How Can I Get Rid of Student Loans Without Paying?

There’s no simple way to get rid of student loans without paying, but there are forgiveness options if you can qualify.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Karen Gaudette Brewer

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There’s no simple way to get rid of student loans without paying. But for federal student loans, there are forgiveness programs available after you make payments and meet other qualifications.

The most easily accessible student loan forgiveness programs include:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: After 10 years of making payments while working full time for a qualifying government or nonprofit employer, the rest of your loan debt is forgiven. It’s tough to qualify, and you’ll need to submit an employment certification form every year in the 10 years it takes to qualify so you stay on track.

  • Forgiveness through income-driven repayment: This is your best option to keep payments manageable. The U.S. Department of Education offers four types of income-driven repayment plans. Your monthly bill amount is set at a portion of your income, and after 20 or 25 years, your remaining debt is forgiven. Of the four, the Saving on a Valuable Education plan offers significant financial benefits by decreasing monthly payments and providing potential early loan forgiveness of 10 years instead of the typical 20 to 25 years.

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: After teaching full time for five consecutive years at a qualifying low-income school, you could see up to $17,500 of your loans forgiven.

Any other forgiveness programs that promise to get rid of your debt without making payments are a scam. Your loans can be forgiven only by your lender or servicer.

How to get rid of private student debt

One of the few ways to get rid of private student debt is through discharge bankruptcy. It’s an arduous — and expensive — process. You’ll have to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, then file an additional lawsuit known as an adversary proceeding. You’ll likely need a bankruptcy attorney throughout the process, which can cost thousands.

If you’re having difficulty making payments, your best option is to contact your private loan holder about renegotiating your payment or taking a short-term payment pause.

Additional ways loans may be forgiven

There are two other instances in which your loans may be forgiven without making a payment:

If you are in a dire student loan situation, such as default, one additional option to consider is settling your debt for less than you owe. If you’re successful, it won’t get rid of all your debt, but it can help ease the burden.

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