Student Loans

Last year the Biden administration announced targeted student debt forgiveness of up to $20,000 for eligible federal student borrowers through the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program.  Courts have issued orders blocking this student debt relief program and the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court.

As a result, at this time, the Department of Education is not accepting applications, but they are seeking to overturn those orders. The pause on student loan payments remains in effect.  No interest will accrue, and this time will count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  Payments will resume 60 days after the Supreme Court announces its decision.  If it has not made a decision or resolved the litigation by June 30, 2023, payments will resume 60 days after that.

The City of San Francisco has joined the fight, recently joining with Public Rights Project and a group of 40 cities and counties across the country to make the case for student debt relief before the Supreme Court in an amicus brief.

Please note, the targeted student debt forgiveness program is currently on hold due to a court order.  The following will apply if and when the program resumes:

The Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program provides eligible borrowers with full or partial discharge (cancellation) of loans up to $20,000.  Borrowers with annual income in 2021 or 2020 of under $125,000 (for individuals) or under $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households) who received a Pell Grant in college will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. Borrowers who met those income standards but did not receive a Pell Grant will be eligible for up to $10,000 in relief.  If you filed federal taxes, your income requirements are based on your adjusted gross income (AGI), which tends to be lower than your total income. Your AGI can be found on line 11 of the IRS Form 1040.

Recently enrolled undergraduate students may apply, as long as their federal student loans were disbursed on or before June 30, 2022.  Students should apply using their own income information, and may be contacted for further instructions if they are dependents of their parents.

Parents with eligible loans of their own, including parent PLUS loans, can also apply.  If both a parent and child have eligible loans, their applications will be processed separately. 

Please note, the targeted student debt forgiveness program is currently on hold due to a court order.  The following will apply if and when the program resumes:

If you believe you are eligible for the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program to receive a full or partial discharge of your student loans, complete the online application.  The application is available now through December 31, 2023.  Filling out the application is easy and takes about 5 minutes.  You will not need to log in or provide any documentation.  Once your application has been received, the U.S. Department of Education will determine your eligibility and contact you if additional information is needed.  Your loan servicer will notify you when your relief has been processed.

Please note, the targeted student debt forgiveness program is currently on hold due to a court order.  The following will apply if and when the program resumes:

The following types of federal student loans disbursed (when you received your loan funds) on or before June 30, 2022, are eligible for relief:

  • William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans
  • Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or in default at a guaranty agency
  • Federal Perkins Loan Program loans held by ED
  • Defaulted loans (includes ED-held or commercially serviced Subsidized Stafford, Unsubsidized Stafford, parent PLUS, graduate PLUS; and Perkins loans held by ED)

This means that subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans, parent PLUS loans, and graduate PLUS loans held by ED are eligible. Consolidation loans are also eligible for relief, as long as all of the underlying loans that were consolidated were ED-held loans and were disbursed on or before June 30, 2022.

Additionally, consolidation loans comprised of any FFEL or Perkins loans not held by ED are also eligible, as long as the borrower applied for consolidation before Sept. 29, 2022.

Private loans (i.e., non-federal loans) are not eligible for debt relief.

Please note, the targeted student debt forgiveness program is currently on hold due to a court order.  The following will apply if and when the program resumes:

You might be contacted by a company saying they will help you get loan discharge, forgiveness, cancellation, or debt relief for a fee. You never have to pay for help with your federal student aid. Make sure you work only with ED and its loan servicers, and never reveal your personal information or account password to anyone.  The emails to borrowers come from,, or You can report scam attempts to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357 or by visiting

Yes, the good news is that options exist to make your student loan payments more affordable! Income-driven repayment plans are based on your income and your family size. If you are not making much money – and especially if you have lost your job or experienced a decrease in income– you can even lower your payments to ZERO.

Find out more and enroll in an income-driven repayment plan here

Get help managing your loans during this crisis from the Student Borrower Protection Center

Regardless of your situation, now is the right time to review your finances and reevaluate your payment plan – do this as soon as you can. Log back into your accounts, look at your monthly bill, and see if income-driven repayment is right for you.

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will conduct a one-time adjustment of IDR payment counters to address past inaccuracies.  This will help many borrowers with IDR plans to get closer to forgiveness on the remainder of their loans.  Based on the newly eligible months from the one-time account adjustment, borrowers who have reached 240 or 300 months’ (as applicable) worth of payments for IDR forgiveness or 120 months of PSLF will begin to see their loans forgiven in spring 2023. All other borrowers will see their accounts update in summer 2023.  Visit this link of the Federal Student Aid website for more details.   

