DEFINITION of 'Student Loan Forgiveness'

Under certain circumstances, federally backed student loans – such as Direct Subsidized Loans and Federal Perkins Loans – can be discharged or forgiven. For a loan to be discharged, circumstances beyond the borrower’s control that prohibit the repayment of the loan must be identified. Requirements for student loan forgiveness vary depending on the type of loan, but most offer forgiveness for those employed in certain public-service occupations.

BREAKING DOWN 'Student Loan Forgiveness'

Federal education loans must be repaid with interest in most situations. The borrower is not excused from repayment due to dissatisfaction with the school or educational program, dropping out of the program before graduation or inability to find a job after graduation.

Student loan programs vary, and it is best to speak with a qualified student loan consultant, but most federal education loans can be discharged in the following situations:

  • Permanent disability
  • Closure of the school during the time of study
  • Falsification of the loan qualifications by the school
  • Use of identity theft to secure the loan
  • Failure of the school to refund required loans to the lender
  • Death of the borrower

To encourage employment in public-service occupations, the federal government may waive repayment of William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans, if the borrower enters public service. This is referred to as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

To qualify for PSLF, the borrower will need to have already made 120 on-time, full payments to his/her direct loan, while working full-time at a qualifying public-service organization.

If you do not have a William D. Ford Direct Loan, and instead borrowed through the FFEL Program or Perkins Loan Program, you are allowed to consolidate these into a Direct Consolidation Loan. This new, consolidated loan would then be eligible for public-service loan forgiveness. Keep in mind that any loan payments made before this consolidation won’t count toward the 120 payment minimum. Only payments made to the new Direct Consolidation Loan will be considered. 

According to the Federal Student Aid website, PSLF-qualifying jobs include:

“Any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a not-for-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC)."

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