President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student debt for individuals earning $125,000 or less — and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients — could clear the ledger for millions of people. But for those who still have remaining balances or will not benefit at all, there are other paths to loan forgiveness.

The federal government, states and the private sector have programs that will erase some, if not all, education debt held by borrowers based on where they work and for how long.

Here are some of the options available

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

This federal program is designed to entice college graduates to go into teaching, law enforcement and other public sector jobs with the promise of debt forgiveness after years of service.

To qualify, people must make 120 on-time monthly payments for 10 years to have the remaining balance canceled. They must work for the government or certain nonprofits. They must have loans made directly by the federal government. And they must be enrolled in specific repayment plans, primarily those that cap monthly loan payments to a percentage of their income.

The rules are complex. And people have complained of receiving bad advice from loan servicing companies hired by the Education Department, leading them to believe they were making qualifying payments when they were not. As a result, Congress and the department created temporary fixes so payments made in the wrong plan could be credited toward forgiveness. The department’s waiver is set to end Oct. 31.

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2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Educators have a few options to alleviate the burden of student debt. In addition to Public Service Loan Forgiveness, elementary and secondary school teachers are eligible for the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. That program aims to address the shortage of educators in high-need schools and subject areas.

In exchange for up to $17,500 in federal student loan cancellation, teachers must first work five consecutive years in a low-income school or educational service agency. Math, science and special education teachers who are considered highly qualified — meaning they hold a bachelor’s degree and state certification — are eligible for the full amount of relief. Other teachers can receive up to $5,000.

Teachers typically can’t receive credit toward both Teacher Loan Forgiveness and PSLF for the same period, but the Public Service waiver temporarily relaxes the restriction.

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3. Perkins Loan Forgiveness

Nearly 2 million Americans have about $6 billion in education debt from the now-defunct Federal Perkins Loan Program. The program ended in 2017 amid concerns that it was poorly structured and no longer served a purpose, but the outstanding debt remains.

Perkins loans are ineligible for PSLF and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. But teachers, nurses, firefighters, speech pathologists and other public servants can still have those loans canceled.

The Education Department will forgive a portion of Perkins loans for each year of service. Fifteen percent of the loan can be canceled in the first and second year of service, 20% in the third and fourth years, and 30% after the fifth year of service for most eligible professions.


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4. State-based Loan Repayment Programs

Every state and Washington, D.C., has at least one student loan repayment program. Some states, like Texas, have nearly a dozen. The perk is typically used to recruit public sector employees, especially teachers and health care workers, and requires some type of service commitment.

Maryland, for instance, awards up to $25,000 annually for a two-year commitment from primary care physicians and physician assistants in pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology.

Several websites have compiled a list of existing programs, including Investopedia, Student Loan Hero and the College Investor. You can also check out your local state agencies to inquire.

Washington state loan repayment for health care workers

5. Federal Employee Student Loan Repayment

Government agencies can repay federal student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for candidates or current employees. Not every agency takes advantage of the program, but the perk is readily used by the Defense and Justice departments, according to the last federal data.

Agencies will pay off as much as $10,000 a year in debt or a total of $60,000 per employee. In exchange, employees must agree to remain at the agency for at least three years.

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6. Income-Driven Repayment Plans

There are four plans that tie your monthly federal loan payments to how much you earn, and those in the plans can have their balance canceled after 20 or 25 years. About half of the more than $1.6 trillion in outstanding federal student loans made directly by the government is being repaid through these plans.


Income-driven repayment plans vary in eligibility requirements, payment calculation and the required number of qualifying payments borrowers must make before any remaining loan balances can be wiped away.

It may take longer to hit the forgiveness threshold if a borrower spends any months in delinquency, default, forbearance or certain types of deferment of their loan payments.

But poor record-keeping and misleading information have resulted in people repaying their loans for much longer than needed, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. As a result, the Education Department is giving borrowers a better chance of having their debt canceled faster, with a one-time adjustment of their accounts slated to commence this fall.

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7. Military Service

Service to the country comes with a host of educational benefits, including various student loan repayment programs. Active-duty soldiers in the Army, for instance, are eligible for up to $65,000 in cancellation if they agree to three years of service. The same is true for those who enlist in the Navy.

Members of the military are also eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

8. AmeriCorps

People who complete a term of national service through an AmeriCorps program — AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, or AmeriCorps State and National — are eligible for loan forgiveness.


The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which is granted to participants, can be used to repay state and federal student loans. The award is equivalent to the maximum value of the federal Pell Grant in a given year ($6,896 for the 2022-23 academic year).

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9. Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

Anyone who is declared by a physician, the Social Security Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs to be totally and permanently disabled is eligible to have their federal student loans discharged. The benefit has never been widely publicized, so few have taken advantage. And when they do, many are met with tedious paperwork and requirements.

There is a three-year monitoring period in which borrowers must submit annual documentation verifying their income does not exceed the poverty line. The requirement routinely trips up people who wind up having their loans reinstated.

To ease the burden, the Biden administration waived the paperwork requirement during the coronavirus pandemic. The Education Department recently proposed rules that would eliminate the monitoring period and expand the types of documentation borrowers may submit to demonstrate eligibility.

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10. Borrower Defense to Repayment

This federal statute clears the debts of students whose colleges used illegal or deceptive tactics to persuade them to borrow.

Although the law has been on the books since 1994, few claims were filed until the for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges collapsed in 2014. Since then, the Education Department has been inundated with applications, primarily from former students of for-profit colleges.

Claims piled up at the department, but the Biden administration has cleared the backlog and proposed new regulations to streamline the process.

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