5 Ways to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven

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In certain situations, some individuals can eliminate some or all of their student loans through a student loan forgiveness program. This can save you from years of loan repayment and free up more of your income to put toward investing in your future.

Depending on your college degree and your current occupation, you may qualify for one of many student loan forgiveness programs. If you're wondering whether you can have your student loans forgiven through your job, start by asking someone in your human resources department. Additionally, here are five ways to get your student loans forgiven.

1. Volunteer

Certain volunteer organizations offer student loan forgiveness in exchange for a certain amount of volunteer time. If you volunteer for AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, or Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) you can have up to 70% of your student loans forgiven. Visit their websites to find out more information about student loan forgiveness programs.

2. Become a Full-Time Teacher

If you used a Perkins loan to help pay for your education, you can have part of it forgiven by working full-time in an elementary, middle, or junior high school that serves children from low-income families. The more years you teach, the more of your loan balance you can have forgiven.

Your local school board will have additional information about which schools in your district offer student loan forgiveness under the National Defense Education Act.

Other states have additional student loan forgiveness programs that allow you to have student loans forgiven in additional situations. You can always contact your loan board of education for more information about student loan forgiveness programs.

3. Join the Military

One of the benefits of joining the military is student loan repayment. Currently, the Army, Army National Guard, Air Force, Air Force National Guard, and the Navy offer student loan repayment programs up to $20,000 depending on the branch. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves do not offer student loan forgiveness. For more information about military student loan forgiveness, visit this article on Military College Loan Repayment Program.

4. Become a Doctor or Lawyer

Medical and legal professionals can end up with six-figure student loan debt. Fortunately for these Ph.D. degree holders, several student loan forgiveness programs exist to help them reduce their student loan burden:

  • The National Institutes of Health forgives some student loan debt for medical students who complete certain types of medical research including clinical, medical disparities, and contraception research.
  • Certain health professionals can receive up to $50,000 of student loan forgiveness through the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program in exchange for two years of volunteer service at a clinic that has a shortage of health professionals. You may be able to receive additional forgiveness for additional service.
  • Law school graduates may have some of their student loans forgiven by doing some non-profit work. Equal Justice Works has a list of law schools that have a loan repayment assistance program. If your school is on the list, contact your financial aid department to learn how you can have your student loans forgiven.

5. Wait 20 or 25 Years

If you have a federal loan and you're on an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, you can have the balance of your student loan forgiven after 25 years, or 10 years if you work in public service. All Federal student loans are eligible except, student loans in default, Parent PLUS loans, and Parent PLUS consolidation loans.

Your monthly student loan payments are capped based on your income and family size. For example, a family of 3 with an annual income of $45,000 would only pay $157 a month on an IBR plan. You can apply for IBR by contacting the lender servicing your loan.

Loans taken out after July 22nd, 2014, on the IBR plan, will be forgiven after 20 years instead of 25 years. Visit the Federal Student Aid website and IBR Info for more information.

Who Pays for Student Loan Forgiveness

Many people, especially those who've worked hard to repay their loans, oppose student loan forgiveness (at least for Federal loans) because it's funded by taxpayers. This is essentially true—if the Federal government forgives your student loans, that means taxpayers have paid for your college education.

In that sense, it's the same as using government grants to fund your education. Private student loan forgiveness is pretty much nonexistent, but if private lenders did offer these types of programs, the banks' other customers would end up funding them through fees and interest.

Drawbacks of Student Loan Forgiveness

In certain situations, you're required to report forgiven loans as taxable income. This may increase your tax liability that year and could result in a tax bill when you file in April. Not all student loan forgiveness programs require you to pay taxes on the forgiven debt. Consult your tax preparer for more information.