Student Loan Assistance

If you live in Massachusetts and need help accessing federal student loan debt relief or have a complaint against a loan servicer, you can file a Student Loan Help Request with the Ombudsman’s Student Loan Assistance Unit.

In recent months, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced several historic debt relief opportunities for many federal loan borrowers. To benefit from these opportunities, you may need to take action.

Finding out what federal loan types you have and who owns your federal loans is key to understanding your debt relief eligibility and repayment options.  Borrowers can have several different types of federal loans, including Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs), and Perkins Loans.  Some federal loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education while others are owned by private companies or colleges.  Borrowers can even have a mix of federally and privately owned federal loans.

To learn more about eligibility for each debt relief program as well as how to identify your loan types and who owns them, please review the information below. 

Table of Contents

$10,000-$20,000 in One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief

Update: Courts have issued orders blocking the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education is not accepting applications while it seeks to overturn the court orders. If you already applied, your application will be held by the U.S. Department of Education. You can monitor studentaid.gov for news about the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief and subscribe for email updates.

Under President Biden’s One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief program, borrowers with federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education will be eligible to receive $10,000 in federal student loan debt relief if their individual income was under $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples or heads of household) in either 2020 or 2021. Eligible borrowers who received a Pell grant to attend college will get an additional $10,000 ($20,000 total) in cancellation under the President's plan.

Federal loans owned by private companies or colleges, including many FFELs and Perkins Loans, will not be eligible for the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief, unless the borrower applied to consolidate them into the Direct Loan Program before Sept. 29, 2022. The U.S. Department of Education is still assessing whether there are alternative pathways to provide relief on privately owned federal loans.

To find out if your loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, follow these instructions or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

WARNING: Beware of Mixing Federal Loans Owned by Private Companies or Colleges with Loans Owned by the U.S. Department of Education in a Consolidation:  If you apply to consolidate loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education (e.g., Direct Loans or U.S. Department of Education-owned FFELs or Perkins Loans) with federal loans not owned by the U.S. Department of Education (e.g., privately owned FFELs or Perkins Loans) after Sept. 28, 2022, your Direct Consolidation Loan will not be eligible for the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief.

However, if you applied to consolidate any privately owned FFELs or Perkins Loans into the Direct Loan Program on or before Sept. 28, 2022, your Direct Consolidation Loan will still be eligible for the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief.

Ways to Learn More: 

Read about the One-Time Debt Relief and get answers to FAQs on the U.S. Department of Education’s webpage.

Subscribe for updates from the U.S. Department of Education

One-Time IDR Adjustment

The One-Time IDR Adjustment can help you get closer to loan forgiveness faster. Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans forgive your remaining loan balance after 20 to 25 years of qualifying payments. Through the One-Time IDR Adjustment, even if you’ve never enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, you can receive credit toward IDR loan forgiveness for past repayment periods and certain deferment and forbearance periods.

The One-Time IDR Adjustment is intended to address the harm that federal loan servicers caused by inappropriately steering borrowers into long-term forbearances and failing to advise them of income-driven repayment options. The adjustment will be implemented in July 2023.

  • You may need to consolidate. Some federal loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, but others are owned by private companies or colleges. To benefit from the One-Time IDR Adjustment, you will need to consolidate any federal loans owned by private companies or colleges into the Direct Loan Program by May 1, 2023.    
  • Find out who owns your federal loans. Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or follow these instructions.
  • WARNING: Beware of Mixing Federal Loans Owned by Private Companies or Colleges with Loans Owned by the U.S. Department of Education in a Consolidation: As stated, you must consolidate federal loans owned by private companies or colleges into the Direct Loan Program to benefit from the One-Time IDR Adjustment. However, if you also have U.S. Department of Education-owned loans that you want to remain eligible for the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief, do not mix your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans in a consolidation with your privately owned federal loans.
    • Tips for borrowers with Federally Owned FFELs or Perkins and Privately Owned Federal Loans
      • If you want your U.S. Department of Education-owned FFELs or Perkins Loans to become Direct Loans (e.g., for access to better income-driven plans), but also want to preserve their eligibility for the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time student Loan Debt Relief, apply to consolidate them separately from your privately owned FFELs or Perkins Loans.
  • Plan to enroll in IDR. To continue working toward IDR loan forgiveness after the One-Time IDR Adjustment is implemented, most borrowers will need to enroll in an income-driven plan. Keep in mind that the U.S. Department of Education intends to create a new less expensive income-driven plan in late 2023 or 2024. For more information and to apply for an income-driven plan, visit the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Ways to Learn More:

Read about the One-Time IDR Adjustment on the U.S. Department of Education’s webpage.

One-Time Adjustment for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. However, many borrowers have had difficulty accessing PSLF due to its complex rules and poor administration. 

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education announced a historic temporary waiver to the PSLF Program’s rules. The waiver, called the “Limited PSLF Waiver,” allowed borrowers to get credit towards loan forgiveness for past repayment periods that would not otherwise qualify for PSLF. This helped many borrowers get loan forgiveness or get closer to loan forgiveness. Although the Limited PSLF Waiver ended on Oct. 31, 2022, there is good news!  With a few exceptions, the Limited PSLF Waiver is effectively continuing through a new program, called the One-Time Adjustment. 

  • To benefit, some borrowers need to consolidate their non-Direct Loans into the Direct Loan Program by May 1, 2023. Borrowers can have several different types of federal loans, including Direct Loans, FFELs, and Perkins Loans. To qualify for the One-Time Adjustment, federal loan types that are not Direct Loans (e.g., FFELs or Perkins Loans) must be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program by May 1, 2023. 
  • WARNING: Be Careful of Mixing Federal Loans Owned by Private Companies or Colleges with Loans Owned by the U.S. Department of Education in a Consolidation: As stated, you must consolidate any non-Direct Loans into the Direct Loan Program for them to benefit from the One-Time Adjustment.  However, if some of your federal loans are owned by private companies or colleges and others are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, do not consolidate your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans with privately owned or school-owned loans if you want your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans to remain eligible to receive the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief.   To find out if some or all of your loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education or a private lender, read these instructions or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
    • To find out if some or all of your loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, follow these instructions or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
    • Tips for Public Service Workers with Federally Owned and Privately Owned Federal Loans.
      • You may need to apply for two Direct Consolidation Loans: one for your federal loans owned by private companies or colleges and one for your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans.
      • In some cases, public service workers may find that it’s worth forfeiting the $10,000-$20,000 in debt relief because strategically consolidating federally and privately owned federal loans together will help maximize credit toward loan forgiveness from the One-Time Adjustment. You can learn more about strategic consolidation at www.mass.gov/ago/PSLFWaiver.
  • File PSLF Forms to Certify your Employment. The U.S. Department of Education can’t give you credit for your years and months of public service that it doesn’t know about! If you don’t have approved employment certifications on file for all your past qualifying employment periods since Oct.1, 2007, you must file a PSLF Form to certify your employment for each uncertified period. We recommend filing your PSLF Form(s) by July 1, 2023, though they can be filed later. If you’re not sure whether you’ve successfully certified your employment, to be on the safe side, you should work with your employer’s HR Department to fill out a PSLF Form and submit it to MOHELA, the designated PSLF servicer. You can use the PSLF Help Tool to generate your PSLF Form. Once you enter your information, you’ll be able to print the partially completed form for you and your employer to sign.  
  • Considerations for Parent PLUS borrowers. While Parent PLUS Loans are not directly eligible for the One-Time Adjustment for PSLF purposes, Parent PLUS Loans that were previously consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan will receive credit through the Adjustment for repayment periods after the date of consolidation. Additionally, if Parent PLUS Loans are consolidated with loans taken for the parent’s education, the resulting Direct Consolidation Loan will receive credit through the Adjustment based on the loans taken for the parent’s education.

Ways to Learn More:

Read about the One-Time Adjustment for PSLF and get answers to frequently asked questions on the U.S. Department of Education’s webpage.

