Under certain circumstances, all or part of your student loan can be canceled in a process called Student Loan Forgiveness. This sounds perfect right? For the time being, to qualify you must perform volunteer work, perform military service, practice medicine in specific communities, or meet other criteria. Perhaps with all the black clouds hanging solemnly over the student loan problem, the future will bring new loan forgiveness criteria. Until then, we must search the world for ways to secretly get student loan forgiveness.

If you want to see if your State offers any programs, check out this tool: Student Loan Forgiveness by State.

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Currently the number one way to get student loan forgiveness is to work in public service for 10 years. President Obama announced the PSLF – Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which will grant student loan forgiveness on qualifying loans after 120 payments (10 years).

The concept of ‘public service’ is very broad. Qualifying employment is any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a not-for-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes.

2. Do Volunteer Work

Organizations such as VISTA or AMERICORPS want you. If you love a life of volunteering, you can get money to be used towards your student loan debt.

VISTA will pay a whopping $4,725 towards your student loans if you volunteer for 1,700 hours.

If you serve AMERICORPS for only 12 months, you will still get that same $4,725 towards your college loan bill.

Peace Corps – If you volunteer for the Peace Corps, you get automatic deferment of Stafford, Perkins, or Consolidation loans. You can also get partial cancellation of Perkins Loans based on the number of years of service. Currently, you get 15% per year, with a max of 70%.

3. Join the Military

The military will pay each year 15% up to the branch maximum with their student loan program. 

The current maximums are:

  • Army – $65,000
  • Army Reserve – $20,000
  • Navy – $65,000
  • Air Force – $10,000

To qualify, you must request this program at the time of enlistment or reenlistment. Also, you must score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test.

4. Become a Teacher

Students with Perkins Loans can receive a portion of these loans forgiven if they become full-time teachers in an elementary or secondary school that serves low-income families. This program forgives 15% of your loan in each of the first and second years, 20% in each of the third and fourth years, and the remaining 30% in the fifth year. This program is soon to be replaced with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

5. Legal Studies

There are ways to get student loans forgiven in law school if the students serves in the public interest or for non-profits. These loan repayment assistance programs provide loan repayment or forgiveness, lower interest rates on loans, or postponed payment schedules. Most programs have income limitations and specify which types of employment qualify.

Furthermore, many 23 states offer loan repayment assistance programs: Arizona, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York (two programs), North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

For more information, check out the American Bar Association’s website on Loan Repayment Assistance Programs.

And yet another secret avenue--Medical Studies

Medical students have several options available for student loan forgiveness. Forgiveness programs like the ones below offer peace of mind.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers loan forgiveness programs through two programs:

Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program: For two years of nursing service at a qualifying non-profit, you can have 60% of your loan forgiven. There is also an optional third-year, where you can have an additional 25% forgiven.

National Health Service Corps: Complete a five-year commitment to providing medical care in “needed” areas, and you can receive up to $170,000 in loan forgiveness.

The National Institute of Health offers a loan forgiveness program that repays up to $35,000 each year for qualifying research at either a non-profit or university, as well as directly at the National Institute of Health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program where you can receive loan forgiveness of $25,000 per year for three years, as long as you work in a designated area.