Forgiveness and Discharge
Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to have all or a portion of your student loans forgiven or discharged. Read on for additional details about the options available.
Loan Forgiveness Options
For more information about student loan forgiveness or discharge, please visit StudentAid.gov/forgiveness. Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can answer any questions.
You may qualify for student loan forgiveness of some or all of the balance of your federal student loans if you perform certain types of qualifying employment and make a required number of qualifying payments.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
If you work in public service, you may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance of your Direct Loans* after making 120 qualifying payments while employed full time by certain public service employers. Find out more about Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Form With the PSLF Help Tool
The PSLF Help Tool helps determine whether you work for a qualifying employer for the PSLF or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) programs, suggests actions you can take to become eligible for PSLF, and guides you through the PSLF form and submission process.
Servicing for the PSLF Program is managed by another federal student loan servicer ( MOHELA). If you enroll in PSLF, your eligible loans will be transferred from Nelnet to MOHELA. If your loans have already been transferred to MOHELA, you can log in to their borrower portal to track your PSLF status and payment counts.
* Any loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualifies for PSLF.
Loans from these federal student loan programs don't qualify for PSLF: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program. However, they would become eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Please note: under normal PSLF Program rules, if you consolidate your loans, only qualifying payments that you make on the new Direct Consolidation Loan can be counted toward the 120 payments required for PSLF. However, under the IDR account adjustment, if you apply to consolidate your FFEL Program loans into a Direct Loan by May 1, 2023, you will get PSLF credit for qualifying payments made on your FFEL Program loans.
If you applied to consolidate your FFEL Program loans and/or Perkins Loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan by October 31, 2022, and submitted your PSLF form to the PSLF servicer MOHELA by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on October 31, 2022, be assured your PSLF form will be evaluated under the limited PSLF waiver rules. These time-limited changes to PSLF Program rules allow borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF. This opportunity ended on October 31, 2022.
Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.
Limited PSLF Waiver: What Happens After the End of the Waiver October 31, 2022
The “limited PSLF waiver” refers to the time-limited changes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program rules that allowed borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF. This opportunity ended on October 31, 2022. Beginning November 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education went back to the normal program requirements for both PSLF and TEPSLF. If you submitted your PSLF form to the PSLF servicer MOHELA by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on October 31, 2022, be assured your PSLF form will be evaluated under the limited PSLF waiver rules.
You may be eligible to submit a PSLF form to MOHELA after October 31, 2022, and continue to qualify for the benefits of the waiver if you met certain criteria. For more information, see StudentAid.gov/pslfwaiver.
Income-Driven Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Account Adjustment
Read on for information in the next section (Income-Driven Repayment [IDR] Forgiveness) about a one-time account adjustment that may also benefit borrowers seeking PSLF. You can also download this informative fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Education about this initiative.
Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Forgiveness
Under Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans, any remaining loan balance is forgiven if a borrower’s federal student loans aren't fully repaid at the end of the repayment period (either 20 or 25 years, depending on the type of plan).
For any IDR Plan, periods of economic hardship deferment, periods of repayment under certain other repayment plans, and periods when your required payment is zero will count toward your total repayment period. Whether you will have a balance left to be forgiven at the end of your repayment period depends on a number of factors, such as how quickly your income rises and how large your income is relative to your debt. Because of these factors, you may fully repay your loan before the end of your repayment period. Nelnet tracks your qualifying monthly payments and years of repayment and will notify you when you are getting close to the point when you would qualify for forgiveness of any remaining loan balance.
Account Adjustments for IDR and PSLF Qualifying Payment Counts
Starting in November 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) began making adjustments to borrower accounts including a one-time revision of IDR and PSLF payment counters. Even borrowers not currently enrolled in an IDR plan who have accumulated time in repayment for at least 20 or 25 years may also qualify for forgiveness as a result of this initiative.
The one-time revision applies automatically to borrowers with Direct Loan Program and federally managed Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans (that is, your Nelnet account starts with E). If you have commercially held FFEL loans (that is, your Nelnet account starts with D or J), you can also benefit from the account adjustment, but only if you consolidate into the Direct Loan Program by May 1, 2023 .
If you have made qualifying payments that exceed forgiveness thresholds (20 or 25 years), you will receive a refund for your overpayment. Learn more about this initiative by visiting StudentAid.gov/idradjustment or Nelnet’s IDR Account Adjustment page.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
This program forgives up to $17,500 of student loan principal and interest for those who teach full time for five consecutive, complete academic years. This applies to certain schools or educational service agencies that serve primarily low-income families.
