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How To Avoid Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

There are several legitimate programs that federal student loan borrowers can utilize to have their federal student loans forgiven. Unfortunately, there are also student loan forgiveness program scams. Confusion surrounding loan forgiveness can create space for scammers to thrive. Most commonly, companies will promise something that cannot be done, or charge an upfront fee for something that can be done online for free.

The real trick for borrowers will be distinguishing between a company that is providing student loan counseling in a fair and legitimate way from a company that is trying to take advantage of unsuspecting students.

Is Student Loan Forgiveness a Scam?

There are millions of students paying college student loans and the idea of having those student loans forgiven can be very appealing. There are legitimate student loan forgiveness programs that are available to federal student loan borrowers who meet the program requirements.

These include programs like Public Services Loan Forgiveness or the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. There may be other options for forgiving student loans, depending on your background and program requirements.

What Is a Student Loan Forgiveness Scam?

A student loan forgiveness scam is when a service makes a promise that they cannot deliver on. For borrowers looking to get out of student loan debt quickly, these promises can seem promising. Unfortunately, scams may offer impossible promises like immediate loan forgiveness or may trick student loan borrowers into disclosing personal information.

Types of Student Loan Scams

Student loan scams can take many forms. Be wary of scams that come in the form of unsolicited calls, texts, or emails.

Student Loan Forgiveness Scam Calls

If you receive an unsolicited call asking you for information about your student loans, pay close attention. Some calls may present opportunities to cancel student loan debt. In general, any call offering a fast solution to pay off your student loans is a scam. The U.S. Department of Education offers legitimate forgiveness programs and opportunities to lower your student loan payments, all of which can be accessed at no cost to borrowers directly through their loan servicers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a sample of what these calls might sound like, so you can be prepared.

Student Loan Forgiveness Text Scam

Texting is another avenue for scammers to contact student loan borrowers. These communications might include the need to “act immediately” or tout enrollment for debt relief is taking place on a first-come first-served in order to inspire a false sense of urgency.

Text scams are newer on the scamming spectrum, so consumers may not be expecting them. Instead of responding to the message, call your student loan servicer on the number listed on their website. In general, most student loan servicers will not conduct business via text messages.

Spotting Student Loan Scams

When it comes to student loan scams, the short rule of thumb is that anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is. For example, if a company claims that with an up-front fee that your loans will automatically be forgiven, it is a scam. No program exists where loans are “automatically” forgiven for a fee.

If you have a feeling that you might be getting scammed, do a thorough internet search for the company. More than likely, someone else has been in contact with, and possibly taken advantage of by, this company.

The problem with relying on an internet search to look for a scam? Not every scam will have been identified through an internet search, as they change their names and phone numbers often to avoid the background research a consumer might conduct. Here are a few common techniques used by student loan scammers.

Upfront Cost & Fees

Any student loan company offering to help you for an upfront fee is a scam. According to the FTC, it is illegal for companies to charge you before providing assistance. And importantly, borrowers can get help directly from their student loan servicer or Department of Education at no cost.

Immediate Student Loan Forgiveness

Another huge red flag — organizations offering to provide immediate or complete student loan forgiveness. Most government loan forgiveness programs require a record of qualifying payments and or employment certifications depending on the program.

Requesting Passwords

Broadly speaking, legitimate companies won’t ask you to verify personal details out of the blue. If you receive a call, email, or text asking you to disclose your passwords or any other sensitive personal information, think twice before responding. Sharing personal details could allow scammers to access your loan information, or other important accounts.

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Avoiding Student Loan Scams

Attention to detail and diligence in communication can help you avoid some common student loan scams. Here are eight student loan scams to avoid.

1. A Promise of Immediate Forgiveness

Beware of any promise that seems too good to be true. Student loan forgiveness takes time, period. A company can only help you fill out paperwork for a forgiveness program; they cannot forgive your loans.

