How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness is a great option for many student loan borrowers who meet the qualifications. And more people qualify for student loan forgiveness plans than they think.

While loan forgiveness for public service has been around for a while, many people don’t realize that many federal student loans offer several loan forgiveness options. Teachers, government workers, nurses, or private employees may be eligible for several loan forgiveness programs.

We’ll break down each of the student loan forgiveness programs to help you understand which one you may qualify for, how to meet the requirements, and how to apply for student loan forgiveness. Plus, we’ll review the actual process you need to follow to apply for and complete your program's requirements.

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  • There are several forgiveness programs for federal student loans.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) offers full forgiveness in as little as 10 years
  • Loan forgiveness programs require making on-time payments for the duration of the program, or you risk losing forgiveness altogether.
  • Loan forgiveness may take a few months after you qualify and apply, so it’s important to continue making scheduled payments.
  • Typically, only federal student loans have forgiveness plans — but there are rare circumstances in which private loans can be forgiven.

Who is eligible for student loan forgiveness?

There are several programs that offer student loan forgiveness with different qualifications for each. Here’s how they work: 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): PSLF is available to employees of certain government agencies and non-profit organizations. Employees who make 120 consecutive on-time monthly student loan payments may qualify to have their remaining federal student loan debt forgiven.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF): Teacher loan forgiveness is designed for public school teachers and forgives up to $17,500 in loans (as of 2023). You must teach in a low-income school or educational service agency for five consecutive years to qualify. Teachers may also qualify for PSLF and might get a higher amount forgiven vs. TLF. Make sure to review your loans to choose the right one.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment (NCLRP): This program may forgive up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and nurse faculty (NF). Nurses must work in a Critical Shortage Facility (CSF) or eligible nursing school (as faculty) for at least two years to earn 60% loan forgiveness. An optional third year to receive an additional 25% of their student loans forgiven.

Income-Driven Repayment (IDR): Income-driven repayment plans offer loan forgiveness for remaining balances after making on-time payments for 20 to 25 years (depending on your loan type). The forgiveness plans are based on income and family size, with undergraduate loans eligible for forgiveness after 20 years and graduate loans after 25 years.

Reasons for forgiveness

In addition to these forgiveness programs, there are some less common reasons for forgiveness, including:

  • School closure. If your education institution closes you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in certain circumstances. This is available for certain federal loans.
  • Perkins Loan Discharge. Perkins loans may also be discharged if you meet certain employment or volunteer requirements.
  • Disability. Certain loans may be discharged if you become permanently and totally disabled.
  • Death. All remaining loan balances are forgiven in the event of your death.
  • Bankruptcy (in rare cases). While most bankruptcy cases cannot discharge student loan debt, some federal loans may be forgiven in specific “hardship” circumstances.

Related: How Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Works?

How to apply for student loan forgiveness

You can apply to have your federal student loans forgiven by following these steps:

Review your loans

Before you apply to have any loans forgiven, it’s important to understand the type of loans you have, your employment situation, and what programs you may qualify for. First, make sure you know if you have government-backed student loans or private student loans.

Most private student loans don’t offer any forgiveness options. Borrowers have many available forgiveness options for federal student loans, as long as they don’t pursue student loan refinancing, which shifts their balances into private loans.

In most cases, either PSLF or IDR-based forgiveness may be available based on your employment and income. If you have federal loans and work for a government employer or 501(c)3 non-profit organization, you may qualify for PSLF. You can complete a certification form and review it with your loan servicer to ensure you qualify for the PSLF program.

If you have high loan balances and a lower income, you may qualify for an income-driven repayment plan (IDR). This allows you to pay a smaller monthly loan payment based on your income, expenses, and family size. If you still have a remaining balance at the end of 20 or 25 years (depending on the loan type), the balance may be forgiven.

Make sure to review your student loan forgiveness options with your loan servicer to make sure you take the required steps to qualify.

