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Special Cancellation of Up to $20,000 of Student Debt. Are You Eligible?

Update: Supreme Court Rules Against Cancellation Benefit

On June 30, 2023 the Supreme Court ruled against the one-time student debt relief that would have provided up to $20,000 of forgiveness. While this decision is disappointing for many borrowers, it was not a shocking outcome.

Thankfully, there are a number of other benefits still in place that may require you to act before they expire, like the one-time forgiveness count adjustment and the pandemic forbearance. After the ruling, the Department of Education (ED) finalized the updates to income-driven repayment (IDR). Most updates to REPAYE will take effect this summer, with the rest of the IDR changes taking effect July 1, 2024.

Here is how the recent student debt announcement can impact your federal student loans and how you can receive all the benefits:


  • There is a one-time cancellation of up to $20,000 in federally-held student loans depending on your income and whether you’ve received a Pell Grant
  • UPDATE: The proposed debt relief is blocked while legal challenges make their way through the courts.
  • JUST RELEASED: Application for Federal Student Loan Debt Relief is now available. Submit your application if you meet the income limits for the special cancellation benefits.
  • UPDATE: Federal student loan pandemic forbearance benefits (no payments, no interest, forgiveness eligible) is ending August 31, 2023.
    December 31st, 2022.
  • You may need to consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan to benefit
  • RECENTLY ANNOUNCED: Borrowers with privately-held FFEL Program loans and Perkins Loans who have applied to consolidate into the Direct Loan program prior to Sept. 29, 2022, are eligible for one-time debt relief through the Direct Loan program.

This particular announcement also includes a “final” extension of the pandemic benefits for federally held student loans through December 31st, 2022. UPDATE: As of November 22, 2022, the Department Education announced another extension of the pandemic forbearance.  The pause will be extended until the court cases on the special cancellation benefits are resolved.  Payments will start 60 days alter.  If no resolution is achieved by June 30, 2023, payments will resume 60 days after that date. 

The pandemic benefits include a pause to the monthly payments due, interest suspension, and credit towards forgiveness for anyone using an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan or working towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

On August 24th, 2022, the White House announced the news of a special one-time cancellation of up to $20,000 of federally held student loan debt. The amount of debt cancellation will depend on your income and whether you received a Pell Grant in college. The application for this special federal student loan debt relief is now available. Submit your application now if you meet the income limits for the special cancellation benefits.

UPDATE: The proposed debt relief is blocked while legal challenges make their way through the courts.

Here are the criteria listed for the special one-time cancellation:
  • Individuals with an annual income less than $125,000 will be eligible for up to $10,000 of student loan cancellation
  • For married couples or heads of households, your combined annual income must be less than $250,000 to receive up to $10,000 of student loan cancellation
  • If you received a Pell Grant in college and also meet the income thresholds, you are eligible for an additional $10,000 of student debt cancellation


Most important student loan changes and expiring opportunities
With all the bonus opportunities for federal student loan borrowers announced over the last few years, it can be extremely confusing to know how they apply to you and when each might expire. Here is a short list of the most important and time-sensitive benefits and what you need to do to benefit:
  1. Up to $20,000 of student loan cancellation for federally held loans. Anyone who meets the income thresholds and Pell Grant recipient status can receive student loan cancellation. Applications for cancellation have been suspended while legal challenges are heard.

    Don’t miss the finer point in there about federally held loans again. If you have older privately/commercially held FFELs, you needed to submit a Direct Consolidation Loan application prior to September 29, 2022 to be considered for this special cancellation opportunity.

