via mail to U.S. Department of Education, FedLoan Servicing, P.O. Box 69184, Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184
2. Fax the form to 717-720-1628
3. Upload the form online at MyFedLoan.org/FileUpload
When to submit the application: There is no formal student loan forgiveness application yet, but you must submit a form to get on an IDR plan and recertify your status every year.
Where to submit form: Return to the loan servicer
Under income-driven repayment, borrowers can get the remaining balance on their loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. This program launched over a decade ago and has a longer repayment term. The form is called an “IDR plan request,” so there is no student loan forgiveness form related to IDR at this time.
According to the Department of Education, “Your loan servicer will track your qualifying monthly payments and years of repayment and will notify you when you are getting close to the point when you would qualify for forgiveness of any remaining loan balance.”
The process hasn’t been standardized, but hopefully, as more and more borrowers take advantage of this program, the Department of Education will unveil an official student loan forgiveness application that is specific to IDR.
Once you’re on an IDR plan, to stay on track for student loan forgiveness, you must recertify your income every year. The form to apply for IDR and to recertify are the same. You’ll fill out the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request form and turn it into your loan servicer.
In the first section of the form, you’ll input your personal information:
In section 2 of the form, you’ll be prompted to choose one of the four IDR plans or be asked to recertify your income:
Section 3 asks you to input information about your family size:
In sections 4A and 4B, you’ll be asked about your marital status, which can affect your IDR payments if you’re filing jointly. If you are filing jointly, both of your incomes will be used to determine your eligibility and payment amount.
Sections 4C and 4D are separate sections for married borrowers who are filing jointly or separately. In section 5, you’ll be instructed on how you can document your income, typically with a paycheck stub.
For section 6 of the form, you’ll be authorizing and certifying that the information you provided is correct, and then you sign your name. Once the form is complete, you can send it back to your loan servicer. You may also fill out the student loan forgiveness application online to save time.
It can seem laborious, but you’ll need to recertify your income each year for 20 to 25 years to get student loan forgiveness. Because your payments are based on your income, your monthly payments may go up when you report income changes.
After making payments for the entire repayment term, you can then talk to your loan servicer about student loan forgiveness forms and options.
Other types of student loan forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment are the main ways federal student loan borrowers can get student loan forgiveness. But there are other types of student loan forgiveness based on profession or certain situations.
Below we’ve listed some other types of student loan forgiveness and the forms you’ll need to apply for them.
When to submit the application: After five years of teaching
Where to submit form: Your loan servicer
If you’re a teacher and meet certain requirements, you may be eligible for partial student loan forgiveness under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. Under this program, teachers who are considered “highly qualified” and work at an eligible elementary or secondary school five years in a row may be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
Teachers could be eligible for either $5,000 or $17,500, based on your subject area. After five years of service, you can submit the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer. You’ll need an official at your school to complete part of the application and verify your employment.
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has repayment assistance for certain healthcare providers who serve for two years at a qualified site. Working in certain occupations in primary care, dental care, and behavioral and mental health could make you eligible for this loan repayment program.
You can find the applications and forms online and you may be asked to provide supporting documentation.
Perkins loan cancellation
Do you need a student loan forgiveness form? Yes
Form: Must get from school
When to submit the application: School or loan servicer will offer instructions
Where to submit form: School or loan servicer will offer instructions
If you have Perkins Loans, you may qualify for Perkins Loans cancellation depending on your profession. If you are a teacher who works at an eligible school in a qualifying position, you could get 100% of your Perkins loans forgiven. The amount of forgiveness is incremental:
15% is canceled in your first two years of service
20% is canceled in your third and fourth year of service
30% is canceled for the fifth year of service
Workers in another profession may be eligible for partial or full student loan forgiveness. For example, some professions that are eligible include firefighter, nurse and public defender.
When to submit the application: Within three years of school being closed
Where to submit form: Loan servicer
If your school closed after you took out federal student loans, you might be eligible for closed school discharge. Contact your loan servicer for information on how to apply and what forms are required. Continue making payments to remain in good standing until your loan discharge is confirmed.
Disabled borrowers may be unable to work and pay back student loans. If that’s the case for you, you might qualify for total and permanent disability discharge if you have federal student loans.
You can fill out the application online and you will need supporting documentation from a physician, the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Any loans that are discharged under this program from now until Dec. 31, 2025, won’t be considered taxable income, so you won’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.
Borrower defense to repayment loan forgiveness
Do you need a student loan forgiveness form? Yes
Form: U.S. Department of Education Application for Borrower Defense to Loan Repayment
If you went to a school that misled you or engaged in some kind of fraud or misconduct, you could be eligible for student loan forgiveness through the Borrower Defense to Loan Repayment law.
You can fill out the application online, and if you have any supporting documentation, that can help as well.
Alternative to student loan forgiveness
If you’re struggling to make your student loan payments or work in a low-paying field, opting for PSLF or student loan forgiveness under IDR can be a lifesaver.
There’s another option, however, if none of the above circumstances fit your situation. It’s not quite student loan forgiveness but it could save you thousands of dollars.
Student loan refinancing can be an alternative to student loan forgiveness for some borrowers, and it can slash your interest rate if you have good credit and qualify.
You might be able to score a better interest rate and change your repayment term. While this can be a huge benefit, the major drawback of refinancing is that you lose out on your federal protections like student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment options.
So, before you choose to refinance, you must be pretty sure that you won’t need those federal options. Refinancing can be a good option for borrowers with good credit, stable employment and a low debt-to-income ratio.
Get started reducing your student loan burden
Using the forms above you can get on the path to pursuing student loan forgiveness. Keep good records and make sure you have a record of everything in writing. It’s your job to follow up with loan servicers and make sure you’re on track to reduce or eliminate your student loan debt.
Be your own advocate so you can get those loans off your back! If you’re unsure whether you should pursue student loan forgiveness or loan refinancing, we can help. Get in touch for a student loan debt consult and we’ll steer you in the right direction.
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