Apply for forgiveness 

Once you have qualified for forgiveness under one of the programs, you’ll need to submit a student loan forgiveness application. The requirements vary by program. Here are a few examples:

Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF):

To apply for PSLF, you’ll need to complete 120 on-time payments while working at a qualified non-profit or government employer. You can submit a PSLF form using the PSLF Help Tool to ensure you’re making qualifying payments. Once you’ve completed the qualifying payments, you’ll submit one last PSLF form to complete your forgiveness application. 

Apply for Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF):

After completing five years of qualifying employment at a low-income school or educational service agency, you can submit a TLF application form. The chief administrative officer of your school or agency will need to fill out a portion of that form. Each loan service will require a separate application.

Apply for Nurse Corps Loan Repayment (NCLRP):

You can apply for forgiveness of nursing education debt through the Health Resources & Services Administration online portal.

Apply for Income-Driven Repayment (IDR):

IDR forgiveness applies to anyone on an IDR plan who still has a balance after 20 years (for undergraduate loans) or 25 years (for graduate loans). Simply make on-time payments for the entire period, and the forgiveness program will forgive the remaining balances. To apply for an IDR plan, you need to complete an application through Studentaid.gov and choose a plan that fits your circumstances best.

Each forgiveness program has unique qualifications and requirements, and it’s a good idea to review your options with your student loan servicer before applying.

Continue making payments

Once you submit an application for federal student loan forgiveness, you need to continue making on-time payments toward your loan balance to avoid compromising the forgiveness program. Even if you are sure you've met the requirements, missing one payment or encountering an issue may disqualify you from receiving loan forgiveness.

You should only stop making payments once you receive a statement from your loan servicer showing the loans have been forgiven.

Confirm forgiveness

To confirm your loans have been forgiven, you can log into your student loan servicer portal and look for a $0 balance for your student loans. Even after seeing this, it’s a good idea to call your loan servicer and verify that no more student loan payments will be due.

You may need to submit additional supporting documentation for forms, depending on what your servicer requires. Once the loans are forgiven, you should also receive a formal letter stating as much. Keep all documentation in regards to your student loan forgiveness in a file in case you need to present it as evidence in the future.

Related: How to refinance student loans

Male university student with laptop: Guide to how to apply for student loan forgiveness.

How long does it take for student loan forgiveness?

The time it takes for student loans to be forgiven varies by program. Here are a few of the timelines required for different programs:

  • PSLF. This takes about 10 years or 120 consecutive on-time monthly payments.
  • TLF. Teacher loan forgiveness requires five years of working at a qualified employer.
  • NCLRP. The Nurse Corps loan forgiveness program forgives up to 60% after two years of working at an eligible facility, and another 25% after the third year.
  • IDR. Income-driven repayment plans forgive remaining balances after 20 years for undergraduate student loans and 25 years for graduate student loans.


Once you apply for student loan forgiveness, the relevant authority will manually review and approve your application. This can take several months or more, depending on the program and your specific circumstances. When applying for loan forgiveness, you should always ask your loan servicer how long they expect forgiveness to take. And always make sure to continue making monthly loan payments until your loans are officially forgiven.

Read: The SAVE Plan For Student Loans: How It Works?

FAQs

What if you have private student loans?

Private student loans do not typically offer any kind of loan forgiveness programs. The only exceptions are disability and death, which may offer a discharge of a student loan balance through some private student loan companies.


While private student loans lack forgiveness, refinancing with them might lower interest rates or monthly payments for potential benefits. It’s important to run the numbers and review whether or not it is worth it to refinance.

What has President Biden done for student loan forgiveness?

In addition to pausing student loan payments several times due to pandemic-related challenges, President Biden also proposed a student loan forgiveness program that would forgive up to $20,000 for qualified borrowers. That program was blocked by the Supreme Court. But a new income-driven repayment plan was implemented (the “SAVE” program) that lowers payments for many borrowers, and offers more loan forgiveness at the end of each IDR plan.

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.