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Getting Free Help with Your Student Loans is Incredibly Easy

Paying off student loans can be really tough. I get it — I’ve been there myself. The payments just never seem to go away, and it feels like you’re sending all this money into a black hole every month. But here’s the good news: there are tons of options to get free help with student loans out there. You just have to know where to look.

In this article, I’ll walk you through all the best ways to get free assistance with your student loans. I’m talking loan forgiveness programs, repayment plans, deferment options — the works. Just follow along with me, and you’ll be well on your way to freedom from student loan debt.

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Start with Federal Student Aid

The first place you should always check is Federal Student Aid. This is the official site for information on federal student loans and grants. They have a whole section dedicated to repayment options and forgiveness programs.

Some of the key things Federal Student Aid can help with:

  • Enrolling you in income-driven repayment plans
  • Advising you on loan consolidation
  • Guiding you through loan rehabilitation if you’ve defaulted
  • Explaining eligibility for deferment and forbearance

The best part is — all of this help is 100% free. Federal Student Aid counselors are there for you. I’d start here before looking anywhere else.

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Look into Loan Forgiveness Programs

One of the best ways to get your student loans forgiven is through special government programs. There are a few main options here:

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Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

PSLF forgives your remaining federal student loan balance after you make 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for a government agency or qualifying nonprofit. This program could wipe away tens of thousands in debt — it’s an amazing deal.

To get PSLF, you need to be repaying your loans on an income-driven repayment plan. Make sure you submit employment certification forms annually or whenever you change jobs. For complete details, see the PSLF page on the Federal Student Aid site.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

If you teach full-time for five consecutive years in certain low-income schools or educational service agencies, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 on your federal student loans.

There are a few different Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs, each with particular requirements. Learn more at the Teacher Loan Forgiveness page.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

If you have federal Perkins loans (from before 2017), those may be eligible for cancellation if you work in certain occupations like teaching, law enforcement, or the military. You can get up to 100% of your Perkins loan balance discharged through this program.

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See the Perkins Loan Cancellation page for details on qualifying employment and how much of your loan can be canceled.

Explore Repayment Plans

Aside from loan forgiveness, getting on an income-driven repayment plan is one of the best ways to lower your monthly payments. Here are some of the main options:

  • REPAYE: Generally 10% of discretionary income. Payment amount recalculated each year based on income and family size.
  • PAYE: 10% of discretionary income, but never more than you’d pay on a 10-year standard plan. Payment capped at 20 years.
  • IBR: 10% (for newer borrowers) or 15% (for older borrowers) of discretionary income. Payment capped at 20 or 25 years.
  • ICR: 20% of discretionary income. Payment capped at 25 years.
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These plans can significantly lower your monthly payment. You may even end up with a $0 payment if your income is low enough. Just keep in mind you need to recertify each year.

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To get started with income-driven repayment, complete an application on the Federal Student Aid site. You can switch plans at any time if your situation changes.

Look into Deferment or Forbearance

If you’re really in a financial bind, deferment or forbearance can provide temporary relief by letting you stop making payments. Here’s how they differ:

  • Deferment: Stops payments and interest from accruing on subsidized loans. Time counts toward forgiveness programs.
  • Forbearance: Stops payments but interest still accrues. Time does NOT count toward forgiveness.

These options are meant to be short-term solutions in emergencies or cases of financial hardship. You have to reapply periodically.

To request deferment or forbearance, contact your loan servicer. Explain your situation and they can advise you on options.

Consider Loan Consolidation

If you have multiple federal student loans, consolidating them into one can simplify repayment. It also allows you to switch to income-driven repayment and pursue PSLF.

Downsides are that it can slightly increase your interest rate and reset any progress toward forgiveness on your existing loans. Run the numbers to see if it makes sense for you.

To consolidate, complete the federal direct consolidation application. It combines all your eligible federal loans into one new loan.

Rehabilitate Defaulted Loans

Did your federal student loans go into default? Loan rehabilitation can bring them back into good standing so you regain eligibility for deferment, forbearance, and repayment plans.

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To rehabilitate your loans, you’ll need to make nine on-time payments over 10 months. The payments must be “reasonable and affordable” based on your income. After that, your loans return to regular repayment status.

Contact your loan servicer or debt collector right away if your loans are in default. The sooner you rehabilitate them, the sooner you can access options to manage repayment.

Explore Private Refinancing

For private student loans, refinancing can potentially lower your interest rate and monthly payment. You take out a new loan to pay off your existing ones.

Just keep in mind you’ll lose any protections or benefits of your current loans when you refinance. Shop around to compare rates and make sure it makes sense.

Some top private lenders to check for refinancing include Earnest, SoFi, Citizens Bank, and Credible.

Get Free Expert Advice

If you’re still not sure what to do about your loans, talk to a student loan advisor. They can review your situation and explain all your options at no cost.

Here are some great free resources:

Don’t struggle alone. These experts can point you to programs and plans you may not even know exist. And again, their help is 100% free!

The Bottom Line

Dealing with student loans is tough, but you have options. Start with Federal Student Aid to understand repayment plans, forgiveness programs, and ways to lower or defer payments. Talk to expert advisors for personalized guidance. And don’t give up — you can get through this.

Freedom from student loan debt is possible. With a little effort and the right approach, you can get the help you need. Now go tackle those loans!

 

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