There are several types of federal student loan debt forgiveness programs, and all have their own specific requirements. Here are some of the options available to indebted graduates:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Perhaps the most well-known student loan forgiveness program, PSLF was created by the federal government in 2007 to help public service professionals pay off their federal Direct Loans. It sounds straightforward, but the requirements are actually very stringent—so stringent that according to the U.S. Federal Student Aid department’s June 2019 PSLF report, only 845 of the nearly 91,000 student loan borrowers who applied for PSLF have had their loan forgiveness approved.7
Still, qualifying is possible. You just need to carefully follow several requirements and stay on top of payments to make sure they count, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).8
Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Created by the Higher Education Amendments in 1998,9 the teacher loan forgiveness program lets qualifying teachers receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness on certain federal loans, depending on what subject they teach.10 Like the PSLF, requirements are strict.
Perkins Loan Cancellation: This federal student loan forgiveness program lets eligible nurses, firefighters, public defenders, and other qualified professionals discharge their federal Perkins Loans.11 Typically, a percentage of the loan is forgiven for each year of service. Depending on the borrower’s situation, Perkins Loans may be forgiven in full so long as the borrower is employed full-time in an eligible position for 5-7 years.12
Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness: Income-driven federal loan repayment plans like Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) will forgive whatever remaining balance a borrower has after 20 or 25 years of on-time payment (depending on the loan and degree).13 Unlike other federal student loan forgiveness options, borrowers have to pay taxes on whatever amount is forgiven.
Military Forgiveness Programs: The U.S. military offers several student loan forgiveness and student loan relief options, such as the College Loan Repayment Program (LRP). LRP is an Army incentive that repays part of a soldier’s qualified student loans, but—need we say it?—requirements are strict.14