Note that the situation for student loans has changed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and relief efforts from the government, student loan lenders and others. Check out our Student Loan Hero Coronavirus Information Center for additional news and details.
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While there are legitimate student loan forgiveness programs that will cancel your student debt, there are also plenty of scams out there, too. So it’s natural to be skeptical about whether student loan forgiveness is real.
To help you access the real programs (and avoid the scams), here’s what you need to know about legitimate student loan forgiveness programs:
- Yes, student loan forgiveness is real, but…
- Where to get legitimate student loan forgiveness
- 4 things you need to know about student loan forgiveness
- Watch out for these student loan forgiveness scams
- How to seek student loan forgiveness
The short answer? Yes. The long answer? It can take a long time to get it.
Getting loan forgiveness is a lengthy process that only applies under certain circumstances. It’s also only available for federal loans; forgiveness for private student loans doesn’t exist. So if someone is promising to erase your debt with a private lender, it could be a student loan forgiveness scam.
The only exception is student loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs), which sometimes give you financial assistance to pay off both your federal and private loans. These typically come from a state or private organization. You can check out a long list of LRAPs here.
If you want to pursue a federal loan forgiveness program, you might have to switch to an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. With these plans, you’ll pay a percentage of your income toward your student loans.
Although your monthly payments on an IDR plan might be lower than on the standard repayment plan, the term of your loan will be longer. With a longer repayment term, you could end up paying much more in interest than if you stayed on the standard 10-year term.
As mentioned, these six options are only for federal student loans — you’ll have to try LRAPs for your private debt.
1. Income-driven repayment
2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness
4. Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
5. Perkins Loan cancellation
6. Student loan forgiveness or cancellation by profession
The Federal Student Aid (FSA) office offers four IDR repayment plans:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
All these plans adjust your payments in accordance with your income. If you still have a balance at the end of your repayment term, the remainder will be forgiven.
- Maximum monthly payment: Generally 10%, 15% or 20% of your discretionary income, depending on the plan and when you borrowed
- Loans are forgiven: After 20 or 25 years of payments
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is an option for professionals who work in public service. After 10 years of service, your loans will be forgiven.
But make sure you meet all the requirements of the program and submit an Employment Certification form each year. You wouldn’t want to get to the end of your 10 years only to find out you weren’t eligible for the program (as many borrowers found out the hard way).
- Maximum monthly payment: Dependent on your repayment plan, but you’ll need to put your loans on an IDR plan
- Loans are forgiven: After 10 years of payments on an IDR plan while working in a qualifying public service job
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available for teachers who work in low-income schools or qualifying educational agencies. Through this program, you could get up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness, depending on what subject you teach.
- Loans are forgiven: After five consecutive years of qualifying work
- Loan forgiveness amount: Up to $17,500 for full-time, highly qualified teachers of math, science or special education; up to $5,000 for full-time highly qualified teachers of other subjects
If you experience a total and permanent disability, you could qualify to get your entire federal student loan balance canceled. You might also be eligible for loan cancellation if you die or go bankrupt, or if your school closed or made fraudulent claims. You can read more about these student loan discharge programs here.
- Loans are forgiven: Upon proof of total and permanent disability
Although the Perkins loan program ended in September 2017, some borrowers still have Perkins loans that they borrowed before this time. If you do, you could get your Perkins loan cancelled if you work in a qualifying profession for a certain period of time.
- Loans are forgiven: Upon proof of employment in a qualifying service career
Lastly, you’ll find other forgiveness programs for particular professions. Here are comprehensive student loan forgiveness guides for:
- Law enforcement
- Doctors, nurses and physician assistants
- Professors and teachers
Is federal student loan forgiveness real? Yes, with some caveats.
1. Not everyone is eligible
To be eligible for some income-driven repayment plans, for example, your payments must be lower than what they’d be under the standard 10-year repayment plan.
Say you earn $30,000 per year as a social worker but have $80,000 in debt because of your master’s degree. Tying your loan repayment to your income would keep your payments lower over a longer period. It would cost you more to repay the loan unless you qualified for loan forgiveness.
2. Forgiveness takes a long time
Depending on which program you’re pursuing, your student loans might not be forgiven for decades. In that time, you’ll pay more in interest than under the standard plan.
And remember: When it comes time to finally get your loans forgiven, your remaining balance might not be all that big.
3. Your remaining loans might be taxed
In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, a student loan that’s forgiven at the end of an IDR repayment plan is typically considered to be taxable income. So if you eventually manage to have $50,000 worth of loans forgiven, you might be on the hook for paying federal (and possibly state) taxes on that amount.
4. It’s not always worth it
As noted above, you might pay significantly more in interest if you opt for forgiveness through an IBR plan. Run your numbers through our IBR calculator to see exactly how much.
Since many student loan forgiveness programs require you to work in public service, you’ll likely earn a lower salary than you would in the private sector. You’d almost certainly earn a higher income as a lawyer for a firm representing name-brand clients than you would as an attorney for the government, for example.
Although the programs above are legit, you’ll want to be on the lookout for loan forgiveness scams.
For example, seemingly legitimate student loan forgiveness companies might charge you to fill out government forms for your student loans. But you can complete the paperwork yourself for free by using the tools on the FSA website.
Even worse, other companies might call and pretend they can forgive your student loans for a fee. Don’t buy into this. You’ll never have to pay a fee to participate in a student loan forgiveness program. Only loan forgiveness scams will ask you for advance fees.
Along with student loan forgiveness scams, there are also plenty of other student loan scams. If you’ve fallen victim to one of them, you may contact:
- Your bank or credit card company: You could seek to stop the payment to the scammer if you paid a fee upfront.
- The three major credit bureaus: You could report fraud or freeze your credit report to avoid future harm.
- The Office of the Inspector General: You could ask for advice if your student loan information was compromised.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): You could report the business and submit a complaint.
If you’re struggling to repay your loans and think forgiveness is the right path for you, read our comprehensive guide to student loan forgiveness. See if you qualify for any existing options.
If none of the legitimate federal programs apply to your situation, consider putting your loans into deferment or forbearance. You may also refinance your loans with a private lender.
Along the way, be on the lookout for student loan forgiveness scams that are after your money, not your well-being.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore your loans. Because that’s the one way to ensure they never disappear.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 5.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.17% – 4.47%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.