Scholarships are generally thought of as money designed to help you pay for school before you’re even enrolled. But what about after you graduate? Are there scholarships out there for graduates?
With $1.6 trillion tied up in student loan debt, the need for financial assistance is tremendous. Luckily, there are funds that you can take advantage of after you graduate to help you pay for your previous years of schooling. These funds are not often called scholarships but are rather grants or reimbursement programs.
Difference Between Scholarships and Grants
The primary difference between scholarships and grants is the qualifications for each. Scholarships are often awarded based on academic accomplishments and other talent or merit-based qualifications. Grants, on the other hand, might be awarded based on financial need. They can also be awarded based on fields of study.
Reimbursement programs often fall outside of these two categories but are most often associated with grants since they focus on reimbursing tuition based on a specific career path or field of study.
Funds Available for Students Post-Graduation
Now that you understand the difference between financial aid awards, we’ll walk you through some of the top programs that offer repayment options, typically in the form of loan reimbursement or forgiveness programs.
You can apply for some of these opportunities after graduating, while others require applying before completing your last year of school.
1. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program can pay up to 85% of your nursing education debt if you’re a registered nurse (RN), advanced practice nurse (APN), or nurse faculty (NF) staff member.
This program requires you to work at a critical shortage facility (CSF), which is a medical facility located in typically underserved areas. If you agree to work at a CSF for two years, you’ll receive 60% reimbursement for your student debt. If you agree to stay on for an additional third year, you’ll receive another 25% reimbursement for your remaining debt.
You must have received an accredited degree to qualify. You can learn more about this program and apply here.
2. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
The NHSC Loan Repayment Program is designed to offer up to $50,000 in student debt repayment for qualifying health service providers. To qualify, you’ll need to be a medical, dental, mental, or behavioral health professional with an accredited degree and student loan debt.
This program requires you to work in a designated health professional shortage area (HPSA), which serves areas that traditionally have limited access to care. Each HPSA has its own score indicating its level of need, which will determine how much debt repayment you’re entitled to.
You’ll need to work for at least two years at a designated HPSA to qualify for aid. If you work two years half-time at an HPSA with a score of 0-13, you’ll receive up to $15,000 in aid and up to $25,000 if you work half-time at an HPSA with a score of 14 or higher.
If you work two years full time at an HPSA with a score of 0-13, you’ll receive up to $30,000 in aid, whereas you’ll receive up to $50,000 if you work two years full time at a site with a score of 14 or higher.
You can learn more about the NHSC program and how to apply here.
3. Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program
If you plan on going into medical research or already work in a lab setting, you might be eligible for the Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program. This program is designed to help graduate students pay back their student loans by paying up to $35,000 per year of the student’s debt.
To qualify, you’ll need to be a certified health care professional working in the area of reproductive research to aid in developing contraceptives or researching infertility treatments and causes. You must also commit to at least two years of study in this field to be eligible for reimbursement.
You can learn more about the Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program and apply here.
4. John R. Justice Program
If you’re a local, state, or federal public defender or will be soon, you’ll want to look into the John R. Justice Program. This program is technically a grant and applies to Stafford, Graduate PLUS, Consolidation, and Perkins loans.
The individual requirements and award amounts of this grant vary by state, but an individual can receive a lifetime award of up to $60,000 in reimbursement.
5. Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness
If you’re a teacher who has federal student loans, you might be eligible for full or partial loan forgiveness. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is a federal program that can forgive up to $17,500 of your subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
To qualify, you must hold a teaching degree and agree to teach in a low-income school or educational facility for at least five consecutive years. Your loans must also be in good standing to receive this grant. This grant primarily is gifted to full-time teachers, but some funding can be offered to part-time teachers.
You can learn more about the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and how to apply here.
6. Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
If you hold a doctorate in veterinary medicine and have student loan debt, you might want to consider applying for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. Under this program, qualifying veterinarians can receive up to $25,000 of reimbursement aid per year.
To qualify for this reimbursement program, you’ll need to serve as a veterinarian in an area facing veterinary shortages for a minimum of three years.
You can learn more about this reimbursement program and how to apply at the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
7. Army Loan Repayment Program
If you’re in the armed forces, you might be eligible for some help with your student loans. The Army Loan Repayment Program will repay a part of a soldier’s student loan debt. There are different requirements depending on which branch of the army you serve in, and only Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) can qualify. Funds also vary by department.
You can learn more about the Army Loan Repayment Program here.
8. Pediatric Research Loan Repayment Program
If you’re a doctor researching developments, diseases, disorders, or other health-related topics in children, you might be eligible for the Pediatric Research Loan Repayment Program. This program offers funding up to $35,000 per year, depending on your topic of research.
To qualify, you must have a doctoral degree and agree to work for a nonprofit or federal research institution for a minimum of two years.
You can learn more about this program and apply here.
9. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work in public service and have student debt in the form of federal loans, you should explore the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. This program offers a complete cancellation of federal loan debt for qualifying public service professionals.
To qualify, you must work in public service, have made at least 120 on-time student loan payments (10 year’s worth), and work for a participating employer.
You can learn more about the PSLF Program and how to apply here.
10. State-Level Loan Forgiveness
Every state offers its own state-level loan forgiveness programs for specific occupations, such as health care professionals, nurses, researchers, public service officials, lawyers, veterinarians, teachers, and more.
For instance, in California, if you have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and agree to work in a designated area of the state, you can apply for the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program (BSNLRP). This program grants you up to $10,000 in student loan reimbursements per year and can be renewed up to three years – for a total of $30,000.
Check out what state-level reimbursement options and grants your state offers to see if you qualify for assistance.
Other Options for Student Loan Help Once You Graduate
If you’re not in one of the above occupations or are looking for additional resources to help after graduation, there are a few more options you can explore for student loan assistance.
If you’re interested in joining AmeriCorps, you may be eligible for student loan assistance upon graduating. The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) program offers over $6,000 to members per year in student loan assistance.
If you decide to volunteer for the Peace Corps, you’re eligible to receive assistance with your student loans (both federal and some private). Assist plans vary by loan type and might be income-based. You can learn more here.
If you were employed while in school, your employer might offer tuition reimbursement programs, depending on your major and willingness to commit to continuing to work with them. Some companies offer reimbursement only while you’re in school, so if you’re still enrolled or considering a degree, it’s worth checking in with your HR department.
Here are just a few companies that offer tuition reimbursement:
- Wells Fargo
- Best Buy
- Bank of America
- Home Depot
All the Scholarship Resources You Need in One Place
Here at College Finance, we want to help you find all the tools you need to help make repaying your student loans as easy as possible. Scholarships, grants, and reimbursement programs for graduates can offer some financial relief as you navigate your new career.
Need more assistance? Find out more about income-contingent loan repayment plans and how they can help you save money on your student loans.