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Paying off student loans can feel like a never-ending struggle, but luckily a number of student loan forgiveness programs, including cancellation and discharge programs, exist. The eligibility criteria for these programs usually include a wide range of situations, so many borrowers may be able to take advantage of these programs.

If you think you might be eligible for student debt forgiveness, read on for more details about the available programs and how to apply.

Federal student Loan forgiveness programs:

Forgiveness programsDirect loansPLUS loansFFEL program loansPerkins loans
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)YesYesNo*No*
Income Driven Repayment (IDR)YesYes (unless taken out by parent*)No*No*
Perkins Loan Cancellation and DischargeNoNoNoYes
Teacher Loan ForgivenessYesNoYesNo
Loan discharge due to closed school, total and permanent disability, death or bankruptcyYesYesYesYes

*May be eligible if converted to federal Direct Consolidation Loan

Profession-based student loan forgiveness for private and federal student loans:

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Students to Service Loan Repayment Program
Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs
Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard Health Professions Loan Repayment Programs
Military student loan forgiveness and assistance
John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program
Other state and institution-based programs

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Public Service Loan Forgiveness provides tax-free student loan relief for graduates in public service careers after they have made 120 payments on qualified federal student loans.


If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Have made 120 qualified payments (the equivalent of 10 years unless you request a deferment or forbearance), after October 1, 2007, for the full amount due as shown on your bill, within 15 days of your due date, and while you have a full-time job with a qualified employer
  • Use one of the income-driven repayment programs to repay your loans. If you’re on the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, you’ll have paid your entire loan balance by the time you’ve made enough payments to qualify for PSLF
  • Make payments while working full-time (30 hours per week or your employer’s definition of full-time. whichever is greater)
  • Have qualified employment (includes jobs with the government and at non-profits)


Step 1: Submit the Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form each year or any time you change employers — this will be used to determine whether you are eligible for PSLF. If you are a parent repaying PLUS loans taken out on behalf of your children, your eligibility for PSLF eligibility is based on your employment, not the employment of the student on whose behalf you borrowed.

Step 2: Make sure you’re an on income-driven repayment plan that makes the sense for you. These plans are listed here.

Step 3: Lastly, while FFEL Program and Perkins loans are not eligible for PSLF, you may be able to get around this by taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan, which is eligible for PSLF. If you have multiple types of loans and were hoping to have them all forgiven, apply for consolidation as soon as possible.

Borrowers who do not qualify for loan forgiveness under PSLF may still qualify for loan forgiveness in an IDR plan, but it will take longer — 20 or 25 years.

Income-Driven Repayment plans

Most federal student loan borrowers can qualify for at least one of the government’s four Income-Driven Repayment plans, which provide loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of payments.

These programs can make your monthly payment much more affordable, stretching your payments out over a longer period of time can increase your overall repayment costs.

Although your minimum monthly payment is a small percentage of your discretionary income — typically 10% or 15% — you may end up paying off your loan before qualifying for loan forgiveness.

FFEL and Perkins loans may be eligible for IDR plans if combined into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. Remember, unlike PSLF, loan forgiveness granted under an IDR plan is considered taxable income by the IRS.


Eligibility requirements differ depending on whether you’re applying for the REPAYEPAYE, or ICR plan.

If you’re interested in applying for REPAYE:

If you’re interested in applying for PAYE/IBR:

  • Your monthly payment under PAYE/IBR must be less than what your monthly payment would be under the 10-year Standard Repayment plan. Generally speaking, you’ll meet this requirement if your debt is greater than your annual income
  • You must be a new borrower as of October 1st, 2007 in order to qualify for PAYE (i.e. you have) no outstanding balance on a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan when you received a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan on or after Oct. 1, 2007)
  • You must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or before October 1st, 2011

If you’re interested in applying for ICR:

  • You must have eligible federal student loans
  • ICR is the only income-driven repayment plan available to parent PLUS loan borrowers – these borrowers must consolidate their Direct PLUS Loans or Federal PLUS Loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan and then repay the new consolidation loan under the ICR Plan


To apply, you must submit an application called the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request. You can submit the application online at or on a paper form, which you can get from your loan servicer.

When you apply, you’ll be asked to provide income information that will be used to determine your eligibility for the PAYE or IBR plans

and to calculate your monthly payment amount under all income-driven repayment plans. This may be either your adjusted gross income (AGI*) or alternative documentation of income.

*Your AGI will be used if:

  • you filed a federal income tax return in the past two years, and
  • your current income isn’t significantly different from the income reported on your most recent federal income tax return

You can provide your AGI online using the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request and use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in the application to transfer income information from your federal income tax return, or use the paper Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request and provide a paper copy of your most recently filed federal income tax return or IRS tax return transcript.

