11 Helpful Grants to Pay Off Student Loans
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- Borrowers can pay off student loans using grants and repayment programs.
- Many of these programs come with a service requirement.
- Recipients may also need to work in a certain field.
- Some employers offer grants to pay off debt as an employee benefit.
It can take years to pay off student loans. The average U.S. student loan debt is over $37,000. And 20 years after graduation, half of borrowers still owe $20,000 or more.
If you're paying off student debt, there's a good chance you've researched repayment plans and refinancing options. But what about grants to pay off student loans?
Borrowers can qualify for all kinds of grants to pay off debt. Many of these grants come with a service obligation. For example, grant recipients may need to work 2-10 years in a qualifying role. Furthermore, many student loan repayment programs limit eligibility to certain professions.
The following list of grants to pay off student loans includes options for nurses, lawyers, mental health specialists, and public sector workers, as well as grants open to borrowers in any field.
1. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Health Resources and Services Administration offers a loan repayment program for nurses. The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will cover up to 85% of student loans for registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty.
Recipients must work for two years in a critical shortage facility or at a nursing school. Only nurses who attended accredited nursing schools in the U.S. qualify for this program.
2. NIH Loan Repayment Programs
The National Institutes of Health runs a loan repayment program for medical professionals. With a goal of recruiting health professionals into research careers, the program offers up to $50,000 per year in grants to pay off student loans.
Researchers in the program must specialize in areas like health disparities in minority populations, clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and contraception and infertility research.
3. NIMH Loan Repayment Program
The National Institute of Mental Health participates in a loan repayment program for certain healthcare professionals. The NIH Loan Repayment Program provides grants to mental health researchers at nonprofit organizations.
Healthcare professionals specializing in mental health clinical research, pediatric research, health disparities research, and research in emerging areas critical to human health may qualify. The program offers up to $50,000 per year in student loan repayment.
4. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
Law students often take on large amounts of debt, which may discourage graduates from pursuing lower-paying public service careers. The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program aims to change that.
Public defenders and state prosecutors qualify for the grant. Recipients agree to work as state public defenders or prosecutors for at least three years. The grant provides $10,000 per year for up to six years.
5. NHSC Loan Repayment Programs
The National Health Service Corps offers three loan repayment programs for health professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors.
The programs provide up to $100,000 in loan repayment for recipients who agree to work 2-3 years in a qualifying program. For example, there's a substance use disorder program for addiction specialists and a rural community program for those in rural areas.
6. DOJ Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recruits attorneys with its student loan repayment program. The program provides up to $6,000 in repayment grants per year for DOJ lawyers.
The program comes with a three-year service obligation. Attorneys must submit an application and meet qualification requirements in the competitive process. Recipients can renew their participation in the program.
7. IHS Loan Repayment Program
Providing health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the Indian Health Service offers a loan repayment program for health professionals who practice at qualifying health facilities.
Participants receive up to $40,000 in student loan repayment grants and must agree to a two-year service commitment. Eligible health professionals include advanced practice nurses, behavioral health professionals, dentists, registered nurses, physicians, dietitians, and medical laboratory scientists.
8. Students to Service Loan Repayment Program
Students in their final year of medical or dental school may qualify for the Students to Service Loan Repayment Program. Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants also qualify.
The program, run through the Health Resources and Services Administration, provides up to $120,000 in student loan grants. Recipients agree to work for three years at approved clinical sites. These include rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, community mental health centers, state and local health departments, and community outpatient facilities.
9. Military College Loan Repayment Program
After serving in the military, veterans can use the GI Bill® to go back to school. The Loan Repayment Program (LRP) pays off student loans for new enlistees.
Under the LRP, enlistees receive a different amount of student loan repayment depending on their branch:
- Army: Up to $65,000
- Navy: Up to $65,000
- Air Force: Up to $10,000
- National Guard: Up to $7,500 per year of service
- Coast Guard: Up to $30,000
- Army Reserve: Up to $50,000
- Navy Reserve: Up to $10,000
These grants come with service requirements. Depending on the branch, enlistees must serve 3-6 years to receive the loan repayment funds.
10. Employer Grants and Tuition Reimbursement
A growing number of companies offer student loan repayment as an employee benefit. As of 2020, 8% of employers provided student loan repayment assistance — an increase from 4% in 2018.
Businesses include Fidelity Investments, which offers up to $15,000, and Google, which matches up to $2,500 per year. Other companies that offer student loan repayment assistance include Hulu, Ally Financial, Carhartt, Peloton, and Estée Lauder.
11. Loan Forgiveness Programs
In addition to grants to pay off student loans, borrowers can consider student loan forgiveness programs. The federal government offers several loan forgiveness programs that eliminate loans for qualifying borrowers.
For example, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program forgives loans for government and nonprofit employees. Borrowers must make 10 years of qualifying payments before the government forgives any remaining balance.
Similarly, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program forgives up to $17,500 in Direct Loans for teachers who work for five years at a low-income school.
The grants and programs discussed above are primarily available after you leave school. However, current students stand to benefit as well by understanding what options may be available to them later.
If you're a current student, start doing your research on grants and loan forgiveness and repayment plans to see what will be needed to qualify.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
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