While there’s no magic bullet that will make your student loans disappear, there are legitimate sources of student loan assistance. Whether you pursue a forgiveness program or use strategies to lower your interest rate, you can save money on your debt.
While not everything on this list will work for you, there’s a good chance that at least one of these approaches will. And as a result, you might be able to get rid of your student loans ahead of schedule.
14 ways to get student loan assistance
Whether you earn money back on your loan or get some of your debt canceled, these are ways to get student loan assistance and pay your debt off faster.
1. Earn forgiveness through income-driven repayment
2. Serve the public for 10 years
3. Apply for forgiveness specific to your career
4. Find a loan repayment assistance program through your state
6. Work for an employer with a student loan benefit
7. Move to a new town
8. Find out if you qualify for student loan cancellation
9. Refinance your student loans for better rates
10. Sign up for student loan auto-pay
11. Crowdfund your student loans
12. Rent out your home
13. Sell your stuff
14. Find money in your budget
If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments on your federal student loans, you may not be enrolled in the right repayment program.
Fortunately, there are four repayment plans that may be helpful, plus result in having some of your student loan debt canceled:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
These programs lower your monthly payments to be in line with your income and qualify you for loan forgiveness after 20 to 25 years of consistent repayment.
A couple of caveats:
- Forgiven loan amounts may be considered taxable income and taxes are due the same year you receive forgiveness.
- Student loans stretched over 20+ years could end up costing you more in interest fees than the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.
However, if you’re missing payments because you can’t afford them, that means late fees and, if you’re not careful, default. And if you have a lot of student loan debt, holding out for forgiveness could be worth it. These income-driven repayment plans are worth a closer look.
If you have federal direct loans, consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF).
To qualify, you must:
- Work at least 30 hours a week for 10 years for a qualifying government or nonprofit organization (both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are qualifying organizations).
- Make 120 qualifying monthly payments under one of the income-driven repayment plans.
Even better, loans forgiven under PSLF are not considered taxable income.
PSLF isn’t the only student loan forgiveness program available to professionals. You can also find other federal programs for professions, such as doctors, nurses and teachers.
Here are a couple to look into:
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness, which forgives up to $17,500 for qualifying teachers who work for five consecutive years.
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment, which pays off up to 60% of student loans for qualifying nurses after two years and an additional 25% after a third year.
The military also offers student loan assistance to those on active duty and veterans. For all the options, head to our complete guide to student loan forgiveness programs.
Many states also have student loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) for qualifying professionals. These programs offer thousands of dollars in student loan assistance to eligible borrowers.
Plus, you can sometimes use this student loan assistance to pay off both private and federal student loans (federal programs only forgive federal loans). Some commonly qualifying professions include
Many LRAPs also require that you work in a shortage or high-need area for a few years. Check out our full database of state-run LRAPs to see what options are available to you.
If it won’t interfere with a full-time job you already have (and want to keep), volunteering can be a great way of getting student loan assistance to pay off your debt.
As already mentioned, both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are qualifying organizations for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Americorps also offers an education award which you can use to pay off student loans.
Head to an organization you’re interested in to see if it could offer student loan assistance in exchange for volunteering.
With the student debt crisis worse than ever, some employers are stepping in to help. An increasing number of companies now offer a student loan matching benefit.
Like a 401(k) benefit, this student loan perk matches your student loan payments dollar for dollar up to a certain amount.
If you’re open to swapping companies, consider prioritizing one that will help pay off your student loans.
If you’re open to moving, you might be interested to know that some towns offer student loan assistance to attract new residents.
Through its Rural Opportunity Zones program, for example, Kansas offers $15,000 in student loan assistance over five years to qualifying new residents.
And Hamilton, Ohio, offers up to $10,000 in student loan assistance to qualifying professionals who work in Hamilton and graduated with a STEAM degree.
While there aren’t a lot of programs throughout the country like this, keep an eye out to see if any towns you’d be interested in moving to could help pay off your student debt.
In certain special circumstances, the Department of Education will cancel your federal student loans outright.
The Closed School Discharge program, for example, cancels your loans if your school closed while you attended or shortly after you withdrew. And Total and Permanent Disability Discharge cancels loans for borrowers who experience a total and permanent disability.
Although these circumstances might not apply to the majority of borrowers, they’re worth knowing about. Head to our guide for all seven reasons you could get a student loan discharge.
Another option to explore is student loan refinancing. When you refinance, you take out a new loan to replace one or more of your old ones. If this new loan has a lower interest rate, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your debt.
This lower interest rate might also mean you can afford to make extra payments on your student loans, thereby saving even more on interest and potentially getting out of debt ahead of schedule.
While refinancing can be a strategic way to save money on your student loans, make sure to learn about all the pros and cons before you apply.
Most student loan servicers offer an interest rate discount (usually 0.25%) when you set up autopay. This could save you hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan – not a ton, but money you can use to pay off your debt a bit faster.
Call or visit your loan servicer’s website for autopay information.
Rather than volunteer your time, you can try a straight-up gifting campaign to crowdfund money for your student loans. While Kickstarter may seem the obvious choice, try sites more geared toward campaigns for educational expenses: Generosity by Indiegogo, YouCaring and GoFundMe.
Do you have a guest room you could turn into a regular rental? Do you have family and friends you could stay with if you were to rent out the whole place?
Or maybe you’re planning on being gone anyway, which is a no-brainer way of making money on a space that would otherwise be empty. Airbnb has the best name recognition, but it’s not the only game in town. Check VRBO, HomeAway and FlipKey, too.
If you don’t need it or love it, why do you have it (especially if it represents assistance for your student loans)?
The obvious go-tos for selling pretty much anything are Amazon, Craigslist, eBay and Facebook Groups. But if it’s clothes you’re selling, you’ll likely get the best return via clothing-specific sites, like GoodTwice, Poshmark and ThredUP.
For anything that won’t sell online, never underestimate the power of an old-school yard sale, especially for furniture and miscellaneous household items.
It might not be the most fun, but one of the best ways to find money for your student loans is in your own budget.
Especially consider the categories of food and entertainment, where we tend to do the most spending on unnecessary items. For instance, if you haven’t already, cancel cable once and for all! You have plenty of other more affordable viewing options, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and an HDTV antenna.
Where else in your budget can you find money to put toward student loans instead? Think of the freedom you’ll have later my making a few sacrifices now.
For even more creative ideas and inspiration, head to our ultimate guide on how to pay off your student loans faster.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
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|2.25% – 6.88%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of January 4, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.