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For many students, taking on student loans may be the only way to attain a college degree. Once they have a diploma in hand and a job secured, many may still wonder how they will pay off those student loans.
If you're seeking help to accelerate your loan repayment process or resources to manage your student loan debt, you may benefit from repayment programs designed with this assistance in mind. And depending on your employer and the type of loans you have, you may even qualify for student loan forgiveness.
Student loan forgiveness programs allow borrowers to have a predetermined amount of their student loans erased if the applicant meets the standard set by the program they've applied for. Federal student loans are currently the only type of student loan eligible for loan forgiveness programs—however, not all federal student loans qualify.
General requirements for most programs include having made consecutive on-time payments for up to 120 months, having student loans in good standing, and working in a role that qualifies for a student loan forgiveness program.
A short list of professions that offer the potential for student loan forgiveness includes: teaching, the medical profession (doctors and nurses), and those in the government and nonprofit sectors. But, ultimately, it's your employer that determines your eligibility for student loan forgiveness.
Jobs That Offer Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
There is a wide range of jobs and professions that provide access to student loan forgiveness programs. If you're unsure if your profession qualifies, reach out to your student loan service provider and ask. Here are some professions that do.
If you work for your state, local or tribal government, or the federal government, there are a few programs you can apply for depending on your profession. The U.S. government employs thousands of individuals in a wide variety of fields. It's important to do your due diligence, as not all government positions qualify for student loan forgiveness. Speak with your employer to see if they offer this benefit to employees.
- Teachers may apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, which gives up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness. Teachers must work with a low-income student population in a qualifying school or district, make a predetermined number of consecutive on-time payments and meet all of the additional requirements to be considered a qualified teacher. To find out whether you may qualify, learn more about teacher loan forgiveness.
- The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program is available to qualified individuals employed by certain federal agencies. The program allows agencies to repay an employee's loans as a recruitment or retention tool. Although it's not technically loan forgiveness, it is an option that could relieve you of your student loan payments.
- Military and other applicants may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This program only applies to federal direct loans, and applicants must be in good standing with their student loan service provider, have made 120 consecutive qualifying payments and be employed by a qualifying entity, such as the U.S. government.
If you are interested in the PSLF program but aren't in the military, here is a partial list of eligible jobs based on the following employers:
- Federal government
- Administrative officer
- Procurement technician
- Logistics management specialist
- State government
- Accountant II
- Budget analyst
- State tourism office director
- Local government
- Facilities and fleet management director
- Highway maintenance worker
- Senior human services coordinator
- Tribal government
- Engineering technician (civil)
- Range technician
- Human resources assistant
Not-for-profit organizations are mission-focused companies that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It's possible for individuals employed by these organizations to qualify for student loan forgiveness on a limited basis. Labor unions and partisan political organizations do not count as qualified employers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
- Americorp participants: The PSLF program makes qualifying payments based on the length of time a participant served as an Americorps member. Americorps members work on service-based projects throughout the United States during their term of service.
- Peace Corps participants: As with Americorps participants, Peace Corps workers must make qualifying payments and are eligible for loan forgiveness based on the amount of time served in the Peace Corps. Peace Corps participants provide social and economic assistance outside of the United States.
If you don't work for a qualifying government or not-for-profit organization, there are still some professions that may provide loan forgiveness programs.
- Nurses: The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will pay up to 85% of your nursing education debt if you qualify. However, it's important to note that if you receive a student loan repayment award, you're obligated to work at a Critical Shortage Facility or nursing school for two years.
- Health professionals: The State Loan Repayment Program is managed on the state level with the intention of providing some financial relief for health professionals serving underserved communities. Eligible medical professionals work in Health Professional Shortage Areas that could include rural towns and low-income communities. The Health Resources and Services Administration coordinates with state and local organizations to administer these funds to qualified applicants.
Additional Ways to Get Help With Student Loans
If you're unable to qualify for a student loan forgiveness or repayment program, here are a few additional strategies that may help you manage your loans during challenging financial times or pay your loans off faster.
- Talk to your student loan servicer. Ask them about your repayment options if you need help managing your student loans. Write down all of your questions and concerns before calling to help you stay organized and ensure that your questions are answered. Your student loan provider may have access to resources for your specific loan type that you may be unaware of.
- Explore income-based repayment. These programs evaluate your current earnings, debt load and ability to make payments to reduce your monthly debt burden. They typically reduce the monthly payment to 10% to 15% of your discretionary income and extend the loan term to 20 to 25 years.
- Consider a temporary loan deferment. A deferment is a temporary pause in your repayment cycle that could give you time to work on your financial situation so you can be in a better position once you resume payments. Talk to your student loan servicer to find out if a deferment will impact your consecutive repayment status if you might later apply for a student loan forgiveness program.
- Work for a company that provides student loan repayment assistance. There are companies other than those mentioned above that offer student loan repayment as a benefit. Speak to your human resource department to see if this is a benefit offered by your employer. If you're in the process of changing jobs or exploring a new career, you may want to research this when considering new employers.
- Pay attention to unique situations that may impact your student loans. The U.S. government has passed several pieces of legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial impact on the ability of many students to repay their loans. Currently, federal student loans are in deferment through September 2021.
Student Loan Repayment Options
If you're unsure about your repayment options, know that it is possible to pay off your student loans. Student loan forgiveness is one of many types of programs that aim to help people manage their student loans. Do your research to find out what programs are a good fit for your situation.