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Managing Student Debt While Volunteering

May 21, 2019 · 6 minute read

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Managing Student Debt While Volunteering

Do you love volunteering, but feel held back by your student loans? Maybe you’ve taken on a new side gig to help manage your student debt payment, and now there’s just not enough time in the day. If this sounds like you, there’s good news—you could potentially help pay off your student loans by volunteering!

There are a number of organizations that will let you volunteer to pay off student loans. From teaching in an underserved area to helping out a local non-profit in need, you may be able to get cash to put towards your student loans while making the world a better place. That’s not just a great way to multitask, but it’s also a fun way to pay off your loans. Who doesn’t love helping people?

On top of that, it’s a fabulous way to gain work experience that can boost your resume and help you stand out in your post-graduation job search and beyond.

Many employers love to see volunteer work and many of the types of positions that help you repay your loans require you to take initiative and be a leader which will help you grow professionally.

Here are some ways to volunteer and possibly pay down your student loans:


AmeriCorps is a government initiative that has been around since 1965. Its goal is to help young people take on service positions where they’re able to learn important work skills, help local communities, and earn money towards their education or student loans.

In order to qualify, you need to be at least 17 years old. If you want to participate in the AmeriCorps VISTA program , you need to be 18 or older.

Participants in the program may qualify to have their qualified student loans put into forbearance while they’re working. After 12 months of full-time volunteering, you qualify for a Segal AmeriCorps Education
, which can be used to “pay educational expenses at eligible post-secondary institutions,” according to the program.

Those who volunteer for the VISTA program can get a cash stipend instead . While volunteering with the program, you will also get a living allowance and health benefits.

If you volunteer to pay off qualified federal student loans via the AmeriCorps program, your time in the program also counts towards the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF).

Shared Harvest Fund

The Shared Harvest Fund has a goal to help repay $20 million in student debt by 2020. The organization was started by three physicians with the goal of reducing graduates’ student loan stress.

Each time you volunteer to reduce student loans with the Shared Harvest Fund, you earn Stipend Coins which you can cash in with your student loan lender. You can earn up to $1,000 per project.

To get started, simply log into their website and find a cause or a project that interests you. You’ll be able to refine your work skills while doing good in your community.

Some examples of organizations that they work with include UnCommon Law , which helps adults and children who are struggling within the criminal justice system, and the Elgin Foundation , which helps kids in rural Appalachia with dental care and literacy programs.

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is a government-run program that was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. The program allows you to pay off student loans by volunteering around the world at a grassroots level. You gain work experience and become a global citizen while earning money that can help you repay your student debt.

The program is open to anyone over the age of 18, and while you are an active Peace Corps volunteer, you may qualify for deferment or forbearance on your federal student loans.

As a volunteer with student loans , you may also qualify for income-driven repayment. Since Peace Corps volunteers earn fairly low salaries, your payments could be as low as $0. If you hold a Perkins Loan, you could qualify for 15% to 70% forgiveness.

If you have a federal Direct Loan, you could qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. It’s important to thoroughly review the details of PSLF —for those who qualify, it could dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend repaying your student loans. Full-time AmeriCorps and Peace Corps volunteers can qualify for PSLF, but it requires 120 qualifying monthly payments made on an income-based repayment plan.

National Health Service Corps

If you’re a medical professional such as a doctor, dentist, or behavioral health professional, another way to pay off student loans by volunteering is via the National Health Service Corps .

You can get part of your student loans forgiven if you volunteer to work in an underserved area through the National Health Service Corps. The program helps ensure that those in impoverished, underserved, or remote areas have access to quality health care.

In addition to getting a regular paycheck from working in those areas, you’ll also get up to $50,000 to repay your student loans if you commit to working for two years, full-time, in one of those underserved areas. Also, it is not treated as income in the same way that other forms of student loan forgiveness are, so you won’t be taxed on it.

Not Able to Volunteer to Repay Your Loans?

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to volunteer to pay off student loans. It’s also important to consider whether it makes sense to volunteer to help reduce some of your student loans. For example, if you’re a doctor, you might have a much lower income working in a remote area and miss out on far more than just $50,000 worth of billings during those two years.

That money wouldn’t just give you more cash to repay your loans yourself, but it would also help you build an income that could have a long-term impact on your annual earnings. As with most things, volunteering as a way to repay your student loans has an opportunity cost.

Similarly, when you look at the volunteer opportunities available, you might want to look at how much you’re ‘earning’ for each hour you volunteer.

You might be better off getting a side hustle if you’re only looking to repay your student loans quickly.

If you don’t qualify to volunteer or are looking for an alternative to reducing your student loan debt burden, you could consider refinancing. When you refinance your student loans you could potentially qualify for a lower interest rate, which might cost you less in interest over the life of the loan, depending on the new term you choose. If you qualify to refinance with SoFi, there are no origination fees. You’ll be able to select a new term length and choose between a fixed or variable rate loan.

If you’re looking to simplify your repayment plan, refinancing could be great for you since you’ll only have to worry about one monthly payment. However, refinancing your student loans with a private lender means you’ll forfeit your access to federal student loan benefits.

For those interested in refinancing with SoFi, we offer member benefits like Unemployment Protection and Career Coaching. To see how refinancing could impact your student loans, take a look at SoFi’s easy-to-use student loan refinance calculator.

If volunteering isn’t an option to reduce your student loan debt, consider refinancing. You can get a rate quote from SoFi in just two minutes.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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