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Getting Rid of Student Loan Debt: 12 Options

Getting Rid of Student Loan Debt: 13 Options
Melanie Lockert
Melanie LockertUpdated August 1, 2023
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Having a large amount of student loan debt can feel overwhelming. And no wonder: The average college graduate has approximately $34,100 in student loan debt, and it takes them an average of 20 years to pay it off.  Fortunately, there are ways to help eliminate or reduce your student loan debt. Here are 12 options for how to get rid of student loans. 

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

One option for forgiving federal student loans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. It forgives student loan debt for eligible borrowers after they’ve made 120 payments while working full-time for a qualified employer. This federal loan forgiveness benefit is available to public service workers in the nonprofit and government sectors.To be eligible for PSLF, you need to repay your federal student loans on an income-driven repayment plan, which bases your monthly payments on your income and family size. You will submit the Employer Certification Form to your loan servicer to ensure that the payments you are making qualify. For those who are eligible for PSLF, the program may help reduce the time to pay off student loans. Participants are not required to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.

2. Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness

Income-driven repayment (IDR) could help with forgiving your federal student loans and also make your payments more affordable in the meantime. With IDR, federal student loan borrowers pay a portion of their income (as low as 5%) for up to 20 or 25 years. After that time, the balance on their loans will be forgiven. There are four different IDR plans; you can choose the one that’s the best fit for your needs. The government's SAVE Program, which offers new plans intended to help people who are struggling to repay their federal loans, goes into effect within the year.With IDR, the forgiven balance on student loans is tax-free until 2025. Recommended: Your Guide to Choosing a Student Loan Repayment Plan

3.  Career-Based Loan Forgiveness

If you don’t work for the government or a nonprofit, it may still be possible to qualify for loan forgiveness. For example, some professions offer loan repayment assistance or forgiveness programs that can help with your student debt. Here are a few:These are just a few examples, but there are many other career-based forgiveness programs you can research and explore.

4.  Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Another possible option for how to get rid of student loan debt is by declaring bankruptcy. This option should be a last resort for those in dire need of help because it has serious consequences.Be aware that it’s complicated and difficult to get student loans discharged through bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically requires borrowers to prove undue hardship and to meet a minimum income to qualify. This type of bankruptcy will have a long-term impact on your credit. It will remain on your credit report for 10 years, which may make it hard for you to get a mortgage or borrow money in the future. You may also lose any property you own. Thoroughly research all the possible ramifications very carefully if you are considering this option.

5. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy 

Another type of bankruptcy is Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which remains on your credit report for seven years. This type of bankruptcy may help certain borrowers lower or pause their monthly student loan payments for a period of time (they’ll need to start repaying them again after that), or they may be put on a court-mandated repayment plan. However, if student loans are your only financial hardship, it’s generally best not to try to eliminate them through bankruptcy. The consequences to your credit can be serious. If you are having trouble repaying your student loans, contact your loan servicer to discuss your options instead.

6.  Tuition Reimbursement from an Employer

You may be able to get tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment from your employer. More and more employers are offering these options.Ask your HR department if your company provides this perk, and if they do, be sure to take advantage of it. With most of these programs, the employer will make payments directly to the student loan lender.If you’re looking for a new job, check out the benefits of any companies you’re applying to see if they have programs that can help get rid of student loans. 

7. State Assistance

In addition to the federal programs to help get rid of student loan debt, there are state-based student loan forgiveness programs. In fact, every state in the country has a student loan repayment assistance program. Some states have multiple programs to help student loan borrowers.A typical state-based forgiveness program might offer $25,000 of student loan repayment assistance annually to borrowers in certain professions. Borrowers may be required to work in high-need areas of the state.

8. Refinancing Your Student Loans

Student loan refinancing can reduce the interest rate on your loan and potentially lower and streamline your monthly payments. When you refinance, your existing student loans are replaced with a new loan. Refinancing may help borrowers with good credit obtain a lower rate and save money. Be sure to shop around for the best student loan refinancing ratesA drawback of refinancing is that federal student loans become private loans when you refinance. That means they are no longer eligible for federal protections like the current pause in payments due to the pandemic, or federal student loan forgiveness. Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of student loan refinancing to make sure it’s the right option for you.

9. Consolidating Your Student Loans

If you have a number of federal student loans and want to make managing them easier, you could consider a Direct Consolidation Loan. With a Direct Consolidation Loan, you have a single loan with a fixed interest rate, rather than multiple loans. Consolidating your student loans could lower your monthly payments.

10.  Total and Permanent Disability

Federal student loan borrowers with a total and permanent disability that impedes their ability to work and repay their loans may qualify for loan forgiveness through the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge. Qualified borrowers must submit an application and supporting documentation from a physician or other authority confirming the disability. You can apply at  

11. Student Loan Grants

Another option for how to get rid of student loan debt is to apply for grants to help pay them off. While grants and scholarships are typically for enrolled students to help minimize costs while in school, there are also a number of grants to pay off student loans. Check into them to see what you might be eligible for.

12. Death 

It’s very unpleasant to think about, but you may have wondered what happens to your student loan debt if the worst happens to you. Do student loans go away if you die? If you’re a federal loan borrower, the answer is yes — your loans are generally discharged in the event of your death.  If you have private student loans, they may be discharged if you die, but there are exceptions. For instance, if there is a cosigner on your loans, that person may be responsible for paying them off. And in some cases, the debt may have to go through your estate. If you have private loans, ask your lender about their policy for death discharge for student loans. 

The Takeaway

There are a variety of ways borrowers can get rid of student loan debt. Options include  forgiveness plans or grants, or signing up for a repayment program that makes monthly payments more manageable and affordable. While not every option will eliminate student loan debt, many of them could help you lower your payment costs and streamline the process. Just make sure you understand the pros and cons to help find the best solution for you. If you are considering refinancing your student loans, Lantern can make the process easier and more convenient. In our online marketplace, you can get offers from multiple lenders all at once to help find the right one for your needs.Compare student loan refinancing rates with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do student loans go away on their own after a certain amount of years?
Can you get rid of student loans without paying them?
What if you stop paying your student loans altogether?
Photo credit: iStock/Kar-Tr

About the Author

Melanie Lockert

Melanie Lockert

Melanie Lockert is the founder of the blog and author of the book, Dear Debt. Through her blog, she chronicled her journey out of $81,000 in student loan debt. Her work has appeared on Business Insider, VICE, Allure, and more.
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