Rid yourself of student loans without paying

graduation cap on top of a stack of money

When people talk about college affordability, they typically emphasize the front end: picking a school you can afford, finishing in four years, finding scholarships and avoiding excessive debt.

But there are also ways to make college more affordable on the back end.

If you're willing to be helpful after you graduate, a variety of government entities will help you pay back your student loans.

According to a guide put out by American Student Assistance, a nonprofit organization that helps college students and young adults manage money, the U.S. is crowded with organizations — mostly federal and state governments — that offer student loan forgiveness as an incentive, a way to persuade graduates to join the military or take their degrees and professional qualifications to an underserved group or geographic area.

To qualify, you generally need to do one of several things:

Serve your community — or someone else's.

Join AmeriCorps, and you may receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which pays up to the maximum Pell Grant award for the current year, for up to four years.

You have to sign up for this award before you start serving with AmeriCorps and successfully complete your term of service. Then you've got seven years to use your award, so you could put the money toward graduate or professional school if you don't already have student loans to repay.

The Peace Corps cancels 15% of volunteers' Perkins loans on the completion of each full year of service for the first and second year, and another 20% per year for the third and fourth years of service. Four years of service makes 70% of your Perkins loans go away, but only if you haven't consolidated them with other loans.

There are a lot of other ways to cancel or reduce Perkins loans, too.

Public defenders, child or family-service agency employees, firefighters, Head Start staff, school librarians and nurses are among the professions eligible for Perkins loan forgiveness.

Join the U.S. military.

The Army Student Loan Repayment program pays off either $1,500 or a third of your loans, whichever is greater. The Navy makes enlistees the same offer.

The National Guard Student Loan Repayment program is more generous, offering enlistees with "critical skills" $7,500 a year, or a maximum of $50,000, toward student loan repayment.

For a bigger payout, get a medical degree and serve as an officer in the armed forces, working in an area where the secretary of defense has declared a critical shortage. That's worth $20,000 a year toward your loans, for a maximum of $50,000.

The really big jackpot — in terms of Perkins student loans, at least — is available to those who serve in areas of imminent danger or hostile fire.

That's worth 50% of Perkins loan forgiveness if your active duty ended before Aug. 14, 2008, and 100% of Perkins loan forgiveness if your active duty includes or began after that date.

Meghan Loftus

Running down student loan debt while on a budget. Meghan Loftus paid down her student loan debt more than five years early by living on a budget. Follow her three tips for rapid repayment:

  • Live frugally.
  • Build bigger payments into your budget.
  • Don't neglect savings.

Get a professional degree and go where the other professionals aren't.

If you're willing to live in less central locations and serve less advantaged people, there are government and private organizations that will forgive big chunks of your student loans in return.

Keep in mind that you will probably earn less than you might in a more mainstream position. From a financial point of view, consider the sum of forgiveness plus wages and other income as you weigh your options.

In medicine, if you come from a disadvantaged background and are willing to teach at a medical school for two years, that's worth $40,000 in loan forgiveness.

Commit to two years of providing medical or dental care to American Indian and Native Alaskan populations, and you might see your student loan debt reduced by $40,000.

The National Health Service Corps offers $60,000 in loan forgiveness to medical professionals who will work at high-need sites for two years, with additional loan forgiveness for those who sign on for longer stints. Researchers through the National Institutes of Health can get $35,000 a year in loan forgiveness.

Registered and advanced-practice nurses who work in areas of critical need may be eligible for 60% loan repayment in exchange for two years' service, or up to 85% repayment for three years' service.

Lawyers who want to be prosecutors or public defenders are eligible for up to $60,000 in loan repayment through the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program.

Many states offer partial repayment for medical and other professionals who are willing to work in the areas where they need help.

Kentucky and North Dakota, for instance, will forgive loans for veterinarians who work primarily on large food animals. Minnesota will subsidize loans for veterinarians with rural, large-animal practices.

Florida wants nurses. Georgia and Kansas need doctors and nurses to practice rural medicine. North Dakota and Vermont need professionals in science, technology, engineering and math.

As you might expect, all these offers come with various terms and conditions.

Read more at https://www.saltmoney.org/Assets/PDFs/60-ways-to-get-rid-of-your-student-loans-without-paying-them.pdf.

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