Your student loans are overwhelming, your paycheck does not go as far as you had planned, you lost your job, or you cannot find one, but your obligation does not go away. You need some relief. Where can you find it?
While your loan is never forgiven, you can find some relief. It takes perseverance, hard work, and some dedication to apply, but it is possible.
The ease with which this is accomplished depends on the type of student loan you have. If you have a federal Stafford loan, you may be able to get all or part of your loan forgiven through certain types of volunteer work, public service, military service or medical practice.
You can volunteer – Americorps or Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), may allow you to receive up to $4,725 toward your Federally-funded Stafford loans. The PeaceCorps will forgive 15% of your Perkins Loan balance each year.
You can serve your country – the Army National Guard's Student Loan Repayment Program, which can help you earn up to $10,000 toward loans. Law school graduates may earn Stafford Loan forgiveness by working in a public interest or nonprofit position.
You can teach – as a full-time elementary or secondary school teacher in a low-income community, you can have 15% of your Perkins Loan go away for years one and two of employment, 20% in years three and four, and the remaining 30% in year five. Stafford or Perkins loans may also be forgiven if you teach an understaffed subject such as math, science, or special education or work in a school in a low-income neighborhood.
For medical school graduates and nurses, working in underserved areas can qualify you for student loan forgiveness under state programs. Check with your state website to find out what programs might work to get some relief. You may be able to dedicate your time toward a worthy cause, and at the same time get some debt relief.
If you work for a federal agency, your may be able to have up to $10,000 of your loans paid per year, with a maximum of $60,000, through the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program. You can work full-time for 10 years in a public service job like nursing, government, police, fire, social work and nonprofit organizations and make at least 120 loan payments on your own, then your remaining student loan debt may be forgiven.
The jobs that offer student loan forgiveness offer lower pay than what you could earn in a regular job, so consider this as a second job. You will learn on the job, make some great contacts and get some financial relief at the same time. If this is a second job, then make every effort to put that check, however paltry, against your loan.
You might be able to repay your loans more quickly through a job with greater earning potential, even if it doesn't offer loan forgiveness. Regardless of your employer or profession, however, there are also income-based programs that will forgive your remaining loan balance once you've made payments for 25 years.
Be aware that the IRS may consider the forgiven debt as income and you may have to pay tax on that amount. Also, if you choose to participate in any loan forgiveness program, make sure to obtain written verification before you begin of what amount will be forgiven and under what circumstances.