Get tips from the Attorney General’s Office on how to get the most out of the One-Time Adjustment for PSLF.

Fresh Start for Defaulted Loans

If your federal loans are in default, the U.S. Department of Education’s Fresh Start initiative will offer you the chance to reenter repayment in good standing and eliminate the impact of delinquency and default.  Through Fresh Start, financial aid has also been restored for borrowers with defaulted loans starting with the fall 2022 semester.

Additionally, in late 2022, the U.S. Department of Education will begin reporting to credit reporting bureaus that defaulted loans are current rather than in collections. At that point, borrowers will get an opportunity to get out of default. 

You should create a studentaid.gov account and update your contact information, so that the U.S. Department of Education can reach you when it begins contacting borrowers and offering to put their defaulted loans back into good standing with a servicer. If a borrower can't be reached, their loans will remain in default.

Ways to Learn More:

Read more about the Fresh Start initiative on the U.S. Department of Education’s webpage.

Pandemic Payment Pause and 0% Interest Rate

Payments are currently paused and interest is waived for federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education. The payment pause and interest waiver will end 60 days after the U.S. Department of Education is permitted to implement the $10,000-20,000 in One-Time Debt Relief or the litigation surrounding the One-Time Debt Relief has been resolved. If the One-Time Debt Relief has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by June 30, 2023 – payments will resume 60 days after that. Borrowers will be notified by their loan servicers before payments restart.

  • Federal loans not owned by the U.S. Department of Education need to be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan to access the remainder of the payment pause and 0% interest rate. Borrowers can have different types of federal loans. Some federal loans are owned by private companies or colleges. If your federal loans are not owned by the U.S. Department of Education, you need to consolidate them into the Direct Loan Program to gain access to the remainder of the payment pause and 0% interest rate. To find out if your loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, follow these instructions or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
  • WARNING: Beware of Mixing Federal Loans Owned by Private Companies or Colleges with Loans Owned by the U.S. Department of Education in a Consolidation:  As stated, you must consolidate any federal loans owned by private companies or colleges into the Direct Loan Program for those loans to benefit from the remainder of the pandemic payment pause and 0% interest rate. However, if you also have U.S. Department of Education-owned loans and you want those loans to receive the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief, do not mix your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans in a consolidation with your federal loans owned by private companies or colleges.
  • To find out if your loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, follow these instructions or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
    • Tip for borrowers with Federally Owned FFELs or Perkins and Privately Owned Federal LoansIf you want U.S. Department of Education-owned FFELs or Perkins Loans to become Direct Loans (e.g., for access to better income-driven plans), to preserve their eligibility for the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time student Loan Debt Relief, apply to consolidate them separately from your privately owned FFELs or Perkins Loans.

A New More Affordable Income-Driven Repayment Plan

Federal loan borrowers have had access to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans for many years, including income-based repayment (IBR), income-contingent repayment (ICR), Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and Revised-Pay-As-You Earn (REPAYE).

IDR plans base your payments on your taxable income and family size. These plans also offer potential interest subsidies and the possibility of loan forgiveness after a certain number of qualifying payments. 

The Biden-Harris Administration is proposing to create a new more affordable IDR plan that will substantially reduce future monthly payments for lower- and middle-income borrowers. The new IDR plan would:

  • Require borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income on undergraduate loans. This is down from the 10% available under the most recent IDR plan, REPAYE.
  • Protect more income from repayment by raising the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary. This will guarantee that no borrower earning under 225% of the federal poverty level—about the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage for a single borrower—will have to make a monthly payment. Most IDR plans currently only protect income under 150% of the federal poverty level.
  • Forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less.  This will make it much more cost effective for borrowers with low balances to use IDR.
  • Cover the borrower's unpaid monthly interest, so that unlike other existing IDR plans, no borrower's loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments—even when that monthly payment is $0 because their income is low.

The new more affordable IDR plan is expected to be available in late 2023 or 2024 and will likely only be available to Direct Loan borrowers. 

