You may be eligible to have all or a portion of your Federal Perkins Loan canceled (based on your employment or volunteer service) or discharged (under certain conditions).

Learn more to see whether you are eligible and how to apply.

Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge

Federal Perkins Loan cancellation is based on eligible employment or eligible volunteer service and the length of time that you were in such a position. Discharge of your Perkins Loan may occur under certain circumstances.

Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation
Other Employment or Volunteer Service That Qualifies for Perkins Loan Cancellation 
Perkins Loan Discharge
Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge Summary Charts
    Cancellation Chart
    Discharge Chart
Applying for Cancellation or Discharge


Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation

What are the eligibility requirements?
Who is considered a teacher?
How long must I teach?
What amount can be canceled for teaching service?

What are the eligibility requirements?

You qualify for cancellation of up to 100 percent of a Federal Perkins Loan if you have served full-time in a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school system as a

  • teacher in a school serving students from low-income families;
  • special education teacher, including teachers of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities; or
  • teacher in the fields of mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education, or in any other field of expertise determined by a state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers in that state. 

Eligibility for teacher cancellation is based on the duties presented in an official position description, not on the position title. To receive a cancellation, you must be directly employed by the school system. There is no provision for canceling Federal Perkins Loans for teaching in postsecondary schools.

Note that you also qualify for deferment while you’re performing teaching service that qualifies for cancellation. Contact your college or your college’s Perkins Loan servicer for information on applying for deferment.

Who is considered a teacher?

A teacher is someone (including for example, a school librarian or guidance counselor) who provides elementary or secondary school students with direct services directly related to classroom teaching.

You do not need to be certified or licensed to receive cancellation benefits. However, your employing school must consider you to be a full-time professional for the purposes of salary, tenure, retirement benefits, etc. If you are a supervisor, administrator, researcher, or curriculum specialist, you are not considered a teacher unless you primarily provide direct and personal educational services to students.

How long must I teach?

For each full academic year (or its equivalent) of full-time teaching service, you are eligible to have a portion of your loan canceled. There is no requirement that you must teach a given number of hours a day to qualify as a full-time teacher; the employing school is responsible for making that decision.

An “academic year or its equivalent” for cancellation purposes is defined as one complete school year or two half-years that are from different school years. The two half-years must be complete and consecutive, excluding summer sessions, and must generally fall within a 12-month period.

Teaching Part-time at Multiple Schools

You can have your loan canceled if you are simultaneously teaching part-time in two or more schools if an official at one of the schools where you taught certifies that you taught full-time for a full academic year.

Teaching at a Private School

Your loan can be canceled for services performed in a private school if the private school has established its nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service, and if the school is providing elementary and/or secondary education according to state law.

Teaching at a Preschool or Prekindergarten Program

Your loan can be canceled only if the state considers such a program to be a part of its elementary education program. A low-income-school-directory designation that includes prekindergarten or kindergarten does not suffice for a state determination of program eligibility.

Teaching at Low-income Schools

A cancellation based on teaching in a school serving students from low-income families will be granted only if you taught in an eligible school as determined by the state education agency. To be considered a “low-income school,” the school must be in a school district that qualified for federal Title I funds in the year for which the cancellation is sought. Also, more than 30 percent of the school’s enrollment must be made up of children in the Title I program.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) publishes a list of low-income elementary and secondary schools. To find out if a school is classified as a low-income school, check our online database for the year(s) you have been employed as a teacher. Questions about the inclusion or omission of a particular school must be directed to the state education agency contact in the state where the school is located and not to ED.

All elementary and secondary schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)—or operated on Indian reservations by Indian tribal groups under contract with BIE—qualify as schools serving low-income students.

NOTE: If you have had a portion of your loan canceled for teaching at a low-income elementary or secondary school in one year, you can continue to have portions of your loan canceled for teaching at that school even if it is not listed as a low-income school in later years. Under certain circumstances, the institution that holds your Perkins Loan may permit retroactive cancellation if you can demonstrate that you qualified for cancellation in a prior year. However, the institution may not refund payments made during such a retroactive period.

Teaching at an Educational Service Agency

If you teach at an educational service agency, your teaching service may qualify for cancellation if the period of qualifying service includes Aug. 14, 2008, or begins on or after that date.

Teaching Special Education

You must have an official at the public or other nonprofit elementary or secondary school certify that you are a full-time special education teacher of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities either on the deferment/cancellation form or on an official letter from the school bearing the school's seal or letterhead.

If you provide one of the services listed below, you qualify as a teacher only if you are licensed, certified, or registered by the appropriate state education agency for that area in which you are providing related special educational services, and the services you provide are part of the educational curriculum for handicapped children.

The services are

  • speech and language pathology and audiology,
  • physical therapy,
  • occupational therapy,
  • psychological and counseling services, and
  • recreational therapy.