2. A Request for an Upfront Fee

Many scams rely on obtaining an upfront fee for something that either cannot be done (immediate loan forgiveness) or something that can be done for free, online (apply for a loan forgiveness program). You should only agree to payment once the company has completed the service in question.

3. Private Loan Refinancing

In general, only federal loans are eligible for loan forgiveness programs. Be cautious of any company that tells you that they can get your private loans forgiven. Private loans don’t typically offer forgiveness programs.

4. A Phone Call

Many scams start with a student loan forgiveness call. The Department of Education, who directs federal loan forgiveness programs, will never call you. If they need to correspond with you, they will by mail.

5. A Request to Pay Them and Not Your Lender

No company will ever make your student loan payments for you. You can pay them for a service, sure. But it is unwise to make your student loan payments to anyone except for who you owe.

6. A Request to Stop Making Student Loan Payments

No legit company will ever recommend you stop making your loan payments. A company working in your best interest will advise you to make all of your payments on the correct repayment plan so that you’re sure to qualify for any applicable loan forgiveness programs.

7. Asking for Your FSA ID

No one should ever ask for your Federal Student Aid ID. Your FSA ID allows you to log onto the government website where borrowers manage their federal student loans.

8. Official-Looking Insignias

Fraudsters do a good job of making their websites, seals, and paperwork look like official government branding. Just because something looks official does not mean it is official, so do your research.

Reporting Student Loan Scams

If you encounter any student loan scams, you can have a few different options for reporting them. You can report scams to the Department of Education through the Federal Student Aid website .

You can also report the business conducting the student loan scam to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau . Anyone who has been contacted by what they believe to be a scam can also report it to the
FTC
.

Looking for Safe Private Student Loans?

Not everyone qualifies for loan forgiveness. Others may not actually find that it makes the most sense for their own personal financial situation. (This may be especially true for loan forgiveness programs that require you to pay taxes on the forgiven balance, such as income-driven repayment.)

Those looking for a safe borrowing option may want to consider SoFi. Private student loans from SoFi have no fees and are available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, or their parents.

The Takeaway

Student loan scams rely on the borrower’s lack of understanding on how their loans, and loan forgiveness program works. Pay attention to texts, emails, or phone calls that over-promise on their ability to lower your monthly payments or have loans forgiven, as these are generally indicators that there is a scam, or other unfavorable business going on. If you have any doubt, contact your loan servicer directly to avoid falling into a scammer’s trap.

No matter what path you take with your student loans, always be sure to do adequate research. It’s hard to scam someone that understands their loans, and their options for repaying them.

Interested in learning more about paying for college with a private student loan? Get a rate quote from SoFi for free in just a few minutes.


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Your 2021 Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

Your 2022 Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article, the Biden administration has extended the pause on federal student loan repayment through December 31, 2022.

Student loan forgiveness was a hot topic on the campaign trail—but is one that is largely plodding along.

While President Joe Biden has endorsed $10,000 of federal student loan cancellation, few Republicans support blanket student loan forgiveness.

In June, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer again urged Biden to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt for every borrower. Biden has asked the Justice Department and the Department of Education to assess whether or not he has the authority to unilaterally cancel student loan debt.

If the answer is “yes,” how much might he cancel? He has maintained that $50,000 is too much, especially given the relatively high incomes of graduates of high-tuition colleges.

Here are types of debt that have been canceled under Biden student loan forgiveness acts, and debt that may be forgiven in the future:

Loan Discharge for the Defrauded and Disabled

One major move Biden and his Education Department made in his first few months in office was discharging loans from for-profit institutions that defrauded students.

In March 2021, a decision was made to discharge nearly $1 billion worth of debt for 72,000 students. This was a continuation of a Trump-era policy, which had provided partial debt relief to those students.

The borrower defense to repayment program had been expanded under President Obama and trimmed under President Trump. This particular ruling applied to students who had had claims approved but had only received partial relief.

In June, the Biden administration discharged more than $500 million in debt for 18,000 former students of ITT Technical Institute, a for-profit school that closed in 2016. The administration is still working through a backlog of claims from the Trump administration.