    Sept 29, 2022 update on privately-held federal student loan eligibility
  2. Pandemic forbearance benefits, final extension through Dec 31, 2022 extended again, possibly through August 2023. If you have federally held student loans, you do not need to do anything to continue receiving the no-interest, no-payment benefits. In addition to the extension, borrowers more time to request a refund of any payments made since March 13, 2020, when the benefits began. Deciding whether to make payments during the pause is complex. Generally speaking, if you are projected to reach forgiveness using PSLF or an IDR plan, then there is little to no financial benefit to making payments to your federal student loans during the forbearance. Use the VIN Foundation Student Debt Center tools to work through the financial implications for your specific circumstances.
  3. The one-time forgiveness count announced on April 19th, 2022. Anyone who has any repayment time on their federal student loans will be eligible for forgiveness qualifying time as part of the one-time forgiveness count. You must have federally held student loans to be eligible. If you have privately/commercially held FFEL program loans, you must
    consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan before the end of this year to be considered. If you already have Direct or federally held student loans, you will be automatically considered for the one-time forgiveness count.
  4. PSLF limited waiver expiring expired October 31, 2022. If you have federal student loans and ever worked or currently work for a non-profit or government organization (including a U.S. veterinary academic institution), then review the PSLF Help Tool and submit a PSLF employment certification form. If you thought you missed the chance to get credit because you have the wrong loan types or you were using the wrong repayment plan on your Direct Loans, then review the Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) option to help you receivepast PSLF credit. You may need to consolidate or switch your repayment plan to benefit from the waiver, so check your loans carefully and do what is required to benefit from this special opportunity.

Finally, the announcement reinforces the importance of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) limited waiver opportunity. This waiver looks to still be expiring at the end of October 2022. If you have older Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or you were using a repayment plan that was not PSLF eligible while working for a non-profit employer, make sure you take advantage of this limited opportunity to get the full PSLF credit you’ve earned since the program started in October 2007.

PSLF is not the same as income-driven payment forgiveness. Many borrowers dismiss all federal student loan repayment news and updates because they are not working for a non-profit. There are forgiveness options available for every federal student loan borrower. Make sure you know your options.


If your head is spinning and you’re not sure how to make sense of this, obtain your federal student aid data file and upload it into the free VIN Foundation My Student Loans tool. You will see alerts if you have the loan types that require action on your part before the important dates discussed here.
If you need any personalized help, VIN and VIN Foundation are here to help. The secure Student Debt & Income Signalment Form and special student debt message board areas are available for any veterinary student or veterinarian who needs help with their student loans. Here is a sample exchange from the message boards:

“If the forbearance never occurred and I had to recertify on the normal timeline my payment would have increased when I recertified in the summer of 2020 to ~$900 and increased again the next year to around $1,000. My wife's would've gone from $256 to ~$600 to ~$700. So, it has saved us a lot of $$$... near $70k with the increased refunds from MFJ and the lack of higher payments. This has allowed us to save enough for an emergency fund, save for a downpayment, buy a house, max out our 401ks and my HSA. Put a lot more money towards our forgiveness investment account. Overall, it has been good for us financially. Thanks for all your help on this message board. It is super helpful reading your replies to others in similar situations. I can't thank you enough.”

If you have a VIN or VIN Foundation username and password, you can view and post student loan questions on the special student debt message board area.
Student loans receive a lot of press, mostly negative. Most of that press involves only news of cancellations and end dates. Knowing the valuable details beyond the press headlines can help you improve your overall financial wellness. Like the veterinarian above, use the remainder of these special benefits to boost your emergency fund, pay down less flexible debt, buy a house, start/expand a family, or max out tax-advantaged compensation benefits.
If you anticipate reaching student loan forgiveness and haven’t started a dedicated fund to cover the potential forgiveness tax start one now. If you can benefit from the $10,000 or $20,000 cancellation mentioned here, then make sure you’re doing what was mentioned above to receive the cancellation.
The VIN Foundation Student Debt Center tools and message board areas can help you understand all of your repayment options and if they can work for you. And if you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to ask — we’re here to help!
VIN Foundation | Supporting veterinarians to cultivate a healthy animal community | Our Team | Student Debt Consultant | Tony Bartels, DVM, MBA
Tony Bartels, DVM, MBA

Dr. Tony Bartels graduated in 2012 from the Colorado State University combined MBA/DVM program and is an employee of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) and a VIN Foundation Board member. He and his wife have more than $400,000 in veterinary-school debt that they manage using federal income-driven repayment plans. By necessity (and now obsession), his professional activities include researching and speaking on veterinary-student debt, providing guidance to colleagues on loan-repayment strategies and contributing to VIN Foundation initiatives.

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