Get Out of Debt Guy

Do I Have to Make Full Payments to Get My Student Loans Forgiven

Posted September 21, 2014 5:59 p.m. EDT
Updated November 8, 2014 6:45 p.m. EST

Dear Steve,

I've been carrying a student debt since 1986, and it's a heavy burden. I borrowed for my BA from 1986-1992 and then consolidated in 2000. I borrowed again for graduate school 2003-2005, have always been in good standing (by paying on the graduated repayment plan, being in deferment, or being in forbearance), but still carry a balance of 27K. I have been working full-time for about 6 years (since 2007) at non-profit organizations, but I know that the Public Loan Forgiveness Program only counts payments made with the standard repayment plan. I wasn't using it until this month because I couldn't afford payment that large.

1) Is there any way to get any kind of credit for all of my time working for non-profit organizations? 2) Are there any other forgiveness options I have overlooked? 3) Do you have any advise for me? 28 years is too long to be carrying a student debt balance. :(

Thank you,


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Dear Ali,

You said something in your question which made me jump. You said, "Public Loan Forgiveness Program only counts payments made with the standard repayment plan" but that's not true on a couple of levels.

And even according to the Department of Education they suggest you actually put your loans on an income based plan to maximize forgiveness.

The DOE says, "To maximize forgiveness under the PSLF Program, you should repay your loans on one of the income-driven repayment plans (Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan, Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, or the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan), which qualify for PSLF."

Who ever advised you you had to be only on the standard repayment plan is incorrect.

In fact if you made ten years of standard payments on your loans there would not be any balance to forgive.

Months where your loans were in deferment or forbearance will not count towards the 120 payments required before forgiveness. But income based payments will, even if they are as low as $0 per month.

"Scheduled payments are those that are made under a qualifying repayment plan after your federal loan servicer has billed you for the month's payment. They do not include payments made while your loans are in an in-school or grace status or in a deferment or forbearance period."

If the full payment is too much for your budget, get on an income based payment plan for the remainder of your payments and then have the balance forgiven. More on that can be found here.

Before I go, here are to tackle your issue.

Steve Rhode
WRAL Get Out of Debt Guy

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About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.