Which College Majors Lead to the Most Student Loan Forgiveness?

Which College Majors Lead to the Most Student Loan Forgiveness

Choosing a major in college is one of the most important decisions you can make. After all, if all goes well, your major will lead to a lifelong career, with all the rewards and challenges it entails.

That said, some undergraduate majors are more expensive than others — especially majors that feed into a career requiring a graduate degree. Think pre-med, pre-law, and education.

But the good news is that some of these “expensive” college majors are also the ones with the most options for student loan forgiveness. Much of this has to do with the fact that those same careers are often in high demand. States create loan repayment assistance programs to incentivize people to pursue them.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top three categories for student loan-forgiving majors.

Pre-med majors

Majoring in pre-med, or a health care-focused program such as dentistry, pharmacology, psychology, or nursing, can lead to many options for student loan forgiveness.

In some cases, you get access to these programs via a career that only requires an undergraduate degree, such as with many nursing positions. However, the majority will need you to complete medical school, graduate program, or even post-graduate program.

The costs of those extra years of schooling add up. Student loan refinancing lender Earnest evaluated the costs of various graduate degrees and discovered that those in the medical profession lead to an average of $191,200 in student loan debt. At that level of cost, loan repayment assistance becomes very attractive — and maybe very necessary.

Here are a few forgiveness options you should know about if you major in a health care field.

  • Americorps — up to the maximum amount of a Pell Grant, which changes annually; you can receive the award up to two times
  • Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program — up to $40,000
  • National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program — up to $50,000
  • National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs — up to $105,000
  • Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program — up to 85 percent of what you owe
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program — your entire balance after 120 qualified payments

This is only the tip of the iceberg on student loan forgiveness for health care practitioners. You can find even more specific programs, such as those for majors that lead to work in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and psychology. You can also check out the American Association of Medical College’s database to see what’s available to people in your state.

Education majors

Some majors, especially in the liberal arts, usually lead to a career in education. French and Spanish majors might fall into this category, along with history majors — not to mention studies that focus directly on education. And while graduate-level education requirements for teachers might be a little milder than for, say, physicians, the lower salaries can cause issues when it comes time to repay your student loans.

This is a big issue for many educators. NPR Ed (a division of National Public Radio), released a survey this year on teachers and student debt. The results showed that 28 percent of the respondents were “terrified” when describing their worry over their student loans.

Some of the factors the respondents listed to explain this worry were “the pressure to earn more degrees” and “anemic pay.”

Luckily, there are multiple student loan forgiveness programs for teachers who might be willing to move to an area in need of qualified educators, especially at the primary and secondary levels. Consider the following:

  • Americorps — up to the maximum amount of a Pell Grant, which changes annually; you can receive the award up to two times
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness — your entire balance after 120 qualified payments
  • Federal Teacher loan forgiveness — up to $17,500 on Direct and Federal Stafford Loans or up to 100 percent of Federal Perkins Loans
  • State-sponsored programs, such as the Teach Iowa Scholar Program and Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program — the awards vary

Pre-law majors

Many students who sign up to major in philosophy or rhetoric have their eyes fixed on a legal career, not to mention those in a dedicated pre-law major.

These undergrads are headed for three years of law school if they want to become lawyers, and the opportunities they’ll have at the end of it can range from high-paying jobs like those in corporate law to barely-making-ends-meet nonprofit work.

As difficult as it can be to estimate how much you might make as a lawyer, it’s a lot easier to understand how much you might have to spend. The data Earnest collected on the cost of various graduate degrees had law school near the top of the list, with an average debt amount of $139,900.

Luckily for the aspiring lawyers who aren’t interested in Big Law, there are student loan forgiveness programs for lawyers that can help them get their debt down to a more manageable amount:

  • Americorps — up to the maximum amount of a Pell Grant, which changes annually; you can receive the award up to two times
  • Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program — up to $60,000
  • John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program — up to $60,000
  • Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program — up to $16,800
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness — your entire balance after 120 qualified payments
  • School-sponsored programs, such as UVA Law Student Loan Forgiveness

Do your best to make a sustainable decision

While the abundance of student loan forgiveness programs can make these ambitious majors seem very attractive, it’s important to make sure your chosen field is the right one for you.

To keep receiving funds to repay your student loans through the relevant loan repayment assistance programs, you usually need to sign on for several years of work in your field — and at a qualified location. So if your career choice proves to be unsustainable and you change jobs — or even leave your field altogether — you could find yourself in a rough financial situation.

A new research platform, the Education Consumer Pulse, found that 36 percent of U.S. adults said they’d choose a different major if they could do it all over again. To try to prevent that from happening to you, make sure you’re committed to the journey once you head down that pre-med, education, or pre-law path.

But if you’ve found your calling, and that calling involves a substantial school bill, know that there are lots of opportunities out there to help pave the way.

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