Teaching in a Designated Subject Shortage Area

This cancellation is based on full-time teaching if there is a shortage of teachers in your subject area. Each year the state education agency determines any subject shortage areas in the elementary and secondary schools within the state. Check with your local school system or state education agency to find out if your subject-matter area has been so designated. If you teach full-time in science, mathematics, foreign language, or bilingual education, you qualify for cancellation even if the state has not designated one of these subject areas as a shortage area. For a borrower to be considered as teaching in a field of expertise, the majority of classes taught must be in that field of expertise.

Nationwide Listing of Teacher Shortage Areas

You may download the list of teacher shortage areas:

What amount can be canceled for teaching service?

If you are eligible for cancellation under any of the categories listed above, up to 100 percent of the loan may be canceled for teaching service, in the following increments:

  • 15 percent canceled per year for the first and second years of service
  • 20 percent canceled for the third and fourth years
  • 30 percent canceled for the fifth year

Each amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.


Other Employment or Volunteer Service That Qualifies for Perkins Loan Cancellation

In addition to teaching, the following employment or service may qualify you for a full or partial Perkins Loan cancellation depending on the type of loan you have and the date of the loan:

  • Early childhood education provider
  • Employee at a child or family services agency
  • Faculty member at a tribal college or university
  • Firefighter
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Librarian with master’s degree at Title I school
  • Military service
  • Nurse or medical technician
  • Professional provider of early intervention (disability) services
  • Public defender
  • Speech pathologist with master’s degree at Title I school
  • Volunteer service (AmeriCorps VISTA or Peace Corps)

Find out how much of your loan can be canceled.


Perkins Loan Discharge

Under certain conditions, your Perkins Loan may be discharged. When your loan is discharged, it means that you are no longer obligated to pay back your loan. Conditions that may lead to discharge include the following:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Death
  • School closure
  • Service-connected disability (veterans)
  • Spouse of a victim of the events of 9/11
  • Total and permanent disability

Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge Summary Charts

Cancellation Chart

Unless otherwise noted in the chart, the cancellation rate per completed academic year of full-time teaching or for each year of otherwise qualifying full-time service is

  • 15 percent of the original principal loan amount for each of the first and second years;
  • 20 percent of the original principal loan amount for each of the third and fourth years; and
  • 30 percent of the original principal loan amount for the fifth year.

Each amount includes the interest that accrued during each year of service.

Cancellation Conditions Amount Canceled

Teacher cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time nurse or medical technician cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time firefighter cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time qualified professional provider of early intervention services for the disabled cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time faculty member at a tribal college or university cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time speech pathologist with master's degree working in a Title I-eligible elementary or secondary school cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Librarian with a master's degree working in a Title I-eligible elementary or secondary school or in a public library serving Title I-eligible schools cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time law enforcement or corrections officer cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time attorney employed in a federal public or community defender organization cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time employee of a public or nonprofit child- or family-services agency providing services to high-risk children and their families from low-income communities cancellation

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service

Full-time staff member in the education component of a Head Start program cancellation

Up to 100 percent for seven years (at a rate of 15 percent per year for the first six years and 10 percent for the seventh year) of eligible service

Full-time staff member in the education component of a prekindergarten or child care program that is licensed or regulated by a state cancellation (for service that includes Aug. 14, 2008, or began on or after that date)

Up to 100 percent for seven years (at a rate of 15 percent per year for the first six years and 10 percent for the seventh year) of eligible service

Military service in the U.S. armed forces in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area cancellation

Up to 50 percent for four years (at a rate of 12.5 percent per year) of eligible service for borrowers whose active duty service ended before Aug. 14, 2008 

Up to 100 percent for five years of eligible service for borrowers whose active duty service includes or began on or after Aug. 14, 2008

AmeriCorps VISTA or Peace Corps volunteer cancellation

Up to 70 percent for four years (at a rate of 15 percent for the first and second years and 20 percent for the third and fourth years) of eligible service

Note: As of Oct. 7, 1998, all Perkins Loan borrowers are eligible for all cancellation benefits regardless of when the loan was made or the terms of the borrower's promissory note. However, this benefit is not retroactive to services performed before Oct. 7, 1998.

Discharge Chart

If your loan is discharged, you will be released from your obligation to repay the loan.

Discharge Conditions Amount Discharged

Discharge for bankruptcy (in rare cases—cancellation is possible only if the bankruptcy court rules that repayment would cause undue hardship)

100 percent

Discharge for closed school (before student could complete program of study); applies to loans received on or after Jan. 1, 1986

100 percent

Discharge for death

100 percent

Discharge for total and permanent disability

100 percent


Applying for Cancellation or Discharge

Application for cancellation or discharge of a Perkins Loan must be made to the school that made the loan or to the school’s Perkins Loan servicer. The school or its servicer can provide forms and instructions specific to your type of cancellation or discharge.