It’ll take your servicer a few weeks to process your request, because they will need to obtain documentation of your income and family size. If you are currently repaying your loans under a different repayment plan, your loan servicer may apply a forbearance to your student loan account while processing your request for an IDR plan.

Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge

The Perkins Loan program expired in September 2017. However, if you took out Perkins Loans in the past, and you work in certain public service fields, your loans will still qualify for loan assistance.

Unlike some other forgiveness programs that simply waive any remaining debt after a longer period of time, Perkins Loan Cancellations are evaluated on a year-by-year basis, and you could have either a percentage or the full amount of your balance canceled.

The percentage of your loan that will be eligible for cancellation depends on when the loan was taken out, the type of loan, and what type of service you perform.


You can qualify for Federal Perkins Loan cancellation if you are a teacher and have served full-time in a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school system: 

  • Serving students from low-income families;
  • As a special education teacher, including teachers of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities
  • Teaching mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education, or in any other field of expertise determined by a state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers in that state

To receive a cancellation, you must be directly employed by the school system

Other positions that can qualify for Federal Perkins Loan cancellation are:

  • Volunteer in the Peace Corps or ACTION program (including VISTA)
  • Member of the U.S. armed forces (serving in area of hostilities)
  • Nurse or medical technician
  • Law enforcement or corrections officer
  • Head Start worker
  • Child or family services worker
  • Professional provider of early intervention services


There are also certain special situations that may cause your Perkins Loan may be discharged, meaning that you are no longer obligated to repay it.

Many loans that were used to fund education at a school that has closed will be eligible for a 100% discharge. The school must have closed when you were enrolled or within 120 from the date you withdrew.

Loans are also dischargeable in the event of total and permanent disability or death of the primary borrower. In both cases, supporting documentation will be required.

In extreme cases of bankruptcy, you may be able to secure a federal student loan discharge. You must declare either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and prove that repaying your loans would result in ‘undue hardship’ on you and your dependents.

Undue hardship is a subjective term determined on a case-by-case basis in bankruptcy court. If the court rules in your favor, you may receive a full or partial discharge or no discharge but different loan terms, such as a lower interest rate.

These situations include:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Death
  • School closure
  • Service-connected disability (veterans)
  • Spouse of a victim of the events of 9/11
  • Total and permanent disability


Perkins Loan cancellations and discharges are evaluated by the school you were attending when you received the loan or the school’s Perkins Loan servicer, so there is no standardized application process. Contact your school for more details on whether you’re eligible and how to apply. Your school or service provider will be able to give you specific application instructions depending on your individual situation.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

In addition to teacher cancellation for Perkins loans, teachers can also benefit from loan forgiveness on up to a combined total of $17,500 for Direct and FFEL Program loans.


If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Have Direct or FFEL Program loans. If you only have PLUS loans, you are not eligible for teacher loan forgiveness
  • Have taken out loans before October 1, 1998
  • Have been a full-time teacher at a qualifying organization for at least five consecutive years. Look up whether your employer qualifies here
  • Ensure your loans are not in default
  • Be a highly qualified teacher, demonstrated by holding state certification or a teaching license


You can apply for this program after your five-year teaching requirement is completed

  • Step 1: Download the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application here
  • Step 2: Submit the completed application to your student loan servicer. If you have loans you’d like forgiven with multiple servicers, you’ll need to submit an application to each one.

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program

Nurses may benefit from PSLF and/or Perkins Loan Cancellation, but the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program is another option that some nurses may wish to take advantage of.

Through this loan forgiveness program for nurses, nurses may be able to get up to 85% of their education debt repaid. Participants will have up to 60% of their existing loans paid for and have the option to extend for a third year for an additional 25% forgiven. Funding is based on the facility where the nurse works as well as financial need.


If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Have private or federal student loans (personal lines of credit and other non-student loan sources of debt will not be forgiven)
  • Be a licensed registered nurse, an advanced practice registered nurse, such as a nurse practitioner, or a nurse faculty member
  • Have received your education from an accredited school of nursing located in a U.S. state or territory
  • Work for an eligible Critical Shortage Facility in a high need area, if you’re a registered nurse
  • Work for an accredited school of nursing, if you are a nurse faculty member
  • Work a minimum service of 32 hours per week to be eligible for repayment


Applications for this program are evaluated on an annual basis, so look up the current application deadline here. You should read the current application and program guidance before submitting an application to increase your chances of success

  • Step 1: Fill out the online application
  • Step 2: Gather and upload all the required supporting documents, including your transcripts, loan documents, and employment verification. You can upload your documents electronically using your FSA ID, or manually at
  • All decisions regarding applications for FY 2018 NURSE Corps LRP Contract awards (deadline: March 8, 2018, at 7:30 pm ET) will be made no later than September 30, 2018

You can get more application information and guidance here.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program

This program offers many types of medical providers the opportunity to work in underserved communities in exchange for tax-exempt loan repayment.