The Biden administration also moved to forgive more than $1.3 billion worth of debt for 41,000 loan holders with permanent disabilities.

Advocacy groups say the move did not go far enough, and that the administration should forgive the $8 billion in debt held by over 500,000 borrowers who are considered totally and permanently disabled.

So what do these Education Department actions mean for those who do not fit under any borrower defense that has been invoked? The answer is still unclear, but the recent moves indicate that student loan reform is likely to be a key pillar of the administration.

The Latest on the Loan Payment Pause

The CARES Act in 2020 suspended payments and interest accrual on most federal student loans. The administrative forbearance was extended twice under Trump and again under Biden. The payment pause is slated to expire on Jan. 31, 2022.

Advocates see the next few months as an opportunity for the Biden administration to act quickly in terms of reform. Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have led the charge to urge Biden to continue the payment pause through at least March 2022.

But as of now, payments are on track to resume in February. This may be a good time for borrowers to plan how they will resume payments, look into forbearance or deferral programs if they are not in a position to do so, or consider refinancing with a private lender if they can get a better rate.

What Might the Education Department Cover Next?

On the campaign trail, Biden promised multiple student loan reforms. Some will likely have to be approved by Congress. They include:

Free community college. In April, Biden promised to make good on that promise with the American Families Plan, which also would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $1,400.

Overhauling the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Candidate Biden said he would streamline the program to make it easier for borrowers to qualify. He suggested $10,000 of forgiven undergraduate or graduate debt for every year of working in a nonprofit or public sector job, for up to five years.

People who have had qualifying public service roles would qualify for the program. The Department of Education is looking into PSLF claims, and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has called the current rejection rate “unacceptable.”

Streamlining Pay as You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE) programs. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to simplify and streamline these programs, at one point suggesting repayments of 5% of discretionary income for people making over $25,000, with any remaining debt discharged after 20 years. As of this month, the Biden administration is reviewing these programs.

Permitting student loan debt discharged in bankruptcy. Cases are circulating in the lower courts related to student loans and bankruptcy, challenging the status quo that student loans are rarely forgiven in a bankruptcy filing. But this month, the Supreme Court declined to review a case in which student loan discharge was denied.

Recommended: PAYE vs REPAYE: What’s the Difference?

Loan Forgiveness Plans Right Now

Federal student loan holders have forgiveness options if they meet certain criteria. The Education Department is likely to move forward on some reform fronts, but it may be challenging for certain acts to gain congressional approval.
In the meantime, here are some current programs:

Income-based plans. Income-driven repayment plans, which include PAYE and REPAYE, are meant to forgive any remaining student loan balance after 20 or 25 years of monthly payments that are tied to income and family size.

PSLF. Direct Loan borrowers working for a federal, state, local, or tribal government or nonprofit organization are to have any loan balance forgiven after making 120 qualifying payments. But debt discharge from PSLF has been notoriously challenging.

Disability discharge. Total and permanent disability relieves you from having to repay a Direct Loan, a Federal Family Education Loan, and/or a Federal Perkins Loan, or to complete a teacher grant service obligation.

“Undue hardship” alongside bankruptcy. While bankruptcy alone won’t keep a borrower from having to pay back federal or private student loans, a rare few may be able to prove that continuing to repay student loans imposes an “undue hardship” on them and their family.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Those who teach at a low-income school or educational service agency for five years and meet other criteria may be eligible for up to $17,500 in federal student loan forgiveness.

Closed-school discharge. If your school closes while you’re enrolled or closed shortly thereafter, you may be able to get your federal loans discharged.

Discharge due to death. If the borrower dies, or the person taking out the loan dies, loans may be discharged. This also applies to Parent PLUS Loans if the parent dies or becomes disabled.

Borrower defense to repayment. This is the umbrella under which many borrowers received forgiveness under the Biden Department of Education for loans from for-profit institutions. Direct Loan borrowers may receive forgiveness if a school did something or failed to do something related to your loan or the educational services that your loan was intended to pay for.

