Most of us know that you can apply for grants and scholarships to help offset the cost of college, but can you get a grant to pay off student loans once you’ve already graduated?
In short, kind of! Whether you didn’t get enough financial aid or simply bit off more than you could chew repayment-wise, there are grants and other loan repayment assistance options that function very much like scholarships to pay off student loans. You may also be able to have your student loans forgiven through certain state or federal programs.
Here’s what you need to know.
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What Is Student Loan Forgiveness?
Student loan forgiveness programs pretty much do what they say on the tin: They forgive a borrower’s student loans, provided that borrower meets certain eligibility requirements, usually related to their career.
Student loan forgiveness is most often offered through state or federal governments. For example, if you have federal loans, your remaining balance may be forgiven after 20 or 25 years on certain income-driven repayment plans, depending on your payment plan and whether you meet all the requirements.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
The well-known Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is offered to government employees and those who work for not-for-profit organizations who’ve made 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for their qualifying employer.
Do be aware that PSLF has relatively strict requirements and if you don’t work in public service for the full 10 years, you may not see any benefits. PSLF has strict requirements for certifying employment. If you plan on pursuing PSLF, pay close attention to program requirements.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program can wipe out up to $17,500 of your Direct Loans, subsidized or unsubsidized, if you teach full-time for five consecutive years at a qualifying low-income school. Did you borrow a Perkins loan? You may be eligible for Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation.
State Programs and Incentives
Some states even offer incentive programs that aren’t tied to specific careers — and although they may not be student loan repayment grants specifically, they could still help free up some money to make ends meet and repay those debts.
For example, Maine offers loan assistance to some taxpayers living in the state through their innovative Opportunity Maine tax credit. Tulsa Remote, a program in Oklahoma, offers remote workers who move to the city a $10,000 cash grant to put toward buying a home.
Also, note that many of these programs only apply to federal student loans, so if you have private student loans you may need to look for other solutions when it comes to getting help with repayment.
Recommended: State Grants and Scholarships
Can You Get a Grant to Pay Off Student Loans?
Another strategy you can use when searching for grants to pay off student loans after graduation is to look for career-based grants. Grants based on your chosen specialty field can offer some serious savings on student loans.
Grants for Doctors, Nurses, and Other Healthcare Professionals
Medical professionals, listen up: you may qualify for special grants designed to ease your student loan burden, including the debt you racked up in grad school.
In the medical field, qualifying professionals can take advantage of a grant of up to $50,000 to pay off student loans if they agree to work in a high-need area through the National Health Service Corps.
If you’re a nurse, you may be eligible to pay off 85% of your student loan debt with grants available through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program if you work at a qualifying non-profit or in a high-need area.
Getting ready to graduate from medical or dental school and worried about your loans? The Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program offers up to $120,000 in grants to repay student loans to qualifying students who agree to work in an area experiencing a medical professional shortage.
Recommended: Finding & Applying to Scholarships for Grad School
Grants for Teachers
Certain state-sponsored programs may help teachers pay off their student loans. For example, Maryland offers certain teachers, as well as other public servants, the assistance of up to $10,000 a year to repay your student loans through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program (LARP). It’s worth checking to see if your state has any specific student loan repayment programs for teachers.
Grants for Lawyers
There are similar programs available for lawyers who spend time working in public service. Public defenders and state prosecutors may be eligible for up to an aggregate total of $60,000 towards student loans through the John R. Justice Program.
Attorneys working for the Department of Justice may be eligible for grants to cover the costs of student loans through the Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program.
Recommended: A Guide to Law School Scholarships
Grants for Veterinarians
Medical health professionals who work for our furred and feathered friends are important public servants, too! Through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, veterinarians who work in certain NIFA-designated areas and situations where vets are in high demand can qualify for up to $25,000 per year in loan repayment assistance.
Grants for Researchers
Research scientists may also be eligible for up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance through the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) .
Corporate Loan Repayment Grants
Still looking for student loan repayment alternatives? You may be able to ask your boss!
Many companies now offer help with student loan repayment as a job perk. As more and more employees struggle with debt, employers have started to offer these benefit programs in order to attract and retain top-notch talent.
Wondering if your employer offers the same perks? Check with HR to see if you can take advantage of a company-wide loan repayment benefit and/or grant program.
Student Loan Refinancing
One way to make both your public and your private loans more affordable is to consider student loan refinancing. Refinancing can potentially net you a lower interest rate which could potentially mean you spend less money in interest over the life of the loan.
Important note: Refinancing federal student loans would eliminate the loans’ eligibility for federal loan forgiveness programs and payment protections.
If refinancing seems like an option, consider SoFi. The application process can be completed online, with customer support available seven days a week. When you refinance with SoFi you’ll have access to member benefits like a discount on any additional loans borrowed and exclusive community events.
In the event you lose your job through no fault of your own, you could qualify for unemployment protection which would allow you to temporarily pause your loan payments.
While most people think of grants as a way to help finance your education while you are in school, there are some options to help graduates pay for their student loans. Options may include state programs or incentives, or grants based on your career choice. Borrowers with federal loans may also consider forgiveness programs like PSLF if they meet eligibility requirements.
Another option that may help borrowers spend less on interest is student loan refinancing. Though, as mentioned, refinancing a federal student loan eliminates it from all federal borrower protections, including federal loan forgiveness programs.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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