Search for your school in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits. You can also get the full list of eligibility requirements for this forgiveness program at StudentAid.gov/teacher.
After you have completed the five-year teaching requirement, you can apply with your student loan servicer using the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application.
You may qualify for student loan discharge (also sometimes referred to as cancellation) due to circumstances such as school closure, a school's false certification of your eligibility to receive a loan, a school's failure to pay a required loan refund, or in the case of your death, total and permanent disability, or bankruptcy.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are considering bankruptcy, there are a few things you should be aware of when it comes to your student loans.
- This may not eliminate your student loan debt, as student loans are rarely discharged in bankruptcy.
- Once you’ve filed for or begin bankruptcy proceedings, your creditors are notified, including your student loan servicer, and an automatic stay begins.
- The automatic stay prohibits creditors from continuing with collection efforts during your bankruptcy case.
- If your student loans are not discharged in your bankruptcy case, the student loan servicer will resume collection efforts once the case is over.
- Even if you are in a pending bankruptcy, interest will continue to accrue, so the total amount you owe may be higher. Please consult with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options.
Remember, if you find yourself in a situation where you are considering filing bankruptcy, or if you are simply having trouble paying, we have many repayment plans to fit your budget and ways to postpone payments.
Borrower Defense to Repayment
If you attended a school that you feel misled you or engaged in other misconduct in violation of the law, you may be eligible for discharge of your federal student loans through borrower defense to repayment. To apply for federal loan discharge based on borrower defense, complete an online application on the U.S. Department of Education website or complete a fillable PDF application form.
Along with your application, we recommend including supporting documentation, such as:
- Documentation to confirm the school for which you are applying for borrower defense, your program of study, and your dates of enrollment (e.g., transcripts, enrollment agreements, and registration documents)
- Promotional materials from the school
- Emails with school officials
- Your school's manual or course catalog
Visit StudentAid.gov/borrower-defense for more information about borrower defense to repayment.
Closed School Discharge
If your school closed while you were enrolled or soon after you withdrew, you may be eligible for discharge of your federal student loan.
Upon notice that a school has closed, Nelnet identifies borrowers attending or who previously attended the school and sends a letter notifying them of the school closure along with a Closed School Discharge application.
Visit StudentAid.gov/closed-school to review additional closed school discharge criteria. If you feel you are eligible for closed school discharge, download or open/print an application. You can also contact us for an application.
In the event that a borrower or a student who is the dependent on a PLUS loan passes, the loan can be discharged without any further payments made on the loans. This can be done based on the receipt of an original or certified copy or photocopy of the borrower/student’s death certificate. If these are unavailable, alternative documentation may be used on a case-by-case basis.
Acceptable alternative documentation must include at least two of the following:
- Verification from an official of a county clerk’s office stating that the student/borrower is deceased, and that a death certificate could not be readily provided.
- Letter from a clergyman or funeral director.
- Confirmation of death from a nationwide consumer reporting agency.
- An announcement of death from a local newspaper containing enough information to verify that the announcement is referring to the student/borrower.
- Confirmation from the Social Security Administration’s death registry.
Any payments made on the loan after the confirmed date of death are returned to the estate prior to the payment or write-off being applied.
If no proof of death is obtained, the loan resumes servicing at the same delinquency level it was at when notified.
False Certification Discharge
If your school falsely certified your eligibility to receive a loan, you might be eligible for a discharge of your Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans. There are three categories of false certification: ability to benefit, disqualifying status, and unauthorized signature or unauthorized payment. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and complete an application, visit StudentAid.gov/false-certification.
Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
If you are unable to work because of a total and permanent disability, you may be eligible for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge of your Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), Perkins Loans, Direct Loans, or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant service obligation.
For more information on how to apply for total and permanent disability or to check the status of your application you can sign up and create an account on DisabilityDischarge.com or call 888.303.7818 for assistance.
You can also visit StudentAid.gov/disability-discharge for more information on the Total and Permanent Disability process.
Unpaid Refund Discharge
You might be eligible for discharge of your federal student loans if you withdrew from school and the school didn’t make a required return of loan funds to the loan servicer. The school may have been required under federal regulations to return some or all of your Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans. To learn more about eligibility for unpaid refund discharge and complete an application, visit StudentAid.gov/unpaid-refund.