An attorney who specializes in student loans can be helpful in ensuring that a borrower meets the requirements of certain forgiveness scenarios and can help ensure that any paperwork is in order.

Can Private Student Loans Be Forgiven?

When it comes to private student loans, cancellation happens rarely, if ever.

Some private lenders do offer certain protections, such as unemployment protection, in case you were unable to make payments.

If a borrower cannot pay a private loan, they may speak to their lender to determine what programs and paths may be available.

Right now, it is unclear whether broad student loan forgiveness, by the presidential or congressional act, could include private loans.

Recommended: What Is the Student Loan Forgiveness Act?

The Takeaway

Biden student loan forgiveness has totaled more than $2 billion for particular borrowers, but some advocates want to see much more. Will the student loan forgiveness 2022 story be one of sweeping or incremental change? Time will tell.

And as of now, the pause on federal student loan payments ends in January. Knowing your options to repay your student loans, which may include refinancing with a private lender—resulting in one new loan, with an eye toward a lower rate—will be helpful in creating a path forward.

If you refinance your federal student loans with SoFi, you can lock in your rate now, and make no payments until February 2022.

It’s easy to check your rate on a refi with SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/simarik


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

In our efforts to bring you the latest updates on things that might impact your financial life, we may occasionally enter the political fray, covering candidates, bills, laws and more. Please note: SoFi does not endorse or take official positions on any candidates and the bills they may be sponsoring or proposing. We may occasionally support legislation that we believe would be beneficial to our members, and will make sure to call it out when we do. Our reporting otherwise is for informational purposes only, and shouldn’t be construed as an endorsement.

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Financial Planning

Should I Invest if I Still Have Debt?

As you start to establish yourself financially, you may come to a crossroads: should you pay off debt or invest in your future? It can be confusing to know what to do in this situation, especially if you have multiple financial goals you’re saving toward.

The first step is to look at the numbers, then to consider your preferences. There is no one “right” answer to this question. Let’s start by taking a look at the numbers around major financial milestones like your student loan, buying a home, and saving for retirement.

Let’s say your student loan is $75,000. Buying a new home might cost $350,000, and you might plan to need $2,000,000 for a comfortable retirement. Everyone’s numbers will look a bit different, so feel free to take some time to calculate yours.

Once you’ve put your estimated numbers on a page, what jumps out at you? It’s hard not to notice that retirement is quite a bit more expensive than the others. This isn’t too much of a surprise if you consider what retirement is: living for decades with no salary.

While you might be tempted to put all your extra income immediately into your retirement fund, it’s not necessarily the winning decision when it comes to whether to pay off loans or invest. Let’s look deeper.

How Important is Paying Off Your Student Loans?

If you’re like the average student, you’ve borrowed $30,000 or more to pursue a bachelor’s degree . If you went on to graduate school, your student loan debt may be even higher.

Most federal student loans have a repayment period of 10 to 30 years. You may opt to make the minimum payment each month for the duration of your loan repayment plan, or you might decide to pay yours off early.

One benefit to paying off a student loan early is that you reduce your debt to income ratio (that’s how much debt you have compared to how much income you have). This might raise your credit score and help you qualify for other financial solutions.

Or, you might decide to continue paying your student loan while investing in other areas of your life, like retirement or buying a home.

Know Your Student Loan Interest Rates

Before you can decide whether to pay off student loans or save for other things, look at what you’re paying in interest for your student loans. If the rate you locked in when you took out your loan is higher than current rates, you might consider student loan refinancing. If you have multiple student loans, you could potentially consolidate and refinance them for a lower interest rate.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans means you’re no longer eligible for federal benefits and protections, like income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness programs, so it makes sense to weigh the potential benefits and risks of refinancing before taking the plunge.

Comparing interest rates is an exercise in opportunity cost. Any decision to pursue one goal means you’re missing out on something else, but ideally, we look to minimize opportunity costs when assessing financial trade-offs. In this instance, the opportunity cost is leaving potential investment earnings on the table.

