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Private Student Loan Forgiveness

Private Student Loan Forgiveness
Daniel Cohen
UpdatedSep 1, 2013
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    6 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Recently, the CFPB proposed new disclosure rules for lenders of student loans.
  • A proposed bill would forgive some private loans.
  • Private student loans total about 15% of outstanding student loan debt.

Proposed Law Would Forgive Some Private Student Loans

Student loan debt, and borrowers’ problems repaying student loans are growing. Today, federal student loan debt is $900 billion, and private student loans total $140 billion. Defaults total more than $8 billion, representing 850,000 distinct loans. Many struggling borrowers are calling for private student loan student loan forgiveness, to ease the burdens caused by paying their private student loan debt.

If you are one of the 37.1 million people in the US with a student loan today, your options for handling federal and private student loans differ. Federal student loans are taken out by the students themselves or by their parents, who take out PLUS loans. Most student loans do not have co-borrowers. The Dept. of Education offers a variety of deferment, forbearance, and repayment plans for federal borrowers.

Private student loans almost always have a co-signer, and lenders will collect a private student loan from a co-signer if the primary borrower defaults. Because a co-signer is usually a close family member, a delinquent private student can cause a problem for a whole family, and not just the borrower. Private student loan lenders lack the extensive array of repayment and consolidation the Dept. of Education offers.

New Regulator on the Block: The CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a new federal agency. The CFPB is responsible for "... mak(ing) markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products." The CFPB’s first action was to create an online survey to learn what the biggest concerns were among consumers. The top three were credit card disclosures, mortgages, and student loans.

Congress mandated that the CFPB oversee the student loan industry. As part of its initial review, the CFPB published nearly 2,000 comments about the experiences consumers had with private student loans. The CFPB’s preliminary findings identified many problems, including:

  • Lack of good information: Students were unclear what loans to take and what they will owe when they leave school. Also some borrowers were surprised to learn their loans were private instead of federal.
  • Students overwhelmed by debt: Part of this may be due to the lack of disclosures, and to a weak economy where recent college grads face high unemployment and underemployment.
  • Complicated or hostile billing: Borrowers expressed a desire to repay their loans, but in hardship situations, they faced limited loan repayment flexibility.

The CFPB recently released draft student loan disclosure forms it proposes lenders must use. The forms disclose the interest rate, and eventual monthly payment amount for every student loan. The CFPB hopes this clear and consistent disclosure will spell out how much the student will need to pay each month when they leave school. It will also eliminate surprise loans some unscrupulous schools disguise as grants.

Student Loan Forgiveness Today

Federal loan borrowers have the option to have their loans forgiven or their payments reduced.

If you work in a public service job, you may be eligible to have your federal student loans forgiven. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) discharges remaining student loan debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service. Your income is not a factor in eligibility, but you must be current on your loan payments.

Some states, such as Kansas and New York, offer partial repayment of their student loans if you relocate to a low-population area. Also, 30 states offer partial student loan repayment if you work in the dental or medical fields.

With federal student loans, you have several options if your payments cause you distress, including:

  • Deferment: A postponement of payment on a loan, during which interest does not accrue if the loan is subsidized. You qualify if you are enrolled half-time or more in college, are unemployed, or meet a the Dept. of Education’s standards for hardship. Deferments can last up to three years.
  • Forbearance: Forbearance may be an option, if you don’t qualify for a deferment. Forbearance allows you to stop making payments temporarily. Common reasons for getting a forbearance are illness, financial hardship or serving in a medical or dental internship or residency.
  • Income-based repayment (IBR): Your monthly payment is capped at an amount intended to be affordable, based on your income and family size. You’re eligible for IBR if your monthly IBR payment will be less than the monthly amount in a 10-year standard repayment plan.
  • Income contingent repayment (ICR): Your monthly ICR payment amount is reset each year, based on your annual gross income on your federal tax return.
  • Other plans: Other federal repayment plans include graduated repayment, extended repayment, and income-sensitive repayment.

Expanded Student Loan Forgiveness Options

Solutions that bring some relief to student loan borrowers. The Student Loan Forgiveness Act (H.R. 4170), was introduced in March of 2012, Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.). His proposal includes:

  • Consolidating some private loans with federal loans, with many restrictions, to add the benefits available to federal student loan holders to some private student loan holders
  • Improving forgiveness of federal loans
  • Keeping rates down for federal loans
Quick Tip: offers many tools and resources about student loans. If you are having trouble paying your student loan then check out the article about stopping garnishment on student loans.

Private Student Loan Forgiveness

Currently, there are no private student loan forgiveness options available. Today, if you are having trouble with your private student loans, your only options are to:

  • Consolidate your loan
  • Work out something with your lender
  • Try to work out a loan modification,
  • File for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to work out an affordable payment (this does not forgive your student loan debt)
  • Default and face collection efforts, including lawsuits, judgments, bank levies, and wage garnishments

Although there are renewed calls to wipe out some private student loan debt, enacting principal forgiveness in private student loans would be a huge shift in the lending world. It may result in fewer private lenders in the marketplace and fewer loan options for students. The federal government would have to step in, if current lending levels are to be maintained.

The CFPB is asking for additional input from consumers. The CFPB is going to offer some suggestions, but it is not clear what kind of reform they can put in place.


