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How to Defer or Discharge Student Loan Debt

Under special circumstances, you can receive a deferment on the repayment of your federal student loans. You may even get your entire student loan debt forgiven (or to use the technical term, discharged) in certain circumstances.

To be eligible for deferment, your loan can’t be in default. If it is, you have to get back on a satisfactory payment program and keep making payments until you receive approval for deferment.

Here’s how you might be able to get a deferment or discharge of your student loan debt:

  • Deferring a Stafford Loan: In some cases, if you’re unable to find full-time employment after you graduate or if you experience severe economic hardship, or in one of the following specific circumstances:

    • You become a full-time elementary or secondary teacher for five consecutive years in an area that serves low-income families.

    • Your school closes before you can complete your program.

    • Your school doesn’t pay out your loan amount.

    • You file for bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court decides that your student loan needs to be discharged.

    • You die or become permanently disabled, making work impossible.

  • Putting off Perkins payments: You automatically get a nine-month grace period with a Perkins Loan, but you may be able to postpone repayment even longer if

    • You’re unable to find work on a full-time basis.

    • You encounter severe economic hardship.

    • You become a community service worker in such professions as law enforcement, corrections, or teaching in designated low-income areas.

  • Cancelling your Perkins loan: Situations that may qualify for a cancellation of your Perkins Loan include

    • Becoming a full-time special education teacher or a teacher of children with diagnosed learning disabilities.

    • Performing early intervention services for the elderly on a full-time, professional basis.

    • Serving as a full-time law enforcement or corrections officer.

    • Becoming a full-time staff member in the education division of a Head Start Program.

    Up to 70 percent of your Perkins Loan can be forgiven if you enlist in the AmeriCorps VISTA Program or become a Peace Corps volunteer.

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