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Student Loan Forgiveness Guide

On Aug. 24, 2022, the Biden administration unveiled its federal student loan forgiveness plan in which millions of borrowers could qualify for up to $20,000 in student debt cancellation. Under the plan, those who have federal student loans and meet the income criteria are eligible to apply for forgiveness or will receive automatic cancellation.

However, applications are currently closed due a Nov. 10 ruling from a Texas federal judge declaring the plan unlawful. Here's everything you need to know, from the likelihood of forgiveness, important deadlines to how the potential program could impact you to everything else in between.

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Do I qualify for forgiveness?

Only federally owned student loans qualify for forgiveness. Privately owned Federal Family Education (FFEL) and Perkins Loans that weren't consolidated into federal Direct Loans prior to Sept. 29, 2022 are among those not eligible. 

Borrowers are eligible for up to $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness if their adjusted gross income is under $125,000 annually. Married borrowers who file their taxes jointly and make under $250,000 a year are also eligible for up to $10,000. 

You can find your adjusted gross income on line 11 of IRS form 1040.

Current and former Pell Grant recipients are eligible for up to $20,000 if they meet the income requirements. 

Plus, payments made on federal loans during the student loan payment pause — which started on March 13, 2020 and was recently extended through Dec. 31 of this year — may be eligible for a refund. If your current balance is lower than the amount of debt relief you can receive, the payments you made will be refunded up to your maximum relief amount. However, much like the application, the refunds are also on hold until a legal decision is made in court. 

Why can't I access the application?

Currently, people who visit the forgiveness application on the Federal Student Aid website are unable to complete it. This is due to ongoing legal action over the plan. On Nov. 10, 2022, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman declared the program "unconstitutional." He was ruling on a lawsuit brought by two student loan borrowers backed by the conservative Job Creators Network Foundation.

The Justice Department has already appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. But in the meantime, the application form is inaccessible. The U.S. Department of Education states on the application page that it will hold onto any currently submitted applications and will continue to share updates as they become available. 

Even before the latest ruling, cancellations were on pause due to a separate lawsuit brought by six Republican-led states. The states claim that because student debt forgiveness isn't considered taxable income, the forgiveness plan will cost them tax revenue. On Nov. 14, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction on forgiveness, deeming it unlawful. 

The Biden administration has appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, where a decision has yet to be made.

Important deadlines

Only federally owned student loans qualify for forgiveness. Privately owned Federal Family Education (FFEL) and Perkins Loans that weren't consolidated into federal Direct Loans prior to Sept. 29, 2022 are among those not eligible. 

To maximize your potential forgiveness amount, it's important to meet all required deadlines. If you fail to meet a deadline, you risk losing some of your forgiveness or may be disqualified from cancellation altogether.

Oct. 17, 2022

The Department of Education released the student loan forgiveness application on the studentaid.gov website.


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    Ask your servicer if forgiveness is automatic.

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    Most must fill out the form for forgiveness.

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    Sign up for the Department of Education's email for updates.

Nov. 15, 2022

Borrowers need to apply by Nov. 15 to receive forgiveness by the end of the student loan payment pause on Jan. 1.


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    Expected processing turnaround is 4 to 6 weeks.

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    Applications will still be accepted past this deadline.

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    Debt will be canceled before payments and interest renew.

Jan. 1, 2023

Student loan payments and interest charges start back up for borrowers with remaining federal loan balances.


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    Defaulted federal loans will be restored to good standing.

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    Interest will no longer be set to zero percent.

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    Refunds not available for payments made after Dec. 31.

Dec. 31, 2023

The final deadline to apply for federal student loan forgiveness is Dec. 31, 2023 for federal borrowers.


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    Applications won't be processed after this date.

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    Remaining debt must be repaid in full.

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    Refunds for eligible payments not offered past the date.


What student loan forgiveness means for me 

How will student loan forbearance ending affect me?

The student loan payment pause will expire on Dec. 31, 2022, meaning that federal student loan payments will begin again on Jan. 1, 2023, and interest rates will no longer be at zero percent. However, borrowers with delinquent payments and those whose loans were in default as of March 13, 2020, will be restored to good standing status when payments resume.

Apply by the Nov. 15 deadline to qualify for forgiveness before payments restart. If you fail to apply after the deadline, you'll have to start making payments on your loans while waiting for the application to process. Plus, any payments made after Dec. 31 will be ineligible for a refund as the forbearance period will no longer be in effect. 

To stay up-to-date with payments restarting, contact your loan servicer and sign up for ED updates so you don't fall behind. If managing your remaining balance concerns you, consider refinancing to score a lower interest rate after receiving forgiveness. 

However, while refinancing your loans could help you save money, it's not for everyone. It should be a last-resort option as borrowers lose all federal benefits — including forgiveness — after refinancing with a private lender. 


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Student loan forgiveness FAQs


Find the best student loan refinance lender for you

Use our refinance calculator and compare lenders to find the most competitive offer for you. 

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Consider refinancing if forgiveness runs short 

If forgiveness doesn't come through or if you have a remaining balance after student cancellation — should it be deemed as constitutional — it may be best to consider refinancing if you're uncertain about repayment.

While it shouldn't be a first-resort option, especially for federal borrowers, it may be your best bet in reducing your monthly payment amount. You could score a lower interest rate or repayment term that better aligns with your needs, but it's best to exhaust your federal options first. 

You can read up on your refinancing options and if it's best for your situation prior to signing on the dotted line. 

Learn more

When it comes to paying down your debt, being empowered and knowing all of the resources you have at hand is the key to financial health. Federal student loan borrowers have a host of forgiveness programs and alternative repayment options at their disposal. 

Keep up with the current student loans trends and stay up-to-date with the latest information so you know what to prepare for in the coming weeks with forgiveness in limbo.