Your Student Loans Forgiven

You might not have to pay off your college debt if you are a teacher who meets certain criteria.

I am a speech language pathologist assistant with the special-education department in a low-income school district. I have a mountain of student-loan debt. My Perkins loan has been forgiven 100% because of where I work. Can my Stafford loans be forgiven, too? I am trying to live on a teacher's salary.

Your job may qualify you for the Stafford loan forgiveness program, too, although the requirements are tougher than they are for Perkins loans, which are awarded to students with the greatest financial need.

You must teach for five consecutive years in a low-income school before any portion of the Stafford loans can be forgiven and must meet certain education and certification criteria.

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Special education teachers can have up to $17,500 of their Stafford loans forgiven if their primary responsibility is to provide special education to children with disabilities that correspond to their area of special education training. Full-time math and science teachers who teach in a secondary school also can get up to $17,500 of their student loans forgiven; other teachers may get up to $5,000 in Stafford loans forgiven.

For details about the rules, certification requirements and which schools qualify, call 800-4-FED-AID or go to the cancellation/deferment options for teachers (opens in new tab) section of the Department of Education's student aid Web site (opens in new tab), where you can also learn about other loan cancellation programs.

To apply for the forgiveness program, ask your loan holder for a Teacher Loan Forgiveness application (or download it (opens in new tab) from the Department of Education site) and have the head of the school certify that your teaching service meets the requirements. See Finaid.org for a list of loan forgiveness programs (opens in new tab) for other loans and occupations.

See Shrink Your Loans (opens in new tab) for other programs that can help you repay your loans.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.