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced the “Fresh Start” program, designed to help eligible borrowers in default to get back on track with repayment of their student loans.  If your loans are eligible, you’ll temporarily regain several student aid benefits. You’ll also get the opportunity to get out of default and keep those benefits for the long term.  Visit this link of the Federal Student Aid website to learn more about the benefits of Fresh Start and what you need to do if you believe you are eligible.

The PSLF Program helps student loan borrowers working in nonprofit or government jobs by forgiving the remaining balance on your loans after you have made 10 years of qualifying payments (120 total monthly payments). Check out our Public Service Loan Forgiveness resources here.

In order to qualify for PSLF, there are several requirements that you must meet:

  • Be employed full-time by a nonprofit or federal/state/local/tribal government during the time you make each qualifying monthly payment
  • Have Direct Loans (or consolidate other federal loans into a Direct Loan)
  • Repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan
  • Make 120 qualifying payments

You can log into the Department of Education ( using your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This is a username and password that is unique to each borrower. Not sure if you have an FSA ID? If you haven’t logged into the Department of Education’s website since May 2015, you probably don’t have an FSA ID. But don’t worry – you can easily create one. And if you forgot your username or password, don’t worry – there are options to recover your account information – on most log-in pages, look for links that say something like “Forgot My Username” or “Forgot My Password”.

Payments are automatically suspended for all borrowers, including those who were more than 31 days delinquent prior to March 13, 2020, or became more than 31 days delinquent soon thereafter. That means the loans are in forbearance and won’t default. Default on federal loans happens when a payment is 270 days past due, sending your loan to collections and exposing you to damaged credit, garnished wages and seized tax refunds.

For those with federal student loans already in default, all collection activities are suspended through June 30, 2023. You can get a refund for any forced student loan payments made since March 13, 2020 – if you believe you have had wages wrongly garnished or other attempts made to collect on student debt since March, contact Bay Area Legal Aid. If your tax refund was seized before March 13, 2020, it will not be returned.

For borrowers who were already in a loan rehabilitation agreement (in order to get out of default), each month of the forbearance period (through April 2022) will count toward the nine months needed for rehabilitation. Are you worried you won’t be able to afford the monthly payment proposed in the loan rehabilitation agreement after the payment suspension ends? Request an alternative monthly payment by filling out the Loan Rehabilitation Income and Expense form. This request may result in a lower monthly payment.

Talking to a financial coach is a great place to start. Our Smart Money Coaching program provides free, confidential, one-on-one financial guidance – including help with student loan repayment. The program is available to anyone living, working or receiving services in San Francisco, regardless of citizenship status. Our coaches are fluent in Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin, with additional translation services as requested. 

For more assistance with student loan debt problems, including default, income-driven repayment, disability discharge and other issues, you can also get help from Free Consumer Rights Legal Clinics offered by Bay Area Legal Aid, or call them at 800-551-5554.

Millions of Americans are struggling to repay student loan debt. The National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project is a resource for borrowers, their families, and advocates representing student loan borrowers.

Smart Money Coaching has helped thousands of people to address their unique financial challenges and goals, including reducing debt, establishing and improving their credit score, opening a low-fee bank account, and increasing their savings.

Our coaches come from our communities and have similar lived experiences as the people they serve. They trust that their clients are the best judges of their own financial situations and needs. Coaches won’t tell you how to spend your money, and instead will empower you to make informed decisions. Coaches are trained by experts, make referrals to trusted community partners, and can escalate issues to City leadership if needed.

Read more about how Smart Money Coaching creates meaningful and life-changing financial outcomes for our community in a recent report highlighting the five most important lessons we’ve learned since the program launched.

The Department of Education recently announced that federal student loan borrowers who qualify for total and permanent disability will have their loans forgiven automatically. This means as much as $5.8 billion in relief for 323,000 borrowers!

The changes announced by the Department of Education simplify the process and provide for automatic forgiveness of student loans for borrowers who are receiving disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. The Department of Education will conduct a data match of those receiving Social Security disability payments to identify the eligible individuals with outstanding federal student loans. The next data match will occur in September with individuals receiving discharges within the following weeks. The Department of Education estimates that all those eligible for student loan forgiveness will receive the discharge before the end of 2021.

While it remains to be seen whether future recipients of Social Security disability will receive automatic student loan forgiveness, disabled borrowers who are not yet receiving social security disability payments may apply for those benefits with the possibility of also receiving federal student loan forgiveness. However, borrowers should be aware of unfortunately low success rates and stringent requirements that, in addition to the lengthy waiting period, may prevent many from ultimately receiving automatic student loan forgiveness.

Learn more about these changes to disability loan discharge here.