Let’s say you recently refinanced your student loan from 5% to 3.5%. Given the competitive rate on your newly refinanced student loan, you could consider continuing to make the monthly payment on your loan and allocating the extra cash flow elsewhere — like investing for retirement or buying a home.

Remember, we want to think about interest rates in terms of opportunity cost. What would it look like if you paid off your loan early? Your student loan costs you 3.5% annually, and that’s what you’ll “save” if you accelerate your payoff by $500 per month.

Once you paid off the loan early, you could invest your money in an asset class — such as the stock market — with the potential to earn a rate of return that’s higher than 3.5%. Historically, the stock market has returned an average of 10%. This investing can be done within a retirement account, whether a 401(k) or an IRA.

That said, stock market returns are erratic, and the annualized return figures you often hear quoted are just that — an average. Investing is risky, and there is always a chance that returns over the next five, 10, or 20 years will not outpace the interest that you are currently making on your student loan payment.

No one, not even a financial planner, has a crystal ball and can see into the future. This is why we also need to take into account your personal preferences.

If you feel like you are truly missing out on investing in an IRA or saving for a home, then investing in those things might be the right path for you. If your student debt makes you feel burdened and miserable, you could focus on that instead.

Paying Off Student Loans vs. Investing

“So, should I pay off student loans or invest,” you ask.

The answer is…it’s complicated.

Student loans often come with low interest rates, which means you’re not paying a huge amount of extra money over the years (like you would with a credit card, for example). So it’s low-cost debt. That means that if you want to invest in other areas of your life, such as saving for retirement or to buy a house, you may be able to do both.

Contributing to a Retirement Account

Many Americans are vastly under-saving for retirement, and with so many employers offering a 401(k) matching program, not contributing is like throwing money down the drain.

There is no standard for match programs — they can range from meager to generous. Between your contributions and your employer’s, it is often recommended that you save between 15% and 20% of your salary for retirement. You can do this by contributing the full allowable amount to your 401(k), which is $19,500 in 2021.

If you don’t have access to a 401(k) — perhaps you’re self-employed — you can save for retirement with other investment accounts like an online IRA or a brokerage account. No matter which account you use, you might want to consider putting that money to work with a long-term investment strategy. For example, you might choose to deploy a strategy of low-cost mutual funds that invests in stocks and bonds.

Buying a Home

Financial planners don’t all agree on whether a home is a good investment. That is not to say that a home is not a good financial goal; if it’s a priority to you, then it’s great. This is simply a commentary on whether a home produces a good return on investment.

Although a house may not have as high an investment return as other asset classes, such as the stock market, a house provides something that a stock or bond cannot — immediate utility. You cannot sleep and eat inside a stock or a bond.

While home values do typically grow over time, you must also take into consideration the costs of buying and owning a home, such as the interest paid on the mortgage, property taxes, and repairs and maintenance. That said, homeownership can be rewarding, and can pay major dividends down the line. One big benefit is having no monthly housing expenses (like rent or a mortgage) in retirement.

The Takeaway

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to investing while juggling debt. Undoubtedly, the biggest ticket item you’ll need to invest for is retirement — but whether you invest in retirement before or after paying down debt depends on your personal preferences and situation.

One thing to remember: Financial tradeoff decisions don’t always have to be all-or-nothing. You might choose to split the difference by putting a little here and a little there. For example, you might contribute $300 per month to your 401(k) and $200 to a high-yield savings account for your down payment for a house, all while paying off student loans.

With SoFi Invest®, you can invest in traditional and Roth IRAs, crypto, or ETFs, with hands-on active investing or automated investing. The choice is yours — based on your personal situation, goals, and preferences.

Find out how to invest for your future with SoFi Invest.


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1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


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The Student Loan Discharge Process Explained

Being able to forget about a debt altogether—instead of having to pay it back—sounds like a dream come true. But waving goodbye to some types of debt doesn’t always require a Fairy Godmother. For those who qualify for a student loan discharge, it can be possible to make some or all student debt disappear.

