How To Get Your Student Loans Forgiven
It’s a fairly well-understood fact that most graduates leave university with piles of debt. In fact, researchers at Project on Student Debt said that 7 out of every 10 in 2015 college graduates owed money on a student loan — with a staggering average of nearly $30,000 each.
This figure only increases when we take a look at graduate student debts specifically. Though graduate students only make up 16 percent of the student population, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, they are shouldering nearly 40 percent of the total student debt.
The median collective college and graduate school debt for a degree earner in 2012 was $57,600. What’s even worse is that according to a 2014 paper published by the New America Education Policy Program, 25% of all graduate degree earners borrowed more than $100,000: whereas 10% borrowed more than $150,000!
The daunting task of paying down these piles of student debt is made even harder by a whole range of factors some of which include:
- Many graduates fail to secure full-time employment after graduation.
- The full-time employment available may not be in their field of study.
- Their job may not even cover both living expenses and their debt repayment plan.
Thankfully, there are a few unique solutions for graduates who make the intention to be debt free and are willing to work at anything to get there.
Public service loan forgiveness
In 2007, the US Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This program rewards citizens who choose lower paying public sector jobs or join non-profit organizations with a 501(c)(3) designation. After 10 years of dedicated service and regular monthly repayments, this program forgives the remainder of the loan.
Teacher loan forgiveness
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program rewards qualifying teachers with a principal reduction of $5000 – $17,500. It also includes full forgiveness of the remaining loan balance after a 10 year term.
Reduction of monthly payments without loan consolidation is also feasible through this program.
An eligible teacher must have a federal loan in good standing and work at either a Title 1 school, or an elementary or secondary school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). The ten year Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is part of the public service loan forgiveness program. In many cases teachers receive the benefits of both programs.
State-specific debt forgiveness
Various state-specific programs can eliminate all or part of your debts for certain types of community service. Depending on your state, everything from firefighting, to dentistry, to other medical-related work can help pay down your student debts.
Some states offer other unusual programs that also help college students with school costs while meeting the needs of the community. For example, The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York offers help with community college tuition in exchange for one or more years of volunteer firefighter duty.
This program, and others like it, is something to consider before going back to school for additional degrees.
Paying down debt by volunteering
A small nonprofit called Sponsor Change helps college graduates battle student loan debt while volunteering.
Sponsor Change empowers volunteers by creating a new pathway to skill-based project opportunities at various organizations. At the same time, it’s helping volunteers raise the funds they desperately need to pay down their student loan debts. Sponsor Change effectively “rewards” volunteer service because, as they say on their website: “good work deserves to be rewarded, and everyone deserves the opportunity to meaningfully contribute.”
Sponsor Change went out and raised funding from citizen philanthropists. They then started rewarding volunteers who completed skill-based projects at area nonprofits with direct student loan payments. They help volunteers by paying back their student loans — but only after they give their time to local social change makers.
Organizations in need of volunteers list their projects on the website and in turn, receive the talent they need. Volunteers can easily find projects, build their skills, and gain experience by signing up for various volunteer opportunities.
Choosing the best solution for killing student debt
With so many different ways to consolidate loans, ensure small monthly payments, seek out forgiveness in the long term, and pay down the principle balance of your debts, it pays to do some research.
Always read the fine print on any program or loan you are considering. Consult with professionals regarding your long-term options before making any major decisions. Weigh the pros and cons of all the options. Also, if you still have time (and are still in school while reading this) make preparations to utilize these creative ways of paying off your loans after graduation.
Act now and make moves ahead of time to position yourself to kill your debt in the fastest way post-graduation. Research your debt solutions now to make an actionable plan and avoid being saddled with debt for decades to come.
About the author: Henry Kingston is a product of Depaul University and a passionate finance blogger.