Both full-time and part-time primary care providers who serve within a Health Profession Shortage Area (HPSA) at an NHSC approved site may be eligible. Depending up the HPSA score, recipients who work full-time can receive up to $50,000 in loan repayment in exchange for at least a two-year service commitment. Part-time workers can receive up to $25,000 depending on the service site.


Eligibility requirements differ depending on your practice area, but if you’re interested in applying, you must be one of the following:

  • Primary care physician
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Certified nurse-midwife
  • Physician’s Assistant
  • Dentist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Behavioral and mental health provider (including psychiatrists, health service psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychiatric nurse specialists, and licensed professional counselors)

Participants must work for an approved site for at least two years. Both federal and private student loans that were obtained prior to when the NHSC application was submitted may be eligible. Consolidated or refinanced student loans may also be considered.

Full eligibility details can be found here.


Applications are accepted once per year and can be submitted online. The applicant must complete a number of sections, as well as provide supporting documentation, so be sure to leave enough time before the deadline to thoroughly complete your application.

  • Step 1: Fill out the online application
  • Step 2: Gather and upload all the required supporting documents
  • The next Loan Repayment Program application is scheduled to open in early 2018. Sign up to get an e-mail when it does

You can find more information about the application here.

National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program

Students who are still in medical or dental school but are sure they’d like to commit to the National Health Service Corps can receive even more assistance repaying their loans from the Students to Service program.

This program provides up to $120,000 to students in their final year of school who commit to three years of primary care service in underserved areas once they graduate.


If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or U.S. National
  • Be enrolled as a full-time student in the last year of medical or dental school with a graduation date before July 1, 2018
  • Be eligible for Federal employment
  • Be pursuing an M.D., D.O., D.D.S., or D.M.D. degree at one of the following accredited schools located in a State, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory: a. A school of allopathic medicine accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, a school of osteopathic medicine accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, or a school of dentistry accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation

Find more details on eligibility requirements here.


Applications for the NHSC Students to Service program open in the fall, so get started early to make sure you have time to gather the appropriate documentation.

  • Step 1: Fill out the online application
  • Step 2: Gather and upload all the required supporting documents, including letters of recommendation, resume, loan documents, and transcripts

You can find more information about the application here.

Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program

Similar to the NHSC programs, the Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program offers to pay up to $40,000 of your loans in exchange for two years of commitment to practice in health facilities that serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities. After two years, you may be able to extend your contract annually until your student debt is fully repaid.


This program is available to those in a number of different health professions, including nursing, medicine, dentistry, optometry, behavioral health, and more.

If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Be a US citizen (males 18 years or older must be registered for Selective Service.
  • Have an eligible health profession degree or be in your final year of academic/post-graduate clinical training
  • Have a valid license to practice. Health profession students in their final year of post-graduate clinical training/school are eligible to apply before obtaining a license. However, you are not eligible for an award until you provide proof of licensure
  • Be committed to practice at an Indian health facility
  • Be able to begin service on or before September 30 for two continuous years of full-time clinical practice


Applications for the Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program are accepted October 1 through August 15 and are evaluated monthly beginning in January (or as soon as funds become available).

You can get more application information and guidance here.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs

The NIH offers three internal (meaning that participants will do research for the NIH) loan repayment programs to scientist holding medical degrees. General research requires three years of service, while AIDS research and clinical research for disadvantaged backgrounds requires only two years of commitment.

There are also five external repayment programs funded by the NIH distributed across a variety of research topics. An NIH grant is not required to participate and recipients will receive $35,000 per year in repayment benefits.


If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, U.S national, or permanent resident of the U.S. by the LRP award start date
  • Possess an M.D., Ph.D., Pharm.D., Psy.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.P.M., D.C., N.D., O.D., D.V.M., or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited institution
  • Have total qualified educational debt equal to or in excess of 20% of your institutional base salary at the time of award
  • (Extramural programs only) Agree to conduct only research that is not prohibited by Federal law, regulations, or policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • (Intramural programs only) Be appointed at the NIH in a qualified research area
  • (Extramural programs only) Have research supported by a domestic, nonprofit foundation, university, professional association, or other nonprofit institution, or a U.S. government agency (Federal, State, or local)
  • (Intramural programs only) Be an NIH employee or have a firm commitment of employment from an authorized official of the NIH

You can find more details about eligibility here.


Application requirements and processes will differ based on which NIH program you’re interested in and qualify for.

You can get more application information and guidance here.

Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard Health Professions Loan Repayment Programs

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard all offer loan repayment programs to health professionals who meet eligibility requirements and agree to serve for a minimum of years. The amount repaid and service commitment differs by military branch.


The loan repayment programs of each branch differ in their eligibility requirements and application process.

