Your Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness Grants
Student debt can be a heavy burden, but you may be eligible for grants to pay off student loans depending on your career or other factors. Learn more here.
Student loan debt can feel like a weight on your shoulders. However, depending on your career or other aspects of your unique situation, you might be eligible for grants to pay off student loans, including loan forgiveness programs from the federal government.
What are student loan forgiveness programs?
Student loan forgiveness grants are typically designed to help you pay off a portion or all of your student loan balance, based on eligibility requirements.
Most loan assistance programs are designed for federal Direct Loans, so if you have private student loans, you might not qualify for an incentive program to pay off your debt. As a result, if you think you might take advantage of a student loan forgiveness program, you might want to hold off on refinancing your federal student loan debt until after you’ve taken advantage of the federal programs.
23 student loan grants to help with paying off federal loans
There are a number of programs designed to help you pay off your federal student loans based on the type of work you do. Generally, you need to make monthly payments for a set period while you work. Once your period of service is finished, your remaining balance is forgiven.
Grants for health care professionals
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program: Receive up to $50,000 in student loan forgiveness after working full time in a high-need area.
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: Get up to 60% of your student loans paid off when you work as a registered nurse for two years in an area with a critical shortage. After that, you might be eligible for a third year and an additional 25% of your student loans.
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program: This grant program is designed to encourage health care professionals to work with Native American and Alaska Native communities. You can get up to $40,000 in qualifying loans paid off and renew your contract until the full amount is paid off.
- Students to Service Loan Repayment Program: If you agree to work in a medical shortage area for three years after graduation, you could get up to $120,000 in loan forgiveness as a doctor or dental student in your final year.
- Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program: Commit to working in a veterinarian shortage area for three years and get up to $25,000 per year in repayment assistance.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs: If you agree to conduct research in different areas — even if it’s not working directly for the NIH — you can receive up to $50,000 per year in forgiveness for up to two years of service.
Grants for teachers
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: Receive up to $17,500 in repayment grants after you teach for five consecutive years in a high-need area.
- Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation: If you have a federal Perkins Loan, you can get a grant to pay off a percentage of your loan each year you teach in a shortage area or teach a high-need subject.
Grants for lawyers
- John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program: As long as you work for at least three years as a state prosecutor or public defender, you can get up to $10,000 a year toward student loan forgiveness. You can get up to $60,000 total.
- Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program: Meet the three-year service obligation at the Department of Justice and get $6,000 a year, up to $60,000 in loan forgiveness.
- Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program: This loan forgiveness grant operates a little differently. It’s a lottery for those with more than $75,000 in student loan debt. You work with one of the grantees and receive up to $5,600 in grants.
- American Bar Association: Check out this website for a list of law schools that offer grants to their graduates when they fulfill certain eligibility requirements.
Grants for military members (and family)
- Army Loan Repayment Program: Get forgiveness for loans if you enlist after finishing college.
- Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program: Depending on their specialty, graduating college students can get up to $65,000 in student loan forgiveness by joining the Army Reserve.
- Other military forgiveness programs: In addition to the Army, there are student loan forgiveness programs aimed at those who join the National Guard, Navy and Air Force.
- Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant: If you were under 24 and enrolled part time in college when a parent died in Iraq or Afghanistan, you might be eligible for student loan forgiveness up to the amount of the Pell Grant.
Grants for Volunteers
- AmeriCorps: You might be able to get some funds to put toward loan repayment assistance by working in areas of America that need extra help.
- Peace Corps: Go abroad to work as a volunteer and receive a stipend you can use for loan repayment.
- Teach for America: You might get help with paying down your student loan balance.
Federal student loan forgiveness
There are federal loan forgiveness programs on top of the options listed above. One way to prepare for federal loan forgiveness is to get a Direct Consolidation Loan and make qualifying payments until you are eligible for some type of cancellation.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): You must make 120 qualifying payments while working for an eligible employer. Once you make those payments, the U.S. Department of Education will cancel your remaining balance. However, you must have certain federal student loans and work for the government, a nonprofit or another qualifying entity.
- Perkins Loan Cancellation: In addition to teaching, other professions, such as law enforcement and firefighting, qualify for this grant.
- Income-Driven Repayment: Head over to StudentAid.gov to learn more about income-driven repayment plans that can help you manage your monthly payments. After a set period of years, you can have your remaining balance forgiven.
- Cancellation and Discharge: Certain circumstances, such as death and total disability, can result in cancellation. On top of that, if your school closes, you might be eligible for forgiveness. Depending on your situation, there are different ways to have your loans forgiven.
There are a number of state-based grants and loan forgiveness programs as well. Many states offer student loan repayment assistance depending on the job you do. Check into the state to find out more. You can also find out if your employer offers student loan repayment assistance, student loan payment matching or some other program to help you cover the costs.
Additionally, before you refinance, make sure to consider whether it makes sense for you. Once you refinance, your loans become private and aren’t eligible for many federal deferment, forbearance or forgiveness programs.
A private student loan from Juno can help you close a funding gap, but it might not be eligible for loan forgiveness.
Miranda has 10+ years of experience covering financial markets for various online and offline publications, including contributions to Marketwatch, NPR, Forbes, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, and The Hill. She is the co-host of the Money Tree Investing podcast and she has a Master of Arts in Journalism from Syracuse University