- Federal student loans could be forgiven for people who work in certain public-service jobs.
- Certain loans could be forgiven based upon the school attended.
- A student loan could be forgiven in the case of death or disability.
If you’re struggling to repay your higher education student loans, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in good company. Millions of struggling borrowers are having difficulty making their student loan payments.
There is some good news, though. There are a number of programs and organizations that can help you get out of student loan debt. We’re here to help you find them. We’ve put together a list of the best student loan help resources, including government programs, private organizations, and non-profit groups. We’ll also give you some tips on how to get the most out of these resources.
How can I get rid of my student loans for free?
Believe it or not, there are free programs that can help you get out from under student loans and secure better repayment plans. They depend on your specific situation and the types of loans you have.
Consider student loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge. These mean that your debt is forgiven or that you are no longer required to make payments on your loan. These solutions are possible, but only if you meet very specific requirements.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Under this federal student loan program, you can apply for tax-free forgiveness. But you must work in a public service like firefighting, teaching, government, or nursing. And you need to have made 10 years’ worth of payments — or 120 qualifying payments.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Teachers who teach full time for 5 consecutive academic years can apply for forgiveness up to $17,500 on subsidized or unsubsidized federal student loans or Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.
Closed School Discharge
Maybe the school you attended closed while you were enrolled or soon after you withdrew. If so, you could qualify for a discharge of your federal student loans. To learn about your discharge options, search the Federal Student Aid website for the closed school’s information.
Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge
This federal student loan cancellation program is based on employment or volunteer service and the length of time spent in such a role. For up to 100% cancellation, eligibility requirements include:
- Full-time employment in a public or nonprofit elementary school or secondary school system as a teacher serving students from low-income families.
- Serving as a special education teacher of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities.
- Serving as a mathematics, science, foreign language, or bilingual education teacher or in any other field determined by a state agency to have a shortage.
Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
Student loan borrowers who qualify as totally or permanently disabled might receive an automatic loan discharge. The Department of Education says loans should be discharged for anyone with a disability recognized by the Social Security Administration. If your disability is not recognized, you can apply for disability discharge with your student loan servicer.
Discharge Due to Death
In the case of your death, your student debt will be discharged after a proof of death is submitted. If your parent secured a Parent’s PLUS loan and either you or your parent passes, the loan could be discharged.
Discharge in Bankruptcy
It’s much less common for federal loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. However, it might be an option with some private student loans. It’s best to work with a bankruptcy attorney. You could find free legal help from the National Consumer Law Center, the Legal Services Corporation, and similar organizations.
Borrower Defense to Repayment
Maybe a borrower has been defrauded by their school, or the school closes before a degree is completed. Qualifying borrowers could receive a full discharge of their loans as well as reimbursement of payments made on the loan. Negative credit reporting related to the loan is erased and the reinstatement of federal student financial aid eligibility is reinstated.
False Certification Discharge
What if a school falsely certified student eligibility for FFEL program loans or loans from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program? You could qualify for a false certification discharge.
Eligibility for parent borrowers
A Parent PLUS loan could be discharged if the parent dies, suffers total permanent disability, or qualifies under bankruptcy. It could also be discharged if the child whom the loan benefited dies. In some circumstances, these loans could also be discharged if the student couldn’t complete the program due to school closure. Also, if their eligibility was falsely certified by the school or through identity theft. And if the student withdrew from the school and the school didn’t pay a required refund of the loan money.
How to obtain loan forgiveness
The first thing to do if you believe you qualify for loan discharge or forgiveness is contact your loan servicer. (Note, if you have Perkins loan, you will need to contact the school that made the loan.)
You can reach out to nonprofit organizations that specialize in student loan assistance, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Or you can seek out a certified student loan professional.
Check in with your loan servicer
Your loan servicer could help you with determining other repayment options that you might benefit from, as well. You can find your servicer’s contact information on your latest loan statement. Or log on to any payment or loan portal online, like My Federal Student Aid, for federal loans. Other relief options include:
- Income-driven repayment plans could lower your federal student loan monthly payment, which will be based on your monthly income. If you do not have an income, your income-driven repayment plan could result in payments of $0 a month until your income changes. After 20-25 years of payments, you could receive forgiveness on the balance.
- A deferment or forbearance will temporarily pause monthly payments if your situation qualifies. Eligibility and terms will vary by loan servicer and are quite different for federal and private loans.
- Pursue debt cancellation under a program you may qualify for, from the aforementioned list of forgiveness programs.
Where to find student loan help
Fortunately, many organizations exist solely to help students — and their parents — navigate the difficult world of student loans.
- The Institute of Student Loan Advisors can help with repayment plans, dispute resolution, and forgiveness programs.
- The National Consumer Law Center provides information on student loan options for borrowers.
- The Student Borrower Protection Center advocates for many borrowers and attempts to influence legislative policy.
- The National Foundation for Credit Counseling completes financial reviews for struggling borrowers, advises on options, and helps with planning for dealing with related debt.
- American Consumer Credit Counseling advises on repayment plans, budgeting, and loan paperwork.
- The National Association of Consumer Advocates provides information for borrowers and an attorney directory.
- Lexria assists borrowers who have filed bankruptcy and need to include student loans.
- Certified Student Loan Professionals can help borrowers understand everything about student loans, from start to finish.
There are many ways to manage your debt – including your student loan debt. Look into several and see which method might work for you.