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Student Loan Forgiveness: Everything You Need to Know

Jan 17, 2023
in a nutshell
  • There are multiple programs available for student loan forgiveness.
  • The most common one is the public service loan forgiveness program, which provides student debt relief to people who work for qualifying non-profits.
  • Those who work in the academic, medical, or legal fields may also qualify for loan forgiveness.
Image of There are multiple programs out there for student loan forgiveness — here’s how to get started.
in a nutshell
  • There are multiple programs available for student loan forgiveness.
  • The most common one is the public service loan forgiveness program, which provides student debt relief to people who work for qualifying non-profits.
  • Those who work in the academic, medical, or legal fields may also qualify for loan forgiveness.

The federal government offers several programs to help the nearly 43 million borrowers who carry student loan debt. Many of these programs are aimed at helping those who serve the public. 

Each program works a little differently — let’s take a closer look at six potential options for student loan forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF program applies to government and qualifying non-profit employees with undergraduate or graduate student loans

There are a few baseline eligibility rules:

  • You work full-time at a qualifying agency or organization

  • You have a loan through the Direct Loan program, or have consolidated other federal loans into a qualifying loan type

  • You pay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan and make 120 separate monthly payments 

Meeting all these criteria usually takes 10 years, and the program is notoriously difficult to navigate. But it could be worth completing the PSLF form early, to help you keep a sort of “progress report” of how much you have left to pay. You can use this search tool to find out if where you work qualifies you for this program. 

Teacher loan forgiveness

Teachers shouldering student debt have several options for student loan relief. In some cases, they can apply for PSLF. But if that doesn't work, there is always the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. This program helps teachers who teach full-time for five consecutive academic years in low-income districts. Those who can meet the eligibility requirements can have up to $17,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans forgiven.

Student loan forgiveness for nurses

Nurses, like teachers, may also qualify for the PSLF program. But in case they don't, here are some other options. The NURSE Corps loan repayment program pays up to 85% of unpaid student loan debt for qualified nurses. To qualify, they must have gone to an accredited nursing program and now practice as a registered nurse in a high-need area or accredited school. Other programs include the Federal Perkins loan cancellation and faculty loan repayment program — all of which have different requirements.  

Student loan forgiveness for doctors 

The medical profession is notorious for saddling doctors with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical student carries about $200,000 in debt.

Doctors may qualify for the PSLF program, but there may be other options, too. The Health Resources and Services Administration offers up to $50,000 in relief for eligible medical professionals who commit to a two-year stint in a critical-need medical facility. Other programs include the National Health Service Corps Students to Service loan repayment program for students who commit to working at NHSC-approved sites, and the Armed Forces loan repayment program for those enlisted.

Student loan forgiveness for lawyers

The American Bar Association estimates that the average lawyer carries about $165,000 in loans at the time of graduation. 

Fortunately, there are many federal and national programs for lawyers who need some relief. For federal assistance, check your eligibility with the PSLF and the Federal Perkins loans cancellation. 

For national relief, lawyers have a few more options. For example, the John R. Justice student loan repayment program provides grantees up to $60,000 in repayment assistance. Many, but not all, of the programs hinge on working in a non-profit or public defender-type role.  

The Biden administration's student loan debt relief plan

In late August 2021, President Joe Biden announced his plan to forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 for eligible borrowers. 

Under the plan’s original outline, you had to have made less than $125,000 in 2021 or 2020. For families, that ceiling rises to $250,000. These numbers are based on your adjusted gross income (AGI) and can be found on line 11 of your federal tax return. 

However, the U.S. appeals court temporarily blocked the one-time student debt relief. As the case works its way through the courts, the government says it will continue to review existing applications.

Acorns is not engaged in rendering any tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.

Trevir Nath

Trevir Nath is a Senior Writer at Acorns, where he creates educational content about personal finance and investing.

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