  • You may need to consolidate. Borrowers can have several different types of federal loans, including Direct Loans, FFELs, and Perkins Loans. To be eligible for the new more affordable IDR plan, federal loan types that are not Direct Loans (e.g., FFELs or Perkins Loans) will likely need to be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program. 
  • WARNING: Beware of Mixing Federal Loans Owned by Private Companies or Colleges with Loans Owned by the U.S. Department of Education in a Consolidation: As stated, non-Direct Loans will likely need to be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program to be eligible for the new IDR Plan. However, if some of your federal loans are owned by private companies or colleges and others are owned by the U.S. Department of Education, do not consolidate your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans with privately owned loans if you want your U.S. Department of Education-owned loans to remain eligible to receive the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief. 
    • Tips for borrowers with Federally Owned FFELs or Perkins and Privately Owned Federal Loans
      • If you want your U.S. Department of Education-owned FFELs or Perkins Loans to become Direct Loans (e.g., for access to better income-driven plans), but also want to preserve their eligibility for the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time student Loan Debt Relief, apply to consolidate them separately from your privately owned FFELs or Perkins Loans.

Avoid Scams

Student loan “debt relief” companies charge fees for helping student loan borrowers access federal loan debt relief programs. There is nothing these companies can do for you that you can’t do on your own for free!

Some of these companies are trying to take advantage of circumstances related to the pandemic and the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief. They may even pretend to work with the U.S. Department of Education or a government agency. If anyone contacts you asking for your personal information (like your FSA ID and password), your bank account information, or money to help you access debt relief—it’s a scam.  

The application for the One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief is free, and there is nothing third parties can do to speed up debt cancellation or get you more relief.

Only scammers will ask you to pay for student loan debt relief. You can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website to learn more about the other warning signs of a debt relief scam.

Preparing for the Return to Repayment

The payment pause and interest waiver will end 60 days after the U.S. Department of Education is permitted to implement the $10,000-$20,000 in One-Time Debt Relief or the litigation surrounding the One-Time Debt Relief has been resolved. If the One-Time Debt Relief has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by June 30, 2023 – payments will resume 60 days after that.

You should begin exploring your repayment options, including income-driven repayment plans, before repayment resumes. 

Keep in mind that even if you have never enrolled in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, your past repayment periods and certain forbearance and deferment periods will count toward forgiveness under IDR plans after the One-Time Adjustment is implemented. These qualifying payment counts are expected to be visible in your studentaid.gov account in July 2023. To continue earning credit toward IDR forgiveness after the One-Time Adjustment is implemented, you’ll need to enroll in an IDR plan and recertify for it each year. In the future, payments under IDR plans are expected to be even more affordable, as the U.S. Department of Education intends to create a new less expensive IDR plan in 2023- or 2024.

Ways to Learn More:

Get tips from the Attorney General’s Office on preparing for the return to repayment.

Get Help from the Ombudsman's Student Loan Assistance Unit

If you live in Massachusetts and need help accessing federal loan debt relief or have a complaint against a loan servicer, you can file a Student Loan Help Request with the Ombudsman’s Student Loan Assistance Unit. When filling out the request, please describe your student loan situation in as much detail as possible. Borrowers who don’t live in Massachusetts can review this list of resources

Your Student Loan Help Request form will be reviewed in the order in which it was received. It is very important that you continue to meet any deadlines while you are waiting to hear from us. If your request would be better handled by a different government agency, we will refer you to that agency.

The Attorney General's Office cannot provide you with legal advice or act as your attorney. If you have questions concerning the specific application or interpretation of the law, please consult with a private attorney.

While waiting to hear from us, we encourage you to collect information about your federal student loans by creating an account on the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid (FSA) website at studentaid.gov. Once logged in to your account, you will see a full list of your federal student loans, along with servicer contact information, loan types, interest rates, principal and interest balances, and other information that will help clarify your repayment options and the steps needed to access debt relief. Private student loans are not tracked by the U.S. Department of Education but may be listed on your credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

U.S. Department of Education Resources

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