12 Student Loan Forgiveness Programs to Cancel Student Loan Debt

By Mentor Staff | Edited By Mentor Staff

Updated On November 2, 2021

Editorial Note: This content is based solely on the author's opinions and is not provided, approved, endorsed or reviewed by any financial institution or partner.

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How do you cancel student loan debt? The good news is that you can get student loan forgiveness through several different programs. Most programs are available for federal student loans, but not for private student loans. Contact your student loan servicer to discuss federal student loan forgiveness. That said, if you have private student loans, contact your student loan servicer to explore options.

Here are some programs for you to consider:

  1. Income-Driven Repayment Plans
  2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness
  4. Military Student Loan Forgiveness
  5. State Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
  6. Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
  7. Perkins Loans Cancellation
  8. Cancel Student Loan Debt
  9. Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
  10. Borrower To Defense Repayment Discharge
  11. School Closes Discharge
  12. Death Discharge

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

1. Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-driven repayment plans offer student loan forgiveness for your federal student loans. To get student loan forgiveness, you must make monthly student loan payments for 20 years (undergraduate student loans) or 25 years (graduate student loans). Your student loan payments must be on-time and in full. If you have lower income and a higher student loan balance, an income driven repayment plan such as IBRPAYEREPAYE or ICR may benefit you.

2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a federal student loan forgiveness program that is available to borrowers who work full-time (at least 30 hours a week) for a qualified public service or non-profit employer. There are many requirements to satisfy to cancel student loan debt, including making 120 monthly student loan payments on-time and in full. You must make a majority of your monthly paymentswhile enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan. Importantly, only Direct Loans are eligible for public service loan forgiveness. If you have FFELP or Perkins Loans, for example, consolidate these student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available to teachers who are employed full-time in low income public elementary and secondary schools. To qualify, teachers must work at least five consecutive years  and can receive up to $17,500 of student loan forgiveness. Teacher Loan Forgiveness applies only to federal student loans, including Direct Loans.

4. Military Student Loan Forgiveness

If you serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard, you may qualify for up to $50,000 of student loan forgiveness. Through the Student Loan Repayment Program, you could have at least some of your federal student loans forgiven.

5. State Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Most major federal student loan forgiveness program are offered through the federal government. However, your state may offer student loan relief too. Contact your state’s Department of Education for more details on programs to cancel student loan debt or help with student loan repayment.

6. Student Loan Repayment Assistance

Many states and organizations offer student loan repayment assistance to student loan borrowers. If you work in public service, including as a doctor or lawyer, for example, you may eligible to receive annual help with your student loans. Known as LRAPS, these programs are separate from Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which is a federal program.

Cancel student loan debt

7. Perkins Loans

It’s possible to cancel Perkins Loans. If you have Perkins Loans, you can get up to 100% of your Perkins Loans if you work in public service for at least five years.

8. Cancel Student Loans

There are currently no plans to cancel all your student loan debt. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed to cancel all federal student loans and private student loan debt. Other proposals in Congress have called for student loan forgiveness for up to $50,000 of student loan debt. Senate Democrats have called for $10,000 of student loan forgiveness debt forgiveness. If they become law, these partial student loan forgiveness proposals to cancel student loan debt may forgive federal student loans, private student loans or both.

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

There are several options to discharge student loans. Student loan discharge is different than student loan forgiveness. Based on these specific circumstances, it’s possible to have immediate student loan forgiveness in these situations:

9. Total and Permanent Disability

If you are disabled permanently, including either mentally or physically, and are unable to work, you may be eligible to have your federal student loans discharged. You can learn more at disabilitydischarge.com, including the requirements and what supporting documentation is needed. For private student loans, contact your lender or student loan servicer to inquire about discharge options for total and permanent disability. If you are a veteran, your federal student loan debt is discharged automatically if you have a total and permanent disability.

10. Borrower Defense to Repayment

Borrower defense to repayment is a rule initiated under the Obama administration that student loan borrowers can use a reason for discharge if they were defrauded by their school. You can file a borrower defense to repayment claim with the U.S. Department of Education, although the U.S. Department of Education has discretion to approve your claim to discharge your student loans.

11. School Closes

If your school closes while you are enrolled, you may be eligible for student loan discharge for your federal student loans. You can apply through your student loan servicer. To qualify, you must be enrolled or recently enrolled within 120 days and did not receive a degree. Make sure to keep making student loan payment while your application is processed and until approved.

12. Death

If you die, your student loans will be discharged. A death certificate must be submitted to your student loan servicer to discharge your federal student loans. It’s also possible to get Parent PLUS forgiveness. Parent PLUS Loans are also discharged at death, if your parent borrowed a Parent PLUS Loan.

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