Is Federal Student Loan Forgiveness After 20 Years Possible? – Credible

If you’re enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, you may be able to have your federal student loans forgiven after 20 years of payments.
Andrew Dunn

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After paying down your student loans for months on end, it can be demoralizing to see just how large a balance you still have left. Depending on your repayment plan, you may even owe more now than you did when you first graduated.
The good news is that student loan payments don’t have to go on forever. If you have federal student loans and are making payments under an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, you may be able to have your loans forgiven after 20 years. That can give you hope, and a tangible goal to work toward as you continue to make your payments.
Here’s how to get your federal student loans forgiven after 20 years:

Yes, federal student loans may be forgiven after 20 years under certain circumstances. But only certain types of loans are eligible for forgiveness, and you must be enrolled in one of a few different types of repayment plans. You’ll also need to stay out of default on your loans.
In most cases, you must be a student borrower who took out Direct Loans from the federal government for undergraduate study. Then, you must have enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, where the amount you pay each month is determined by how much you earn.
You generally must make all your required payments during those 20 years for the time to count. When your loan is in forbearance, you won’t be making progress toward loan forgiveness.
Parent borrowers who took out PLUS Loans to pay for their child’s education generally aren’t eligible for loan forgiveness unless they consolidate their loans into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The same goes for Perkins Loans.
The rules for loan forgiveness differ slightly based on the type of loan you have and the repayment plan you chose.

The federal government’s 20-year loan forgiveness programs are part of the income-driven repayment plans they offer. These are special benefits provided to federal student loan borrowers, not available to people with private loans.
In general, income-driven repayment plans are intended to help people keep their payments manageable in their monthly budgets. Your monthly payment is based on a percentage of your discretionary income, or how much you make above 150% of the federal poverty line.
However, these plans also extend the length of time it takes to repay student loans and means you’ll pay significantly more in interest than you would if you were in a standard 10-year repayment plan.
You may be eligible for forgiveness after making 20 years of payments under the following IDR plans:
If you work in the government or not-for-profit sector, you may be able to have your loans forgiven even sooner. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can waive the balance of your loans after 10 years of payments while working full-time for certain types of employers. These include U.S. government agencies at any level, including the military, or 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
To qualify, you’ll need to be making payments under one of the four income-driven repayment plans listed above.

In general, you must have a Direct Loan to qualify for loan forgiveness after 20 years. These loans are issued directly from the U.S. Department of Education. The specific type of Direct Loan, though, can affect how the process works.
Read More: The Complete List of Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Applying for student loan forgiveness programs happens through your loan servicer, the company that handles your payments. Contact your loan servicer if you’re interested in learning how to qualify.
To start, you’ll want to make sure you’re enrolled in one of the income-driven repayment plans you qualify for. This doesn’t happen automatically. Unless you choose otherwise, you’ll be put on the Standard Repayment Plan, which requires a payment that’ll pay off your loans in 10 years. You can switch your repayment plan at any point, for free.
During your 20 years of payments, you’ll likely need to recertify your income level and family size each year to make sure your income-based repayments are at the right amount. You’ll still have to do this, even if nothing has changed. Your servicer will be able to walk you through this process, so make sure you keep your contact information current with your loan servicer. You can also call them to make sure you’re still on track.
If you’re applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the process is a little different. You’ll need to fill out a special application for this program, which is available on the website.

Twenty years is a long time, but it’s important to stay on track toward your loan forgiveness. These strategies may be able to help you:

Loan forgiveness applies to federal student loans only. If you have private loans, you’re not eligible. In most cases, private loans only offer repayment plans that fully satisfy your loans in a specified period of time — often five, seven, or 10 years.
However, you may be able to lower your monthly payment on your private student loans by refinancing. When you refinance your student loans, you take out a new loan that pays off and replaces the ones you currently have. If your financial situation has improved since you first borrowed, you may qualify for a lower interest rate that can dramatically reduce the amount you pay.
While it is possible to refinance federal student loans into a private loan, you should be extremely cautious before doing this. By refinancing, you’ll lose access to federal benefits — including income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness after 20 years.
The student loan consolidation companies in the table below are Credible’s approved partner lenders. Because they compete for your business through Credible, you can request rates from all of them by filling out a single form. Then, you can compare your available options side-by-side. Requesting rates is free, doesn’t affect your credit score, and your personal information is not shared with our partner lenders unless you see an option you like.
All APRs reflect autopay and loyalty discounts where available | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2College Ave Disclosures | 5EDvestinU Disclosures | 3 ELFI Disclosures | 4INvestEd Disclosures | 7ISL Education Lending Disclosures
Check Out: Student Loan Refinance Calculator: Should I Refinance?
Andrew Dunn is an award-winning mortgage and finance writer with a decade of experience covering the industry with articles published at Fox Business, LendingTree, Credit Karma, Axios Charlotte, and more.
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