Student debt forgiveness, cancellation, and student loan discharge all refer to programs that allow graduates to stop paying off their student loans and cancel out any remaining debt.

There are some slight differences between forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge, generally having to do with the reason for which the debt is discharged.

In each case though, the end result is the same: having a student loan forgiven, canceled, or discharged means no more loan payments and an outstanding balance of zero dollars.

Who Qualifies for Student Loan Discharge?

Student loan forgiveness programs are offered by the federal government for certain individuals working in some public service jobs, including some teaching positions.

With the average annual cost of tuition, fees, room, and board coming in at an average of $21,950 for individuals enrolled in in-state public institutions in 2019-2020, and $49,870 for those attending private schools, it’s unsurprising that many people have to borrow money to fund their education.

The Federal Reserve estimates that some 55% of people under 30 who attended college—and 31% of all adults—had to incur some debt to pay for their schooling, while in all, the total value of all student debt in the U.S. was worth a whopping $1.7-trillion dollars as of December 2020.

While many of these individuals will have to repay their student loans, some may qualify for student loan discharge and forgiveness programs.

Individuals may also apply for a federal student loan discharge under certain circumstances such as total and permanent disability, school closure, and, in some cases, bankruptcy.

Student loan discharge programs are intended for individuals with federal student loans. But the type of loan matters too. With the exception of Borrower Defense to Repayment, which is available for Direct Loans only, all of the below discharge programs are available for both Direct and FFEL Program loans.

Perkins Loans have their own forgiveness and discharge programs, though most of the below scenarios qualify. Note that the Perkins Loan program ended in 2017.

There are no blanket programs or rules about private student loan discharge. While some lenders will discharge a student loan in the event of disability or death, there are no regulations obligating them to do so.

Recommended: What Is the Student Loan Forgiveness Act?

Types of Federal Student Loan Discharge Programs

The federal government offers a number of programs for canceling or discharging student debt.

Forgiveness/cancellation programs are generally available to individuals who:

•   work in the public sector, for a government or not-for-profit organization
•   or for full-time teachers at low-income schools or educational services agencies, who have been employed there for five full consecutive years.

There are also a number of circumstances under which an individual may qualify to have their student loan discharged. Read on for more details on the different reasons federal student loans may be discharged.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Closed School Discharge

Individuals may be eligible for a 100% discharge on some types of student loans if their school closes while they are still enrolled or soon after they withdraw. Students on an approved leave of absence at the time of school closure are still eligible.

There are some exceptions:
•   For loans disbursed prior to July 1, 2020, an individual may not have withdrawn from their program more than 120 days before the school closure (180 days prior to closure for loans disbursed after July 1, 2020)
•   The individual may not have completed the coursework for their program prior to the closure
Students cannot transfer to another school to complete the program or do so via other means

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

In order to qualify for a total and permanent disability discharge, an individual must be able to provide documentation that they have become totally and permanently disabled. There are only three allowed sources that can provide the documentation required to qualify:
•   the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
•   the Social Security Administration
•   or a physician

Each of these sources carries unique requirements in order to verify eligibility.

Recommended: Student Loan Disability Discharge Eligibility

Discharge Due to Death

A federal student loan may be discharged with acceptable proof of death. Documentation such as a death certificate generally qualifies as acceptable proof of death.

Discharge in Bankruptcy

Though not automatic, it is possible to have a student loan discharged in the event of Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This discharge requires a separate legal action, called an adversary proceeding, in which the court must agree that having to continue to repay the debt would impose an undue hardship on the individual.

In addition to discharges granted due to an individual’s personal circumstances, there are also some scenarios where the school’s actions may confer eligibility. These include:
•   Borrower Defense to Repayment: if the school engaged in certain types of misconduct based on certain state laws
•   False Certification Discharge: if an individual’s school falsely certifies their ability to receive a loan
•   Unpaid refund discharge: if an individual withdraws but the school does not return loan funds as required

Recommended: Bankruptcy and Student Loans: What You Should Know

The Takeaway

There are a few programs that allow eligible borrowers to discharge their student loan debt. For private student loans, there is no universal rule or regulation governing discharge.

