Understanding 10- vs 20-Year Student Loan Forgiveness

Understanding 10- vs 20-Year Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan debt is a heavy burden for many Americans, but relief is available for those who qualify for forgiveness programs. Two prominent options are Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness. Understanding the differences and requirements of each is important for borrowers seeking relief from their Federal student loans.


Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

PSLF offers a path to forgiveness for federal student loans after 120 qualifying payments, typically spanning 10 years, while working for a qualifying public service employer. This encompasses a broad range of positions, including government roles at the federal, state, local, or tribal level, as well as certain nonprofit organizations.

To get PSLF, borrowers must ensure they meet specific criteria and adhere to certain procedures:

  • Eligibility Check: Utilize the free PSLF Help Tool provided by the U.S. Department of Education to confirm eligibility and receive guidance on necessary steps.
  • Loan Type Verification: Only federal Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF. Borrowers with other federal loans may consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify.
  • Documentation: Maintain records of employment and payments, ensuring accurate tracking of qualifying payments.
  • Payment Verification: Regularly monitor payment tallies, and address any discrepancies with loan servicers promptly. The PSLF Help Tool will help you track progress on the 120 qualifying payments you must make.
  • CARES Act Consideration: Understand how paused payments under the CARES Act count towards PSLF eligibility. You can get more info HERE.
  • Deferments and Forbearances: Extended periods of forbearance and deferments before 2013 are automatically considered to be qualifying payments. You can ask for credit for forbearances of fewer than 12 consecutive months or 36 months altogether by filing a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman.
  • Annual Recertification: Renew income-driven repayment plans and employer certifications annually to stay on track.
  • Appeal Process: If denied PSLF, utilize the gov online form for reconsideration, providing necessary documentation.
  • Avoid Default: Preventing loan default is essential to maintaining eligibility for PSLF.

PSLF offers a clear path to forgiveness for those committed to public service careers, with careful adherence to program requirements.

Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Forgiveness

IDR plans provide relief based on income levels, capping monthly payments and offering forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of repayment, depending on the specific plan. Unlike PSLF, which is tied to specific employment, IDR forgiveness is available to a broader range of borrowers.

Recent updates from the Department of Education have introduced significant changes to IDR forgiveness, including a one-time adjustment to count additional months towards forgiveness for eligible borrowers. Key considerations for IDR forgiveness include:

  • Eligible Loans: Federal student loans managed by the Department of Education qualify for IDR forgiveness, with options for borrowers with other loan types to consolidate into eligible loans.
  • Automatic Forgiveness: Borrowers with loans meeting the repayment criteria will see automatic forgiveness, simplifying the process.
  • Consolidation Deadline: Borrowers with non-eligible loans must consolidate into eligible loans by a specified deadline to benefit from the one-time adjustment.
  • Repayment Periods: IDR plans offer varying repayment periods, allowing borrowers to choose options that best suit their financial circumstances.


Sorting through student loan forgiveness options requires careful consideration and adherence to program requirements. Whether pursuing PSLF through public service or IDR forgiveness based on income, borrowers can find relief from the burden of student loan debt. By staying informed and proactive, borrowers can take steps toward a brighter financial future.


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From student loan forgiveness to reducing tax drag on investments, Axias Wealth Advisors understands the unique challenges and financial planning needs you face. We would welcome an opportunity to talk with you about your needs.


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