What Grants Can Go Toward Paying Off My Student Loans?

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 4/07/20

For millions of Americans, student loans are a necessary means for funding their education. Six months after graduation, however, students have to begin repaying their student loans. With many students struggling to find steady work or make a livable wage, these payments can greatly impact their financial future. 

As of 2019, there are approximately $1.5 trillion dollars tied up in student loan debt. In fact, over 44 million Americans have some sort of student loan debt they need to manage.

Repaying Student Loans with Grants and Assistance Programs

While refinancing and paying ahead on student debt is certainly an option, there are also a number of assistance programs that can help. You may know grants can help you pay for your education while you’re in school, but did you know they can also go towards student loan payments after you graduate?

Let’s take a look at 10 of the most common student loan grants available to help you pay yours off more easily.

1. National Institute of Mental Health Loan Repayment Program

If you’re entering a field that includes studying mental health in a research setting, you might be eligible for loan repayment. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Loan Repayment Program offers up to $50,000 in student loan payments for qualifying candidates each year. 

To be eligible, you’ll need to spend two years researching biomedical, social, behavioral, or other clinical trial research problems in the mental health field for a qualifying U.S. nonprofit organization. You’ll also receive a full salary for your research in addition to the loan incentive.

2. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

This scholarship and grant program provides each state and the District of Columbia with a minimum of $100,000 per year to provide attorneys (especially public defenders and prosecutors) with loan repayment assistance. Each recipient can receive up to $60,000 in total over six years from the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program.

In order to qualify, you must be willing to serve as a public defender or prosecutor for your state for at least three years.

3. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

If your parent was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan while serving in the military, you may be eligible for this service grant to help repay your student loans. This Pell Grant can only be used to repay loans if you’re still currently enrolled in school.

In order to be eligible for this grant, you’ll need to have been under the age of 24 or enrolled in college at the time your parent was killed. 

4. Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program

For those who studied infertility or contraception in school, students might be able to take advantage of their research and pay off some (or all) of their student loans in the process. The Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program offers up to $35,000 in assistance each year for anyone pursuing a higher education degree in this field.

You’ll also need to be certified to work in a laboratory setting and commit to a minimum of two years of research in the field of either infertility or contraception.

5. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

Nursing is a growing field and has been a top choice for many students in recent years. However, many areas of the country are still experiencing nursing and healthcare shortages. To help, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program offers 85% tuition reimbursement to pay off your student loans if you agree to work in one of the thousands of Critical Shortage Facilities (CRFs) located across the country. These facilities are located in areas experiencing nursing and healthcare shortages.

To be eligible, you must be a registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse or nurse faculty with student debt. You’ll need to serve in a CRF for a minimum of two years when you’ll receive 60% of your funding to repay your loans. If you sign on for a third term, you’ll receive the additional 25%.

6. Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program

Another grant for potential healthcare practitioners to consider is the Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program. This grant program offers up to $120,000 in student loan repayment assistance for medical students currently in their final year of study. In exchange, these recipients will work in an area experiencing a shortage of medical practitioners for a minimum of three years after graduating.

To qualify, you must be pursuing an M.D., D.O., D.D.S., or D.M.D. degree at an accredited American college. You must also be a full-time student in the medical or dental field and eligible to work as a federal employee.

7. IHS Loan Repayment Program

Another repayment program for those studying healthcare is the IHS (Indian Health Service) Loan Repayment Program. This grant offers up to $40,000 in student loan repayment assistance for clinicians who choose to work in an American Indian or Alaska Native community for a minimum of two years.

Clinicians who opt to continue serving these areas can renew their contracts and receive additional student loan repayment assistance.

8. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Going into the field of teaching? Great news: There are plenty of loan forgiveness programs available for teachers. One of the top grants, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, allows you to receive up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness (for direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans) in exchange for teaching in a low-income area for a minimum of five years.

If you have a direct consolidation loan or a federal consolidation loan, this program may offer forgiveness for the entire loan balance. You must be a K-12 teacher to be eligible.

9. Teacher Cancellation of Perkins Loans

Even though Perkins Loans are a thing of the past, if you were in school prior to 2017, there’s a good chance you took out a Perkins Loan. If that’s the case, and you’re now a K-12 teacher working in a low-income area or specializing in a high-needs subject like English as a second language, special education, or specialized science and math classes, you may be eligible to have the full amount forgiven.

You’ll receive a portion of the loan amount for each year you teach, incentivizing teachers to continue in their fields of expertise.

10. Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment Program

If you are currently in vet school or have graduated, you could be eligible for up to $25,000 per year in loan repayments. Each year, the Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment Program offers this amount for licensed veterinarians who agree to work in areas experiencing a shortage of vets for at least three years.

You must have at least $15,000 in vet school loans in order to qualify.

Other Student Loan Grants to Consider

There are a variety of additional student loan grants to consider, based on your field of study. The top fields of study offering forgiveness or repayment grants include healthcare, veterinary care, research and clinical studies, teaching, law, and public service.

There are also income-based repayment and loan forgiveness options to consider if you do make a high enough salary to pay back your student loans. To figure out if you qualify and find out which program is right for you, apply for assistance on the official .gov website.

Many workplaces also provide student loan assistance or grant programs. It can be worthwhile to talk to your HR department to find out if your job participates in any of these programs and to find out if you qualify.

Take Advantage of Loan Programs Designed to Help You Get Ahead

Find out if you’re eligible for loan forgiveness or grant assistance to help pay down your student loans and get off to a good financial start. Be sure to research any loan assistance programs you’re eligible for and decide if they’re a good fit for your future plans before applying.

Even if you aren’t eligible for grant assistance, at CollegeFinance, our expertise can help you decide the most efficient way to pay off your student loans, without putting you in a financial bind. Check out our exhaustive guide on repaying your student loans quickly for more information.