Student loan forgiveness

15 Student Loan Forgiveness & Repayment Assistance Programs

student loan forgiveness programs

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Student loan forgiveness programs cancel part or all of your student debt in exchange for qualifying work. While none cancel your debt overnight, they can get you out of debt years ahead of schedule.

We’ve put together the ultimate list of student loan forgiveness programs for all you boss babes out there wondering how to get your student loans forgiven.

Ultimate list of student loan forgiveness programs

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program provides loan forgiveness after 10 years in public service. To qualify for this program, it doesn’t matter so much what you do as where you work.

You need to,

  • Work in a qualifying organization, such as a government agency or 501(c)(3)-designated organization.
  • Make 120 qualifying student loan payments

You also need to put your loans on income-driven repayment. If you stuck with the standard 10-year plan, you wouldn’t have anything left to forgive after 10 years.

If you decide to pursue PSLF, it’s a good idea to hang on to documentation of your employment and student loan payments, as well as submit the Employer Certification form every year.

2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Teachers with federal Direct or Stafford loans might be able to qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness after working in a low-income school for five years. You could receive $5,000 or $17,500 depending on what subject and grade level you teach. PLUS loans are unfortunately not eligible.

3. NURSE Corps Loan Repayment program

The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment program offers student loan forgiveness to nurses who work in underserved areas. To qualify, you must,

  • Be a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or nurse faculty member
  • Serve a high-need population in a critical shortage area for at least two years

Nurses can get up to 60% of their student loans forgiven after two years, as well as receive an additional 25% of student loan forgiveness after a third year.

4. Student loan forgiveness from income-driven repayment plans

Income-driven repayment plans don’t just lower your monthly student loan payments; they also end in student loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years. The four income-driven plans are,

  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

These plans adjust your monthly payments to 10%, 15%, or 20% of your discretionary income while extending your loan terms to 20 or 25 years.

If you still have a balance after all this time — and made all your payments on time — the remainder will be forgiven.

Note that the forgiven amount is taxable, so you might have to pay one last tax bill before you can completely say goodbye to your student loans.

5. Federal Perkins Loan cancellation

Although the Perkins loan program expired in 2017, you might have a Perkins loan if you borrowed before that time. And you could qualify to have your Perkins loan forgiven depending on your profession.

Some commonly qualifying ones include,

  • Teacher
  • Librarian
  • Speech-language pathologist
  • Firefighter
  • Nurse
  • Service volunteer

Reach out to your loan servicer to find out if you could qualify to have your Perkins loan forgiven through this program.

6. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program

The NIH program offers up to $35,000 to health professionals who are conducting research in a qualifying setting.

7. National Health Service Corps (NHSC) loan repayment assistance

Licensed healthcare providers can get up to $50,000 of their student loans forgiven through the NHSC program.

8. Students to Service Program

Primary healthcare providers who work for three years in a qualifying setting could earn up to $120,000 to pay back their student loans through Students to Service.

9. Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program

If you’re a doctor working in an American Indian or Alaskan native community, you could qualify for up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance through this program.

10. Armed Forces loan forgiveness programs

The Army, Navy, and Air Force all offer loan repayment programs for those on active duty and veterans. Doctors and other medical professionals who serve in the Armed Forces could also qualify to have their student loans forgiven.

11. State-run student loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs)

While the student loan forgiveness programs on this list so far have all been federal, most states also offer student loan repayment assistance to qualifying residents.

Although requirements vary, most of these programs offer loan assistance in exchange for two to three years of service in a qualifying profession or setting. Some common careers that qualify include,

  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Dentist
  • Veterinarian
  • Lawyer
  • Teacher

Simply search for the name of your state and “student loan repayment assistance” to find a program that could work for you.

Some states also offer loan repayment help to entice new residents to live and move there, as with the Kansas Opportunity Zones program. If you’re open to relocating, one of these unique programs could help you get your student loans forgiven.

12. Student loan assistance from employers

Along with state and federal governments, some private employers now offer student loan matching benefits for their employees.

In the past year, the number of companies helping their employees pay off student loans doubled from 4% to 8%, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 Employee Benefits Report. In the future, we may see even more companies helping employees pay off their student loans.

If you’re job searching or open to a new job, you might consider an employer who will provide repayment assistance for your student debt.

13. Borrower defense to repayment

If you were defrauded by your school, you could be eligible to have your student loans canceled. This rule came as a response to deception by for-profit colleges, which made misleading claims to students or even took part in illegal practices.

If you were the victim of fraudulent acts by your school, head to the Department of Education website to see if you might be able to get your loans canceled through this program.

14. Total and permanent disability discharge

If you’ve experienced a “total and permanent disability” that has left you unable to work and pay back your student loans, you might be eligible for a full discharge of your federal loans.

15. Student loan cancellation for other circumstances

Along with borrower defense and total and permanent disability discharge, there are a few other special circumstances where you could have your loans forgiven outright. These include,

  • Closed school discharge
  • Student loan discharge in bankruptcy
  • Discharge for false certification or unauthorized payment
  • Unpaid refund discharge
  • Student loan discharge due to death

Don’t qualify for student loan forgiveness? Other approaches you can take

As you can see, most student loan forgiveness programs are designated for professionals who work in certain fields or settings. If you don’t qualify, there are other options for managing your student debt.

For strategies to pay off your loans faster, head to this guide. If, on the other hand, your monthly student loan payments are totally stressing you out, go here to learn how to lower them.

Finally, consider refinancing your student loans for better rates and new terms. Just be careful not to refinance any federal loans if you’re pursuing student loan forgiveness, since this will turn them private and make them ineligible for programs like PSLF.

But if you’re not trying to get your student loans forgiven through one of these programs or are looking to refinance private student loans, head here for our list of recommended lenders, most of whom offer special welcome bonuses of up to $200.


Want better rates? Here are the best banks to refinance student loans:

Variable rates start at...Fixed rates start at...Repayment termsWelcome bonus Check your rates
refinance student loans4.54%4.49%5 - 20 years$200Visit LendKey
refinance student loans4.99%4.47%5 - 20 years$200Visit Earnest
refinance student loans4.22%3.97%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$120Visit Laurel Road
refinance student loans4.53%4.40%5 - 20 years$100 or $200, depending on the amount you refinanceVisit Credible
refinance student loans5.09%4.74%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit SoFi
refinance student loans4.53%4.83%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit ELFI