Student Loan Forgiveness Statistics

Student Loan Forgiveness Statistics

Top student loan forgiveness statistics

  • $38 billion worth of student loans have been forgiven since the start of 2021
  • This has impacted 1.6 million borrowers
  • This leaves the average amount forgiven at $20,000 per borrower
  •  $14.9 billion worth of student loans have been forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
  • $6.5 billion has been forgiven using the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge program
  • $3.7 billion has been forgiven through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program since its inception in 2009
  • In April 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Education can proceed with a $6 billion settlement for students who had been defrauded by 151 different schools – mostly for-profit institutions
  • Currently, courts are ruling on President Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt per borrower
  • The plan would completely wipe out the student loan debt of up to 20 million borrowers
ProgramAmount forgivenNo. of borrowersAverage forgiven
Public Service Loan Forgiveness$14.9 billion233000$63,826
Total and Permanent Disability$6.5 billion360000$18,056
Teacher Loan Forgiveness$3.7 billion433500$8,460
Borrower Defense to Loan Repayment$2.4 billion174000$13,549
Automatic Closed School Loan Discharge$1.9 billion153000$12,344
Total$29.3 billion1.4 million$21,347

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) statistics

  •  $14.9 billion worth of student loans have been forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
  • That is only 0.65% of the total federal student debt balance
  • More than 233,000 borrowers have had a portion of their loans forgiven through PSLF
  • That is an average of approximately $60,000 per borrower that has been forgiven through PSLF
  • However, when looking at all federal student loan borrowers as a whole, approximately $250 is forgiven by the federal government
  • Since November 2020, only 2.5% of applications have been accepted
  • However, this has increased from 0.32% of applications being approved in 2017
  • An estimated 1.35 million people are eligible for PSLF based upon their employment history
  • The estimated average debt owed by PSLF-eligible borrowers is $99,063
  • This is 2.6 times the debt of an average student

Types of student loan forgiveness

Forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge all refer to various programs that mean the borrower does not need to repay a portion of their student loan debt.

Although all three terms have the same end result, they are used in slightly different ways.

Generally, forgiveness and cancelation are due to a borrower’s job — for example, an army veteran may have their loans forgiven for their service.

If there is a change in your situation — such as permanent disability — this is generally referred to as discharge.

The end result is that the borrower is no longer required to make repayments in all cases

There are 10 different circumstances under which student loans can be canceled, forgiven, or discharged:

  • Public service loan forgiveness – a person working for a qualifying public organization or non-profit can apply for student loan forgiveness after 120 monthly payments while working for that company
  • Teacher loan forgiveness – up to $17,500 can be forgiven after working for 5 years in a low-income elementary or secondary school
  • Closed school discharge – if the school a borrower attends closes while they are enrolled there then they can be eligible for the amount they have built up in student loan debt so far to be discharged
  • Perkins loan cancellation and discharge – cancellation for a specific type of loan. This cancellation is also based on public service or volunteering
  • Total and permanent disability discharge – borrowers who are declared permanently disabled are eligible for their loans to be discharged
  • Discharge due to death – student loans do not need to be repaid after death
  • Discharge in bankruptcy – in very rare circumstances student loans may be discharged in case of bankruptcy
  • Borrower defense to repayment – a borrower can request their loan be discharged if the school failed to deliver the educational services that the loan was meant to pay for
  • False certification discharge – if the school gave a loan to someone who is not eligible or fudged the paperwork, the borrower may have their loans discharged
  • Unpaid refund discharge – borrowers who left school and the school did not meet their obligation to return the loans to the loan servicer may have their loan discharged
  • Forgery discharge – borrowers can have their student loans discharged in the event that someone stole their identity to apply for the loan

How parents of students can have PARENT PLUS loans forgiven

Parents of students may also have their PARENT PLUS loans discharged if they die, the student dies, they are permanently disabled, the child’s school closes before they complete their education, the loan was falsely certified, in case of identity theft, or in the case of an unpaid refund.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program statistics

  • As many 27,000 teachers have had at least some of their student loans forgiven through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • $253.8 million worth of student loans was forgiven through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program in 2021
  • Although this sounds significant, it is only 0.02% of the federal student loan balance

Public attitude towards student loan forgiveness

  • 55% of Americans support the cancellation of student loans up to the value of $10,000 per borrower
  • Given a third of students (32.2%) hold less than $10,000 in federal student debt this would equate to complete student loan forgiveness for 1 in every 3 borrowers
  • 47% of Americans support the cancellation of student loans up to the value of $50,000 per borrower
  • Almost three quarters of borrowers (74.2%) have student debts of less than $40,000. This means 47% of Americans support complete student loan forgiveness for up to 75% of all student loan borrowers.
  • 31% of Americans oppose student loan forgiveness altogether
  • Those who self identify as liberal are much more likely to back student loan forgiveness than those who self identify as conservatives
  • 78% of liberals back student loan forgiveness vs just 39% of conservatives

Student loan forgiveness FAQs

What does it mean for a student loan to be forgiven?

  • Student loan forgiveness means the student borrower no longer needs to repay part or all of the loan
  • Student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge have the same end result where part or all of the loan no longer needs to be repaid
  • Forgiveness and cancellation are generally used to refer to debt canceled due to service in a certain job type – such as a teacher or military service
  • Discharge is usually used when the loan is canceled for other reasons such as the closure of the school the borrower attended or if the borrower is classed as permanently disabled and unable to work

What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?

  • The PSLF is a program that allows the balance of borrowers’ loans to be forgiven
  • To qualify, the borrower must U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization to be eligible
  • They must also have been working in that role full-time (at least 30 hours per week) and made 10 years’ worth of monthly payments (120 payments) in a qualifying plan

What is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program?

  • To qualify, a person must teach full-time for 5 academic years in a row in a low-income school or educational service agency
  • If a person taught mathematics, science, or special education, they are eligible for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness
  • All other teachers are eligible for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness
  • A person is not eligible for both PSLF and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program – they have to make a decision about which loan forgiveness program to pursue