Student loans are the proverbial thorn in our sides that we continue to pretend aren't real until we walk away from college, a diploma in one hand and a receipt for thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of dollars in the other. If you're like every other college student and made a side-career as a professional penny pincher during school, chances are looking ahead at decades of ball-and-chain monthly payments is about as great as-well, nothing.
The smallest of silver linings to the great student loan debt debacle is a little loophole called student loan forgiveness, which many people qualify for but not many take advantage of. It comes in a variety of forms, and can range from partial to even, in some instances, full loan coverage for a variety of circumstances. We've done our research and rounded up eight loan forgiveness options that, if you qualify, you can't afford to miss out on (no pun intended).
Among the most popular and well-known types of student loan forgiveness, the government-sponsored Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program will allow borrowers working full-time in certain public service jobs-such as government organizations and certain not-for-profit organizations-to have their loans forgiven after making 120 qualifying payments on their Direct Loans. While that's still roughly 10 years of making payments, if you're dealing with tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans, this forgiveness plan could shed decades off your payback period.
Find more information about exact qualifications here.
Loans taken out for a degree in teaching don't have to mean scraping by for the next 20 years. The government-sponsored Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program can relieve up to $17,500 on Direct and Federal Stafford loans if you teach-for five consecutive years-in certain elementary and secondary schools or educational service agencies with a primarily low-income population. The only catch to this program is that it is only compatible with certain loan types, so check out all the qualifications here.
Volunteering within the community is something many of us did frequently throughout our educations anyway, so carrying it over post-grad to lessen the loan blow could end up making payments significantly less offensive. Popular volunteer organizations like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) each offer specific loan forgiveness programs and amounts in exchange for a limited time of service. SponsorChange.org is also a non-profit organization that receives money from donors to recruit volunteers and offer loan forgiveness for involvement. Check out their websites for specific qualifications, or contact representatives directly to find out if it's the right match for you.
While this option will not be viable for everyone, those looking to serve the country and help subsidize their student loans can apply for forgiveness through their respective branch of the military. Even if your specific branch doesn't fulfill the kind of aid you need, many veterans' associations offer programs of the like, which can go as far as to completely wipe the slate clean. Look here for more details and qualifications.
Much like the teacher forgiveness program, The US Department of Health and Human Services offers forgiveness plans to doctors and registered nurses who serve for a certain amount of time in underserved areas, typically regions of low-income depression. Citizens who are conducting clinical research and veterinarians are also among those who are eligible to receive forgiveness. Find more information on whether or not you qualify here.
For this type of loan forgiveness, it can be as easy as taking your skills to a position of public service or non-profit work. A variety of law schools will offer programs to students under these qualifications through Equal Justice Works.
Although this option isn't, in all cases, one you can plan for-or even one you would hope to qualify for-if you're involved in an accident that leaves you handicapped, or have a work-hindering disability that has lasted for 60 months, or will continue to last for another 60 months, you may be eligible to receive forgiveness through the US Department of Education. Check out their webpage for a more thorough list of qualifications.
What a lot of people may not realize is that many lenders offer income-based repayment plans where, after you've made a certain number of payments on time and in the right amount, the rest of the loan is forgiven. Diligence is the key to this option, since, in many cases, the repayment process can last as many as 10 or more years before the rest of the amount is forgiven. However, watching that last portion drop off the radar? Priceless.
Read more about the qualifications and specifications here.
Don't quite fit in to any of these options? Don't give up just yet. Many lenders still offer ways to qualify for partial loan forgiveness-anything from maintaining an excellent payment history to the length of your loan can put you in the running for a decrease in the size of your debt. Don't be afraid to give them a call and see what you can come up with, or visit their websites for more detailed information about ways in which they may be willing to work with you.
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