While getting rid of student debt would indeed be a dream come true for most people, the stringent requirements for receiving federal student loan discharge means many people are not eligible.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to reduce the burden. Refinancing a student loan is one way to help lower the total cost of student debt by tapping into more favorable interest rates for qualifying borrowers, which could reduce the total amount of interest paid.

The benefits of federal student loans are eliminated when the loan is refinanced, so those pursuing federal loan forgiveness, and others, may not want to refinance.

Learn more about whether student loan refinancing is the right option for you.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS, PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THE WHITE HOUSE HAS ANNOUNCED UP TO $20,000 OF STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS FOR PELL GRANT RECIPIENTS AND $10,000 FOR QUALIFYING BORROWERS WHOSE STUDENT LOANS ARE FEDERALLY HELD. ADDITIONALLY, THE FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT PAUSE AND INTEREST HOLIDAY HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO DEC. 31, 2022. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE THE AMOUNT OR PORTION OF YOUR FEDERAL STUDENT DEBT THAT YOU REFINANCE WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

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5 Key Pieces of Finance Advice for All Med School Grads Starting Residency

5 Financial Tips for Med School Grads Starting Residency

Congratulations! After years of rigorous studying, training, and overall hard work, you’ve graduated from medical school. At this point, you’ve likely made it through Match Day and are ready to start a residency, even closer to becoming a fully fledged doctor.

Though the relief of graduation is certainly well deserved, medical school isn’t going to disappear from your rearview mirror soon. If you’re like most medical students, you likely finished school with a considerable amount of debt.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges , 84% of medical students in the graduating class of 2020 had education debt (premedical and medical) of $100,000 or more, with 54% of graduates owing $200,000 or more and 20% owing $300,000 or more.

And while doctors can potentially make quite a bit of money—pediatricians earn an average of $232,000 and orthopedic specialists make $511,000, according to Medscape’s 2020 annual compensation report , for example—the average resident does not.

So, what’s a resident to do? Unfortunately, for some, finances may continue to be a challenge in the years immediately after graduating from medical school, so it could be helpful to take steps to lessen the financial anxiety that can accompany such a significant debt load.

The good news is most physicians could be on track to pay off their debt quicker than those in other fields with lower earning potential. But, even once you make the big bucks as a doctor and negotiate a sizable physician signing bonus, you’ll likely look to maintain your financial well-being.

Here, we take a look at some steps that may help you to get the most out of your money post-med school-and manage your student loans.

Making a Post-Med School Budget and Sticking to It

Residency can feel like a time when you’re struggling to make ends meet while working 12-hour shifts on your way to becoming a doctor. Being placed in a city with a high cost of living only increases the challenge.

The average resident salary in 2020 was $63,400, according to Medscape’s 2020 annual report . This may not go as far as it would seem to someone who has been in school earning no money.

Creating a budget that makes sense for your current circumstances and sticking to it will help. This might not include a fancy car (yet), and unless you’ve already signed a medical contract to stay in the same city after your residency, then it may not include buying a house either—even if you might be tempted by a mortgage loan.

Budgeting doesn’t end once you’re done with residency, either. If you can stick to your resident budget for an extra year or two, you may be able to save up money to pay down more on your student loans and start your medical career with some cash.

After all, the rate at which you are able to become debt-free may largely depend on your budget and lifestyle, not just your income.

Having an Emergency Fund and a Retirement Account

Typically, a good financial wellness rule of thumb is to aim to have a few months’ worth of your income saved up for an emergency fund. And yes, this is even applicable for doctors, who, like everyone else, could have something happen that ends up being a huge expense.

Given this, one good idea may be to start stashing away money whenever you can, and putting this emergency money into a separate account from your regular checking account. This way, you can know that it’s there but not be tempted to use it.

