This page will help you navigate federal student loan forgiveness options and one-time federal cancellation, and help you answer questions about whether you qualify or how to apply. These benefits are only available on federal student loans.
Learn more about:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
- Income-driven repayment forgiveness (IDR) and one-time adjustment
Keep an eye out for scammers. You might be contacted by a company saying they will help you get loan discharge, forgiveness, cancellation, or debt relief for a fee. This is a scam. You never have to pay for help with your federal student aid. Make sure you work only with ED and your loan servicers, and never reveal your personal information or account password to anyone. Verified emails to borrowers come from email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
Here are some other warning signs that you may be dealing with a student loan cancellation scam and what to do if you are contacted by a scammer.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
PSLF allows qualifying federal student loans to be forgiven after 120 qualifying payments (10 years), while working for a qualifying public service employer.
If you work or have worked in public service such as government (federal, U.S. Military, state, local, or tribal) or certain non-profit organizations, you might be eligible for the PSLF Program.
Visit the Department of Education’s website for the latest PSLF guidance.
How to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Getting PSLF will require careful attention to detail. Here are some tips to achieve forgiveness as painlessly as possible.
Make sure you qualify
Use the PSLF Help Tool to figure out your next steps. This tool is provided by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and is free to use. Submit the forms suggested by the PSLF Help Tool to document your qualifying employment and receive credit for your monthly payments.
Make sure you have the right type of loans
Only federal Direct Loans can be forgiven through PSLF. If you have other federal student loans such as Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or Perkins Loans you may be able to qualify for PSLF by consolidating into a new federal Direct Consolidation Loan. To learn more about consolidation visit the Department of Education’s website .
Keep proof of your payments
Save your digital receipts or monthly statements—for every payment!
Check your payment tally
The PSLF Help Tool tracks your progress to 120 qualifying payments. Check it regularly to make sure it matches your records. You do not have to make the 120 qualifying payments consecutively.
Keep in mind: Some borrowers have reported that their servicers’ payment tallies do not match their personal records. Contact the servicer to try to resolve this issue. Submit a complaint with the CFPB or Federal Student Aid (FSA) if you run into this problem.
Understand the CARES Act Payment Pause
Paused payments count toward PSLF as long as you meet all other qualifications. You will get credit as though you made monthly payments. Visit ED for more information on the payment pause and PSLF .
Request credit for deferments and forbearances
Deferments prior to 2013 and extended periods of forbearance will be automatically counted as qualifying payments. To request credit for shorter forbearances—less than 12 months in a row, or under 36 months altogether—file a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman .
Note: New changes to IDR plans can affect your PSLF loan payment count. Visit Department of Education website to learn more .
Set a yearly reminder to do your paperwork
You will need to recertify your income-driven repayment plan each year. We also recommend that you recertify your employer each year —the PSLF Help Tool will guide you to the form you’ll need to complete and submit.
You can appeal if you’re denied
ED offers an online form to request your PSLF/TEPSLF denial be reconsidered . To prepare to fill out the form, gather information about the payments you believe should be counted. This includes the dates of these payments; tax information for your public service employer at that time; and digital proof of your employment and payments, such as W2 forms and letters or statements from the loan servicer.
Stay out of default
If your federal loans go into default, you will need to rehabilitate or consolidate them to get back on track to qualify for PSLF. Compare which option may be best for you .
Stay on track for loan forgiveness
Public service employers and employees can use these guides to make sure they are on track for loan forgiveness.
- Peace Corps volunteers
- AmeriCorps volunteers
- First responders
- Includes firefighters, police officers, nurses, and other emergency service employees.
- Other public service employees
- Includes employees of any state, local, or tribal government, and of certain nonprofit agencies.
Income-driven repayment forgiveness
Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one income-driven repayment plan . Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans cap your monthly payments based on your income and family size. If your income is low enough, your payment could be as low as $0 per month.
Depending on the IDR plan, the remaining balance on your loans may be forgiven after 20 or 25 years of repayment.
One-time adjustment to fix IDR loan forgiveness
On April 19, 2022, Department of Education (ED) announced several changes and updates that will bring borrowers closer to forgiveness under IDR plans. ED will do a one-time adjustment to count any month spent in repayment, some deferment periods (prior to 2013), and some forbearance periods toward loan forgiveness. For some borrowers, these changes mean that they will receive additional years of credit toward loan forgiveness. If you have loans that have been in repayment for more than 20 or 25 years, those loans may immediately qualify for forgiveness.
Borrowers who have reached 20 or 25 years (240 or 300 months) worth of payments for IDR forgiveness may see their loans forgiven in Spring 2023. ED will continue to discharge loans as borrowers reach the required number of months for forgiveness. All other borrowers will see their loan accounts updated in 2024.
TIP: No student loan borrower will have to pay any fees to receive their credit toward forgiveness. If someone asks you to pay them to get you loan forgiveness, it’s a scam. What counts towards the 20 or 25 years required for IDR forgiveness?
- Any months with time in repayment status (regardless of the payments made, loan type, or repayment plan).
- 12+ months of consecutive forbearance or 36+ months of cumulative forbearance.
- Months spent in economic hardship or military deferments after 2013.
- Months in deferment prior to 2013 (except in-school deferment).
- Any time in repayment prior to consolidation on consolidated loans.
What loans qualify for the IDR one-time adjustment?
Only federal student loans managed by Department of Education (ED) qualify for the one-time IDR adjustment. Borrowers with Direct Loans or federally-managed FFELP loans will not have to take any action in order to benefit under the one-time account adjustment. Any borrower with ED-held loans that have accumulated time in repayment of at least 20 or 25 years will see automatic forgiveness, even if the loans are not currently on an IDR plan.
Borrowers with FFELP loans held by commercial lenders or Perkins loans not held by ED can benefit if they consolidate into Direct Loans. Borrowers must consolidate by the end of 2023, in order to benefit from the one-time IDR account adjustment. Borrowers can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan online or with a paper form .
TIP: Not sure what type of loan you have? Log into StudentAid.gov using your FSA ID and select “My Aid” under your name. That page will display information about your federal loan amounts, including whether your loans are Direct or commercial FFELP. For more information, contact your student loan servicer.
Learn more information about the IDR fixes on the Department of Education’s website .
How to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan
If you have a federal student loan, you may be able to enroll in an IDR plan online. The Department of Education’s (ED) online IDR plan enrollment website will tell you what types of loans you have. It is the best place to start if you need to enroll in income-driven repayment plan.
Repayment periods for IDR plans
IDR plans have different repayment periods.