Paying off your student loans can be overwhelming and frustrating and having debt can cause you to delay pursuing other life goals, like starting a business or getting married. But one little-known way to manage your debt is to look for grants. There are many grants for student loans that you can use to repay your balance.
While most grants are for individuals still in school, there are some opportunities for people working in particular fields. These grants can help relieve the burden of student loans. And if you leave school with a large loan balance and high monthly payments, grants can give you the breathing room you need to launch your career.
There are many different sources of grants for student loans. The federal government offers several grant options through various departments, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
You can also find student loan repayment grants offered by your state. Operated independently from federal programs, states offer grants and incentives to encourage graduates to live and work in fields with shortages, such as in engineering or healthcare.
And some non-profits offer grants to workers in particular fields. Depending on your career choice, you mind find a wide range of options to help you manage your debt.
8 grants to pay off student loans
Below are eight student loan grants that can help you pay off your debt.
1. Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a student loan repayment incentive to encourage people to work in areas of reproductive research. Under the Contraception and Infertility Research Repayment Program, recipients can receive up to $35,000 a year to help with student loan repayment.
Under the terms of the programs, awardees must commit to two years researching contraception and infertility issues. For more information or to apply, visit the grant website.
2. Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant
If you had a parent who served in the military and died as a result of their service in either Iraq or Afghanistan, you may receive up to $6,095 to use towards your student loans.
To be eligible, you must have been under the age of 24 or enrolled at least part-time in college at the time of your parent’s death.
3. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
If you are a state public defender or state prosecutor, you may be eligible for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program. Under this initiative, you can receive $10,000 a year for up to six years to help pay off your student loans.
To apply for the grant, you must agree to work as a public defender or state prosecutor for at least three years. For more information, visit your state agency website for our area’s requirements.
4. National Institute of Mental Health Loan Repayment Program
If you are a healthcare professional planning to pursue a career in behavioral, social, or clinical research with a non-profit organization, you can get grants for repaying student loans from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Valued up to $35,000, you can use the grant to pay off undergraduate, graduate, or medical school debt. To apply, fill out the application online.
5. New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program
In New York, graduates who want to pursue a career in farming can receive up to $10,000 a year for up to five years to pay off their debt. To be eligible, individuals must receive their degree from a New York college or university and agree to operate a farm in New York for at least five years.
To apply, you must submit your application within two years of graduating from school. Both federal and private student loans are eligible.
6. North Dakota Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Student Loan Grant
Cameron Battagler graduated from Valley City State University with $30,000 in student loans. But with the help of student loan repayment grants, he was able to pay off his debt years ahead of schedule.
“I was able to find about $6,000 in grants after I graduated that helped pay off my debt,” says Cameron. “The money is there, and it often goes unused.”
Because he is a computer programmer, Cameron qualified for North Dakota’s STEM Student Loan Grant, receiving $1,500 a year to pay off his loans. That money helped knock off months from his repayment term, and he was able to save thousands in interest.
And the STEM grant is available to anyone working in a STEM-related career in North Dakota.
7. Nurse Corps Repayment Program
If you are a nurse, you can get up to 85% of your outstanding loans paid off through the Nurse Corps Repayment Program offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
To be eligible, you must be a licensed registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, or a nursing faculty member with a nursing degree. Applicants should work in either a healthcare facility with a critical shortage or at an accredited school of nursing.
8. Pennsylvania Primary Healthcare Loan Repayment Program
If you’re a physician or dentist willing to work in under-served areas in Pennsylvania, you can get between $30,000 and $100,000 to use towards your student loans.
To receive the grant, you must make a two-year service commitment.
Do you have to pay back grants?
Grants don’t function the same as student loans and you typically don’t have to repay them. There may be some grant programs, however, that have some stipulations for keeping the grant.
If you don’t meet all of the stipulations, it is possible that you would lose the full grant amount or even have to pay back some of the grant money you’ve received.
If you’re not eligible for a student loan repayment grant
Not all people will qualify for grants for student loans. Repayment grants are typically limited to certain fields and only offered in particular areas. But that doesn’t mean you are out of options. If you’re overwhelmed with your student loans, there are still ways to manage your debt.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work for the government or a non-profit but are ineligible for student loan grants, you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Under PSLF, after ten years of service and making qualifying payments on your federal student loans, the government forgives the remaining balance.
And unlike other forgiveness options, the discharged balance is not taxable as income, which can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Income-driven repayment plans
If you are struggling to keep up with your payments on your current salary and have federal loans, check out income-driven repayment plans. There are four separate plans:
- Income-Based Repayment
- Income-Contingent Repayment
- Pay As You Earn
- Revised Pay As You Earn
While each plan differs slightly, the basics are the same: the government extends your repayment term and caps your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income. Switching to an income-driven repayment plan can drastically reduce your monthly payment, making managing your loans much easier.
If PSLF or income-driven repayment plans are not an option, another path to consider is refinancing your debt. With refinancing, you take out a new loan for your student loan balance with new terms. You can get a different repayment term, lower interest rate, and a smaller monthly payment.
By refinancing, you can save money over the length of your repayment and have more room in your budget. Use a student loan refinancing calculator to see what kind of savings you can get from refinancing.
Managing your student loans
There are several grants for student loans which can make repaying your debt easier. Check to see if your field or state offers any grants to professionals to help manage your loans.
For information on repaying student loans, check out this article on forgiveness programs.
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