Though retirement may seem like a lifetime away—especially after recently finishing up school—saving for retirement as soon as is practical is a common financial goal. It’s also helpful to get into the habit of putting away something regularly. With a solid budget in place, you may be less likely to have to pick between paying down student loans and setting aside for retirement: it’s possible to do both.

Depending on your situation and goals, you may want to invest your money in a 401(k), 403(b), or a traditional or Roth IRA. It may be helpful to keep in mind that one easy way to up your retirement savings is by contributing enough to your employer-sponsored plan to max out on any company match. If your work doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan, consider opening an IRA with SoFi and get access to a broad range of investment options, member services, and a robust suite of planning and investment tools.

Considering an Income-Driven Loan Repayment Plan

You might find yourself feeling tempted to put your medical school student loans (if they’re federal student loans) on hold or into forbearance while you finish residency, but that move could still rack up interest and leave you further in debt.

Instead, you might consider an income-driven repayment plan that establishes monthly payments based on your income and family size.

It may not be as fast as sticking with traditional repayment plans, but if it’s necessary, this method could potentially help you avoid ballooning interest payments while you’re in residency, and typically lowers your monthly payments by lengthening your loan term. (Repayer beware: longer loan terms mean more interest payments, so it’s likely you’ll pay more for your loans overall.)

For med school graduates, there are a few federal income-driven repayment plans you may want to consider: income-based repayment (IBR), income-contingent repayment (ICR), and Pay As You Earn (PAYE).

The eligibility requirements will vary for each type of plan, and you may have to pay more once you sign a medical contract or earn more as a doctor, as income for plans such as PAYE is reviewed on an annual basis. Still, it’s helpful to consider the different options out there and choose what works best for you. And if you choose to practice medicine in underserved communities—as we’ll explain in more detail below—an income-driven repayment plan may be part of that picture.

Checking out Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Another potential option you may want to look into is going into a public service program. This option allows for a particularly attractive perk for doctors: student loan debt forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is one such program run by the U.S. Department of Education that forgives the remainder of federal loans after participants have met certain eligibility requirements, such as ten years’ worth of on-time, eligible monthly payments and working for a qualifying employer, which typically includes government or certain nonprofit organizations.

The good news is that these programs may tie in nicely with the work you already want to do as a doctor. If you’ve always wanted to go into public service and also find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of paying off all of your debts, then this may be a great option.

Even if you’re not entirely sure, it may be a good idea to get started with the process now because you will need to ensure your repayment plan is on track in order to qualify later—and that may require one of the income-driven plans mentioned above.

To set yourself up financially for this situation, first you may need to consolidate your federal loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, but it’s wise to carefully review the PSLF program requirements first.

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) also have med school loan repayment programs for doctors who are interested in doing medical research for a nonprofit organization (through NIH programs) or health care work in a high-need area (via the NHSC program).

Many states also run their own loan forgiveness and repayment programs for doctors, which are worth looking into if you’re interested in this route. Keep in mind, there may be several different options that can help you get your loans forgiven.

Looking into Refinancing Your Student Loans

Dealing with student debt can be one of the most stressful things people experience in their lifetime. After years of hard work, graduating into a world of six-figure debt can sometimes feel anti-climatic, but rest assured that there are options.

Even if the above strategies aren’t a fit for you, there are other ways to move forward. Depending on your exact situation and needs, you may be a good candidate for student loan refinancing, which allows you to consolidate outstanding loans and may reduce your interest rates, as well as your stress levels.

(Keep in mind that refinancing your student loans with a private lender will mean that federal loan benefits, such as PSLF and income-driven repayment, will no longer be available to you.)

Refinancing your loans at a lower interest rate can be a fairly simple way to save money on the lifetime cost of your loan. SoFi has a number of student loan refinance options for medical school graduates, with variable or fixed interest rates and no application fees.

Don’t let your loans keep you from financial wellness. Consider refinancing your medical school student loans with SoFi, and see if you can save yourself money in the long run.



External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, LLC and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.

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