In certain situations, you can have your federal student loan forgiven, canceled, or discharged.

Find out whether you qualify due to your job or other circumstances.

Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge

Forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge of your loan means that you are no longer required to repay some or all of your loan.

Are you looking for a loan discharge or forgiveness form? View a list of available loan discharge and forgiveness applications.

What are the differences between forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge?
When can my federal student loans be forgiven, canceled, or discharged?
How do I apply to have my loan forgiven, canceled, or discharged?
Do I need to make payments while my forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge application is being reviewed?
What happens if my application is approved?
What happens if my application for loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge is denied?
I’m a parent who took a PLUS loan to help pay for my child’s education. Can my loan ever be forgiven, canceled, or discharged?


What are the differences between forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge?

The terms forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge mean the same thing, but they’re used in different ways. If you’re no longer required to make payments on your loans due to your job, this is generally called forgiveness or cancellation. If you’re no longer required to make payments on your loans due to other circumstances, such as a total and permanent disability or the closure of the school where you received your loans, this is generally called discharge.


When can my federal student loans be forgiven, canceled, or discharged?

You must repay your loans even if you don’t complete your education, can’t find a job related to your program of study, or are unhappy with the education you paid for with your loan. You also can’t claim that you have no responsibility for repaying your loan because you were a minor (under the age of 18) when you signed your promissory note or received the loan. However, certain circumstances might lead to your loans being forgiven, canceled, or discharged.

The list below is a quick view of the types of forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge available for the different types of federal student loans.

Type of Forgiveness, Cancellation, or Discharge

Direct Loans

Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program Loans

Perkins Loans

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

X

X*

X*

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

X

X

 

Perkins Loan Cancellation (includes Teacher Cancellation)

   

X

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

X

X

X

Death Discharge

X

X

X

Bankruptcy Discharge (in rare cases)

X

X

X

Closed School Discharge

X

X

X

False Certification Discharge

X

X

 

Unpaid Refund Discharge

X

X

 

*FFEL Program loans and Perkins Loans may become eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if they are consolidated into the Direct Loan Program.

In addition to the types of forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge shown above, you may also be eligible for discharge of your federal student loans based on borrower defense to repayment if you took out the loans to attend a school that misled you, or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws, and if the school’s act or omission directly related to your federal student loans or to the educational services that you paid for with the loans.


How do I apply to have my loan forgiven, canceled, or discharged?

Contact your loan servicer if you think you qualify. If you have a Perkins Loan, you should contact the school that made the loan or the loan servicer the school has designated.


Do I need to make payments while my forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge application is being reviewed?

It depends on the type of forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge you’re applying for, but in most cases you won’t be required to make loan payments while your application is being reviewed. Check with your loan servicer to find out whether you must continue making payments during the application review period.


What happens if my application is approved?

If you qualify for forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge of the full amount of your loan, you are no longer obligated to make loan payments. If you qualify for forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge of only a portion of your loan, you are responsible for repaying the remaining balance.

If you qualify for certain types of loan discharge, you may also receive a refund of some or all of the payments you made on the loan, and any adverse information related to your delinquency or default on the loan may be deleted from your credit record. If the loan was in default, the discharge may erase the default status. If you have no other defaulted loans, you regain eligibility for federal student aid.


What happens if my application for loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge is denied?

You’ll remain responsible for repaying your loan according to the terms of the promissory note that you signed. Talk to your loan servicer about repayment options if you have a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan. Check out repayment options.

If your loan is in default, go to Understanding Default about repaying your loan and options for getting out of default.

If you believe that your application was denied in error, contact your loan servicer for more information.


I’m a parent who took a PLUS loan to help pay for my child’s education. Can my loan ever be forgiven, canceled, or discharged?

As with loans made to students, a parent PLUS loan can be discharged if you die, if you (not the student on whose behalf you obtained the loan) become totally and permanently disabled, or if your loan is discharged in bankruptcy. Your parent PLUS loan may also be discharged if the child for whom you borrowed dies.

In addition, all or a portion of a parent PLUS Loan may be discharged in any of these circumstances:

  • The student for whom you borrowed could not complete his or her program because the school closed.
  • Your eligibility to receive the loan was falsely certified by the school.
  • Your eligibility to receive the loan was falsely certified through identity theft.
  • The student withdrew from school but the school didn’t pay a refund of your loan money that it was required to pay under applicable laws and regulations.

Contact your loan servicer for more information. If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, visit "My Federal Student Aid."