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How Student Loan Forgiveness in Just Ten Years is a Realistic Possiblity

Erasing student debt in less than ten years isn’t guarenteed, but there are realistic options for borrowers to pursue.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.


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Many borrowers might think actually eliminating student debt in just a decade is a dream, but it’s a feasible goal.

That said, the road to forgiveness is paved with strict conditions and strategic planning. Let’s dive into the two primary programs that offer a path to wiping out your student debt in ten years.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Debt Freedom for Public Servants

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program remains a beacon of hope for those in public service roles, offering a route to loan forgiveness after ten years of service and qualifying payments. The key to PSLF is ensuring that your employment, loan type, and repayment plan meet the eligiblity requirements.

Recent reforms have aimed to streamline the process, correcting past administrative hurdles and expanding eligibility. This summer, the one-time adjustment is expected to further ease the path to forgiveness, potentially forgiving years of payments would have otherwise been deemed ineligible.

Sherpa Tip: Don’t leave your PSLF job too early. It’s vital to remain in a qualifying job not just during the period when making the 120 required payments, but also when you apply for forgiveness. Exiting your position too early can jeopardize your eligibility.

SAVE Plan: Quick Forgiveness for Smaller Debts

The Saving on A Valuable Education (SAVE) plan introduced a new forgiveness timeline that benefits those with smaller initial loan amounts. Borrowers starting with less than $12,000 in student loans can earn forgiveness in a decade. Each additional $1,000 borrowed adds a year to the forgiveness schedule, with a cap at 20 years for undergraduates and 25 for graduate students.

Decoding the $12,000 “Original Balance” Rule

This limit applies to your total original loan balance, rather than individual loans. Crucially, increases in your balance due to interest accrual or paused payments do not affect your original forgiveness timeline under SAVE.

Tax Implications of Forgiveness

PSLF offers tax-free forgiveness, a significant benefit for public servants.

For those under the SAVE plan, any loans forgiven before 2026 will also avoid federal taxes. Post-2025, there is reason for hope that future loan forgiveness won’t be taxed either.

Sherpa Tip: If you are facing a potential tax bill in the future, it is a good idea to start planning now. The best plan will account for the possiblity that you won’t get taxed, but have money set aside if you do get taxed.

As a borrower working toward SAVE forgivneess, my tax bill plan is to use a Roth IRA to give myself some flexiblity.

The Challenge with Private Student Loans

Regrettably, private student loans are excluded from federal forgiveness programs, with no option to convert them into federal loans. For these debts, the best strategy is refinancing for better terms and focusing on aggressive repayment.

As of May, 2024, the following lenders currently offer the lowest interest rates on private student loan refinancing:

RankLenderLowest RateSherpa Review
1Earnest5.09%Earnest Review
2Splash Financial5.19%*Splash Financial Review
3ELFI5.48%ELFI Review

Maximizing Forgiveness Benefits

To make the most of federal forgiveness programs, lowering your monthly payment maximizes the forgiven amount. This can be achieved by:

Final Thoughts

Understanding and managing student loan forgiveness can be tricky, but with some careful planning and a bit of effort, getting your loans forgiven in just ten years is a real possibility. Though it requires jumping through some hoops, pursuing loan forgiveness is a viable path and a resonable strategy.

For many, it is the most afforadable way to eliminate federal student loans.

About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

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