Forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge all refer to the cancellation of a borrower's obligation to repay all or a portion of the remaining principal and interest owed on a student loan, but are generally used in different contexts.
"Loan cancellation" and "loan forgiveness" generally refer to the cancellation of a borrower's obligation to repay some or all of the remaining amount owed on a loan if the borrower works full-time for a specified period of time in certain occupations or for certain types of employers. "Loan cancellation" is usually used in reference to the various Perkins Loan Program cancellation benefits. "Loan forgiveness" is usually used in reference to the Direct Loan and FFEL Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program or the Direct Loan Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Borrowers are not required to pay income tax on loan amounts that are canceled or forgiven based on qualifying employment.
"Loan discharge" generally refers to the cancellation of a borrower's obligation to repay some or all of the remaining amount owed on a loan due to circumstances such as school closure, a school's false certification of a borrower's eligibility to receive a loan, a school's failure to pay a required loan refund, or the borrower's death, total and permanent disability, or bankruptcy. In some cases, a discharge may also entitle a borrower to receive a refund of payments previously made on a loan. Depending on the type of discharge, the amount of a loan that is discharged may be treated as taxable income.