How to Know if You Qualify for Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation, or Discharge?

Student loan debt can be a heavy burden, but fortunately, there are options available for loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge.

In this article, we will explore the various circumstances under which students may qualify for these programs. Whether you work in public service, as a teacher in a low-income school, or have faced challenges due to disability or illegitimate loan agreements, understanding your eligibility is crucial.

Qualifying for Student Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

One of the forgiveness programs offered by the government is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. In order to be eligible for this program, you must have made 120 qualifying loan payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. The following industries are considered to fall under the eligible “public service” umbrella:

  • Government organizations (federal, state, or local level).
  • Tax-exempt non-profit organizations.
  • Other not-for-profit organizations primarily focused on providing qualifying public service.

To ensure you are making qualifying loan payments, it is important to fill out the certification form and submit it as soon as possible. This form declares your intention to apply for loan forgiveness and confirms that your payments are indeed qualifying.

The PSLF program applies to both direct loans and Perkins loans that have been converted into a direct consolidated loan. For more in-depth information about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you can visit here.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Highly qualified teachers who have taught for five consecutive years in a low-income school are eligible for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness. To be considered a highly qualified teacher, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree and full state teaching certification.

Elementary and middle school teachers may need to meet additional qualifications to demonstrate their proficiency.

For more information about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, click here. Teachers may also be eligible for a full Perkins loan cancellation.

Loan Discharge: Exceptional Circumstances

Under certain exceptional circumstances, borrowers may qualify for loan discharge, meaning the complete cancellation of their federal student loans. Here are the situations in which loan discharge is possible:

  1. Permanent disability: If you have been rendered permanently unable to work due to disability, you may be eligible for loan discharge.
  2. Death: In the unfortunate event of the borrower’s death, the federal student loans can be discharged. However, it’s important to note that the remaining debt will be transferred to the borrower’s estate.
  3. Inability to complete an academic program: If your school shuts down before you can complete your academic program, you may qualify for loan discharge.
  4. Misrepresented or invalid qualifications: If your school knowingly accepted you into an academic program that you would not be able to benefit from, you may be eligible for loan discharge.
  5. Forgery or identity theft: If either the school or you were involved in forging loan agreements, or if you were a victim of identity theft, loan discharge might be an option.
  6. Bankruptcy (rare cases): In extremely rare cases, student loans may be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

It’s important to note that private student loans do not have specific forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge programs. Even in the event of death, the remaining debt would be transferred to the borrower’s estate. Some private lenders may be willing to work with borrowers facing exceptional circumstances, but it is at their discretion.


Navigating the complexities of student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge programs can be overwhelming. By familiarizing yourself with the eligibility criteria and understanding the various available options, you can take steps towards relieving the burden of student loan debt.

Whether you qualify for loan forgiveness through public service, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, or meet the exceptional circumstances for loan discharge, being informed is the first important step towards financial freedom. Remember to consult official resources and seek assistance from professionals to ensure the best approach for your specific situation.

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