The Navy’s program, for example, is available to current active duty medical personnel as well as to those interested in repayment through military service. The maximum yearly loan repayment is $40,000, minus about 25% for federal income taxes, which are taken out prior to lender repayment.

Applicants for the Navy’s repayment program must be a current health professional or a student in his or her final year at an approved medical residency program. Participants must serve on active duty for a minimum of 2 years for one year of loan repayment.

Research the options available to your profession and branch of the military you’re interested in, as there are a wide variety of programs and corresponding eligibility requirements.

  • Army eligibility requirements: Offers military student loan repayment assistance to people on active duty. Among other requirements, you must enlist for at least three years and score 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
  • Navy eligibility requirements: Only active-duty Sailors in the first three years of service may qualify
  • Air Force eligibility requirements: The College Loan Repayment Program is a program created for all non-prior service persons considering enlistment in the Air Force
  • National Guard eligibility requirements: Only those who have been enlisted for a minimum of six years in a specific grade are eligible. Non-prior service soldiers must enlist in an MTOE or medical TDA unit only and score a minimum at least 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT). Prior service soldiers can’t have more than 16 years of service in the National Guard


  • Army application process: Contact an army recruiter to apply
  • Navy application process: Learn more about the application process here
  • Air Force application process: To learn more, contact a recruiter here
  • National Guard application process: Apply for federal tuition assistance here

John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides up to $10,000 per year of law school loan repayment for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who agree to remain employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years.

If the employment commitment is not fulfilled, any amount received must be repaid. In 2014, all states received funding except for Tennessee, so there’s a good chance this program is available in your state.


If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Be a state or federal public defender or state prosecutor who agrees to remain employed as public defender and prosecutor for at least three years
  • Be “continually licensed to practice law”
  • (For eligible prosecutor) Be full-time employees of a state or unit of local government (including tribal government), who “prosecute criminal or juvenile delinquency cases at the state or unit of local government level”
  • (For public defenders) Be either full-time employees of a state or unit of local government (including tribal government) or full-time employees of a nonprofit organization operating under a contract with a state or unit of local government, who “provide legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases”
  • (For eligible attorneys) Provide supervision, education, or training of other persons providing prosecutor or public defender representation and must not be in default on repayment of any federal student loans

*Prosecutors who are employees of the federal government and attorneys who are in private practice (and not a full-time employee of a non-profit organization) are not eligible.


  • Applicants must follow the procedure set forth by their designated state agency
  • Those who receive a John R. Justice award will need to commit to and complete a three-year service requirement and certify their continued employment as an eligible attorney

You can find more information about the program here.

Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

The Department of Justice offers its own loan repayment program as a recruitment and retention strategy for highly qualified attorneys.

Through this program, the Department of Justice matches up to $6,000 in loan payments per year, up to a cumulative lifetime maximum of $60,000. It is expected that attorneys are simultaneously making payments, so the benefits of this program are intended to be a supplement, not a replacement for, your own loan payments.


To be eligible to receive an Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP) incentive, both you and your loans must qualify. Answer the questions on this worksheet to figure out whether you meet the eligibility requirements.

If you’re interested in applying, you must:

  • Serve for three years and must have a minimum federal loan balance of $10,000 (private loans are not eligible for this program), and
  • Not currently be participating in the ASLRP, or
  • Be a prior ASLRP participant whose service obligations expired prior to 2018 who wishes to recompete for selection, or
  • Be a current participant initially selected in 2015 whose service obligations expire in 2018 and who wishes to compete for additional benefits


  • Step 1: check your eligibility above
  • Step 2: Complete Parts 1 and 2 of the Service Agreement
  • Step 3: Submit this electronically along with a scanned copy of your loan history, your Justification, and your resume to your component HR Representative (See for component representatives)
  • Step 4: AUSAs and EOUSA Attorneys may submit to

You can find more information about the application process here.

Other state and institution-based programs

There are hundreds of loan forgiveness programs out there, so don’t stop searching if none of the above programs apply to you.

For example, those pursuing an MBA may find repayment programs through their school, and many states offer unique repayment programs for lawyers and many types of health professionals.

Having thousands of dollars repaid on your behalf is well worth the effort of finding repayment programs you’re eligible for, so be sure to conduct thorough research—and apply carefully to maximize your chances of success.

Profession Based Student Loan Forgiveness Guides

As part of our effort to provide graduates with all of their student loan repayment options, we have created profession-based student loan repayment guides to help graduate manage their debt. Most of the programs listed require either a public service commitment or work within a nonprofit organization to qualify.

Check out what options may be available to you! These programs have the ability to save you thousands of dollars on your student loans.


Dental School Loan Repayment Guide


Loan Repayment Assistance Guide for Lawyers

Law Schools with Loan Repayment Assistance Programs


Repayment Assistance Programs for MBA Loans


Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses


Physician Loan Repayment Guide


Pharmacist Student Loan Forgiveness Guide

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