Reducing Your Student Loans Through Acts of Public Service
Learn how pursuing a career for the greater good and becoming a volunteer can help eliminate your student debt.
Last Updated: 04/09/2020
Imagine getting help paying off your student loans in exchange for helping others every day. It may sound far-fetched, but it can become a reality through special loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs that reward Americans who dedicate their career and time to public service. From working as a teacher or doctor in an underserved community to protecting our nation as a member of the military to becoming an AmeriCorps volunteer, there are many ways to qualify for loan aid that can eliminate thousands of dollars of college debt. This guide highlights these programs and explains eligibility requirements. Whether you’re a new student, recent graduate, or seasoned public service professional, keep reading to see how you can pay for college by paying it forward.
Major Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
There are two primary student loan forgiveness programs provided by the federal government for those in public service careers – the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and the Perkins Loan Cancellation program. Learn more about each below.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program
Perhaps the most well-known option, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was created in 2007. Applicants must work full-time either for a federal, state, local, or tribal government or a nonprofit organization. Qualification is not based on the specific job type or title. Applicants must pay 120 qualifying student loan payments over a 10-year period through an income-driven repayment plan to receive consideration.
Perkins Loan Cancellation
The Perkins Loan Program was eliminated in 2017, but college graduates with Federal Perkins Loans from before this time can still qualify for loan cancellation if they meet certain requirements. New students cannot take advantage of this option unless future administrations renew the program.
Student Loan Forgiveness Programs by Public Service Career
The previous sections focused on loan forgiveness programs that provide support to those working in a variety of public service positions. The next section looks at career-specific opportunities for public service professionals who want to wipe out their student loan debt.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Given the important work teachers do in supporting the greater good of the country each and every day, both the government and nonprofit organizations have looked for ways to relieve their student loan debt burden. We look at a couple of the top options below.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals Working in High-Need Areas
Medical professionals dedicate their lives to caring for others and keeping us physically and mentally well. Because of their selfless work, several loan forgiveness programs exist for qualifying healthcare workers.
The HRSA also offers two programs specifically designed for medical and mental health professionals who want to help treat opioid addiction and other substance abuse in areas affected the most: The Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program and the Rural Community Loan Repayment Program. Both have slightly different eligibility requirements and award amounts than the standard NHSC Loan Repayment Assistance program. Interested healthcare professionals can compare all three programs here to see which is the best fit.
Finally, dental and medical students in their last year of college can apply for the NHSC Students to Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Graduates who agree to provide 3 years of full-time clinical practice in designated high-need areas will receive up to $120,000 in loan repayment assistance.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Public Interest Lawyers
If you’re an attorney who provides public defense, public prosecution, pro-bono, or other public interest legal services, you may qualify for one of several loan repayment programs. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the major options currently available.
Student Loan Forgiveness Opportunities for Military Service
Safeguarding our nation as a member of the military is one of the biggest acts of public service. Active duty and veterans alike can take advantage of several loan forgiveness opportunities as a reward for their service. Branches maintain detailed service and eligibility requirements, but we provide an overview of each one below.
Volunteer Opportunities That Forgive Student Loans
Becoming a public service professional isn’t the only way to help pay for college by giving back. Several government and nonprofit volunteering opportunities allow you to gain valuable experience, serve others, and qualify for financial aid or student loan forgiveness.