EElliot, May, 2014
My federal loan is at $42,000. I work as a public service employee so I will take advantage of the pslf in 2020. I am on an income based repayment plan and still pay 370 a month which is somewhat manageable.

Now for my private nightmare. My loan is in default and my wages are garnished $420 a month! I am paying over $800 a month! That could be a mortgage payment! Yes, I have my M.S. But I only make about $45,000 a year. I love being a counselor working with people who live life with intellectual and other disabilities. In terms of my quality of life, I wish I went to vocational school to be an electrician. No loans and equal or more pay. If I knew that an education would result in so much debt I would have not listened to my teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and everyone else encouraging me to get an education! My credit is horrible because of the private loan. They harassed me for months when I could not make the payment. My mother, the saint that she is, is offering to help pay off the loan over the next 3 years with installments. The scumbag lawyers and whomever else is in charge of the loan will not negotiate and are still requiring I pay the full $440 a month even though a significant payment can be made. I am expecting in July and am stressed about providing for my family. I don't know how the lawyers and other people profiting from students dreams and aspirations sleep at night.
EEmanuel, Mar, 2014
I have a private student loan that defaulted this past December. I was behind due the the fact I was jobless and when I found a job I didn't make enough to pay them. I arranged a payment before it went into default but then I received a call and letter saying it defaulted because the payment was returned. I don't know why it was returned because there was money in the account. Now I don't know anything about the loan. I've contacted the original borrower and creditors on it but no one has information on it and haven't heard anything on it. I also have a co-signer on it but I don't want it to affect him. What can I do? Can I get it out of default? Or get my cosigner off it?
BBill, Mar, 2014
Call the servicer and try to restart the negotiation process.
JJean, Mar, 2014
I have a private student loan my sister co-signed but since she have filed bankruptcy. I am disabled at this time. I have not been permanently declared disabled, but I am unable to work. I can't make my payment and they continue to call my sister. Is there any way I can get this loan forgiven?
BBill, Mar, 2014
There is no formal private student loan forgiveness program that is equivalent to federal student loan forgiveness.

It sounds like your sister was not able to include her responsibility for the loan in her BK. If she has included it, she could stop the calls, but it would not have removed your responsibility.

Your options are limited. You could: 1. See if you are able to include it in a BK, though that would leave your sister on the hook, still. It is difficult, but not impossible to discharge a private student loan debt via BK. 2. Try to negotiate a settlement with the lender. If they are not able to collect from you or your sister, they may be open to a settlement.
SStephany, Mar, 2014
I have about $63,000 in student loans -- $32,000 in private loans. I am struggling to make these payments. I am so overwhelmed. I was not aware that I was taking out private loans because the college I attended was very unclear about it. I also was set up on graduated repayments so at first it was manageable then the payments doubled and all together my are over $600/month. I called and tried to see if i could change out of graduated payments or do income-based payments and they told me there was nothing i can do -- either pay or have my wages garnished. But as things get harder to pay it is going to come to that i have to make sure my children are cared for and we have a roof over our head and they have food to eat. I am beyond frustrated and stressed i feel that they have more options i never thought graduating college that i wouldn't get a job in the field i went for and would be struggling like this. Now i am being forced to choose between giving my kids the basics and paying student loans, and ruining my parents lives, and credit because they cosigned and they can't afford to pay the payments either. I can't claim bankruptcy on them, i can't pay them, and no one is willing to help. I feel helpless.
SSean, Dec, 2013
I owe about $60,000+ to Mohela and about $75,000+ to Sallie Mae; about $140,000 total. I graduated in 2007 with just a BS in Biology. I now work fulltime at a nonprofit organization in my field of study but make less that $24,000/year. I have yet to make the full payment to either student loan institution, but instead I'm in Income Contingency Plans or a time-limited Rate Reduction Plan. I'm paycheck to paycheck and with my student debt causing a low credit score, I cannot get any other loans. I'm a fish out of water and I don't know what to do. My co-signer is deceased and there isn't any other family help. I wish there was something that would make my college decision a positive and not a financial negative.
GGabi, Sep, 2013
I owe almost an entire house in private loans. Because I was a dependent at the time, my parents co-signed. I now work in Arizona and make very, very little money and not enough to afford $400 a month for Sallie Mae. Why are private loan vendors not being mandated to provide income-based repayment plan? THAT'S ALL I NEED. Who cares if there are less vendors -- good! Private loans are absolutely horrible -- and Sallie Mae will haunt me for the rest of my life. I will die before I pay her off :(
AAnita, Nov, 2013
I am a co-signer on my brother's student loan from 2006. Was not aware of the type of loan. I think it's private though. :-( I thought my brother was paying on it, but after he couldn't finish due to a disability, Sallie Mae and a collection agency have hounded me. I set up payments and paid. Then I was sent to two other collection agencies who raised the amount required to pay each month. I cannot afford this loan. I can pay $150 a month for 11 months and still owe $1,100 more than when I started paying that amount. The interest rate is UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! I CAN NEVER PAY THIS OFF! I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO BENEFIT FROM GOING TO SCHOOL! There needs to be a forgiveness for private loans. Why should it be any different from a federal loan? I think that if anyone was getting a loan, they would only get a federal if this is the case. Come on! I've done my part as a co-signer and payed a fair amount. I don't know what else to do! :'-(

P.S. This loan has not only affected my credit, but I can't even purchase a car now.