There’s no overlooking the fact that college is expensive. If you are like most students, you will need to take out student loans to cover your expenses. After graduation, as those loans go into repayment, you may wonder if there are better ways to deal with this debt.
The good news is that there are several careers that you can go into that offer loan forgiveness or repayment assistance if you play your cards right. In this article, we cover eight career fields for which loan forgiveness programs are available and tell you how to qualify.
Loan Forgiveness and Loan Repayment Assistance
First, let’s define two terms: loan forgiveness and loan repayment assistance. Both make it so that you don’t have to pay all or some of your loans, but they work in different ways.
Loan forgiveness is when the lender – often the U.S. government – forgives a portion of your loan balance so that you no longer need to repay it.
Loan repayment assistance is something offered by certain organizations or employers where they make all or part of your loan payments on your behalf.
In this article, we will be treating forgiveness and repayment assistance as though they are the same for all practical purposes, but it is important to be aware of the difference. In particular, loan repayment assistance programs are more likely to cover private loans in addition to federal loans. Most forgiveness programs apply just to federal student loans.
1. Public Service Jobs
The U.S. Department of Education offers the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. To qualify, you must maintain a certain type of employment and enroll in an income-based repayment plan. After making 120 qualifying payments on your student loan, the remainder of the balance will be forgiven.
Types of employment that qualify for PSLF include:
- Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal)
- Not-for-profit organizations
- Full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteers
Pay careful attention to the details on the StudentAid.gov website to ensure you meet all of the requirements. You will need to submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employer Certification Form annually or when you change jobs. Note that this type of loan forgiveness only applies to federal student loans.
2. Doctors and Dentists
It’s no secret that those who go to medical school end up with some of the highest student loan debts. While you should earn well enough to reasonably pay off this debt working as a doctor or dentist, if there are ways you can get some of it forgiven, it can be a huge saving.
The National Health Service Corps offers loan repayment for primary health care workers who work in high-needs areas. This program is open to physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, dentists, dental hygienists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and more.
The National Institutes of Health offers loan repayment assistance to qualified doctors and dentists whose debt is in excess of 20% of their base salary provided they are engaged in certain research projects or programs.
In exchange for a two-year service commitment to practice in health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities, the Indian Health Service offers repayment of up to $40,000 of your student loans. Doctors, dentists, and other health care workers are eligible.
Another option for qualified doctors and dentists is the military. The U.S. Army offers up to $120,000 in loan repayment assistance. The U.S. Navy and other branches of the military make similar offers. Of course, it is required that you serve in the military for a specified amount of time in this capacity.
While some of the same programs described in the previous section are available to nurses or nurse practitioners, nurses also have access to the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.
This program requires that you are a licensed registered nurse, an advanced practice registered nurse, or a nurse faculty member who works full time in an eligible critical shortage facility or accredited nursing school.
Those who qualify receive 60% of their total outstanding nursing education loans over the course of two years and could be eligible for an additional 25% for a third year of service.
Veterinarians are also in demand in certain areas, and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program incentivizes them to work in a National Institute for Food and Agriculture-designated veterinarian shortage situation for three years.
In return, they can receive up to $25,000 per year toward qualified educational loans. Shortage areas are determined in the fall and winter, and the application period generally runs from winter to early spring.
Those who become attorneys are also often saddled with some of the largest amounts of student loan debt. Luckily a few programs exist to help pay some of it off.
The Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program selects participants each spring to serve in the Department of Justice. By serving a minimum of three years, qualified attorneys can receive repayment assistance on their student loans. This assistance is in the form of matching payments (payments that match the amount the borrower is paying) of up to $6,000.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance also runs the John R. Justice Program, which provides loan repayment assistance to qualified attorneys who agree to remain employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years.
6. Automotive Workers
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is a trade association made up of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, publishing companies, auto restorers, street rod builders, restylers, car clubs, race teams, and more. Automotive workers employed at a SEMA member company can apply for loan forgiveness.
To qualify, you must possess a degree or certificate from a postsecondary college, university, or career and technical school with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and at least $2,000 in outstanding student loan debt.
The federal government offers loan forgiveness for those who have been employed as a full-time, highly qualified teacher for five complete and consecutive academic years at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves low-income students.
The maximum amount that can be forgiven is either $17,500 or $5,000, depending on the subject area taught. The higher amount is generally reserved for those who teach math or science at the secondary or special education level.
8. Federal Agency Employees
If you would like to work for the federal government, many such positions come with the perk of student loan repayment assistance. The federal student loan repayment program permits agencies to repay federally insured student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for candidates or current employees of the agency.
Any employee is eligible, except for those in a position in the competitive civil service. To qualify, you must sign a service agreement and serve for at least three years. This benefit can repay up to $10,000 per year for a maximum of $60,000 off your student loans.
Employers That Offer Loan Repayment Assistance
In addition to specific jobs coming with the potential for student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance, many employers now offer repayment assistance as part of their benefits package to attract talent.
When you are searching for a new job, definitely ask if this type of assistance is on the table. Among companies that are known to offer this type of benefit are:
- Estée Lauder
- Fidelity Investments
- First Republic Bank
- Penguin Random House
Stay Informed About Student Loan Repayment
The resources at CollegeFinance.com can help keep you informed as to the latest information about student loan repayment, including forgiveness programs and student loan repayment assistance programs.
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