Programs to Earn College Loan Forgiveness

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If you have student loans, it's important to be on the lookout for programs that can help ease that debt. Student loan forgiveness programs always exist, but from time to time they ramp up, expanding the opportunities for borrowers to qualify. In addition to the current student loan forgiveness in response to COVID-19, you might also qualify if you work in certain industries, such as education and healthcare.

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COVID Student Loan Relief

The COVID pandemic has taken a toll on the finances of many adults. To help ease the burden, thereby protecting the economy, the federal government launched a few relief programs. One of those was student debt forgiveness, which was recently extended through ​Jan. 31, 2022​.

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If you're one of the students taking advantage of this pause on payments, the COVID-related relief will likely only last through January. That means you'll need to prepare to start making payments again. The good news is, there are some other student loan forgiveness programs that can help.

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Public Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan borrowers who work for local, state or federal government agencies might qualify for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, an initiative designed to motivate college graduates to go into public service. These public programs also apply to some nonprofit employees.

The requirements for this type of student loan forgiveness relate specifically to where you work after graduation. To qualify, you'll need to be a full-time employee of one of the following employer types:

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  • Government agency, including local, state, federal, tribal and military
  • Nonprofit organization that qualifies as Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code
  • AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer

Student Loan Forgiveness by Occupation

Government and nonprofit employees aren't the only ones with student loan forgiveness availability. There are other professions that have loan forgiveness programs. If your employer doesn't mention them, you can research them independently. They include:

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  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program​: To qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, you can qualify for up to ​$17,500​ on your direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Eligibility requirements include teaching for at least ​five years​ in a low-income school or educational service agency.
  • Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program​: The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will pay up to ​85 percent​ of your education debt if you work full-time as a nurse in a high-need area or at an accredited school of nursing.
  • Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program​: If you're willing to work at least ​three years​ for the Department of Justice, you could qualify for law school loan repayment assistance, which provides up to ​$6,000​ in repayment assistance.

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Pros and Cons of Forgiveness

It might seem like there's nothing to lose by taking advantage of student loan forgiveness. Obviously, in a case like COVID-initiated forgiveness, there are few cons, although the loan wasn't forgiven as much as paused. If you qualify to have some of your student loan debt eliminated, the pros are that you'll have less to pay out of pocket.

There are some cons, however. Typically, to qualify, you'll have to agree to work for an employer you might not have chosen otherwise. If the pay is less than you can make with another employer, you might find you're at a financial disadvantage overall. Worse, you'll often have to agree to stay in that position for a minimum number of years.

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Consider also​: Money Myth: Worth it to Go Into Debt for Education

Student loan forgiveness programs can help you save significant money. Check the qualifications of any program you're considering and make sure the terms are the best choice for you. If you're open to spending a few years in a certain job, in the end, you may walk away with lighter loan debt and some job experience for your resume.

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