7 Clever Ways to Get Help With Student Loans

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Scrimping, saving and working a side hustle are standard student loan payoff strategies. But these rely on you — and your money — to knock down your student loan balance.

You can make an even bigger dent by getting help with student loans. Besides targeting your student debt with your cash, why not take the smart route and get your student loans paid for by someone — or something — else?

From an extra $10 to $50,000, every bit helps, especially when it’s not coming out of your pocket. Here are some of the smartest ways to pay off student loans.

1. See if you’re eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
2. Try student loan repayment assistance programs
3. Find an employer with student loan benefits
4. Start a crowdfunding campaign
5. Play a trivia app that gives you a chance at a payoff
6. Earn rewards toward student debt repayment
7. Look for scholarships to offset student loans

1. See if you’re eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The federal government is footing part of the bill for some graduates through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Nonprofit employees, federal agency workers, AmeriCorps members and Peace Corps volunteers could be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

The program requires 10 years of on-time student loan payments while working in a position that qualifies for PSLF. You can get on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan to minimize monthly costs. After making 120 qualifying student loan payments, the federal government could forgive your remaining debt. Watch out, though, as you might owe taxes on the balance that’s not forgiven.

Also, beware that 99% of applicants have been rejected for PSLF, so know your other options.

2. Try student loan repayment assistance programs

There are many organizations that offer student loan repayment assistance. Some colleges or universities offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP). State-sponsored LRAPs offer student loan assistance to attract professionals such as physicians or teachers.

The military could be another option for getting assistance in repaying student loans. Or, you can enroll in a federal IDR plan to get forgiveness after 20 to 25 years of payments.

Take some time to explore LRAPs to find those for which you might be eligible.

3. Find an employer with student loan benefits

If you’re lucky, you might find an employer offering work benefits to help you repay student loans.

The most common form of this is matching student loan payments on a monthly or annual basis, up to a certain amount. Some employers may also offer tuition assistance or an education stipend to help you pay for school. Even a bonus or raise can be applied to your student loans to pay them off faster.

4. Start a crowdfunding campaign

If you want some help getting closer to your goal of being debt-free, you can try asking your social circle — your family and friends — to chip in through a crowdfunding campaign, like GoFundMe for student loans.

Sites such as GoFundMe and Fundly make it easy to set up a crowdfunding campaign to pay off your student loans. Theses sites simplify the process of receiving and processing payments, but Fundly takes a cut of the payments received — 4.9% for each donation and a 3% credit card processing fee. GoFundMe is free since donors help offset the processing fees.

If crowdfunding to pay off students loans is not your style, try asking others to replace gifts for your birthday, the holidays or other life events with cash. Just make it clear that you will put that money toward your student loans — and then follow through.

5. Play a trivia app that gives you a chance at a payoff

Trivia app Givling is helping some of its users tackle their student loans. You can play Givling twice a day for free (additional plays can be bought in-app for 50 cents plus fees), and cash prizes are awarded daily to the highest scorers.

But Givling also uses its earnings (made through its pay-to-play option and in-app ads) to repay the student debts of three users at a time who are put on a team. Sign up for the app for a chance at being one of those users — and having up to $50,000 of your student debt repaid.

A word of warning: Givling has faced some controversy for its users reportedly spending thousands of dollars hoping to move up the queue. It’s also come under fire for reportedly violating gambling laws in Minnesota. So if you’re interested in trying it out, tread cautiously.

6. Earn rewards toward student debt repayment

Gradifi is a tech startup that aims to help people get extra cash to put toward student loans.

Users can earn rewards with everyday spending through its branded debit card, which gives 1% cashback rewards toward student loans.

You can also qualify for Paydown Rewards of $300 (in $50 increments) if you refinance your loans with Earnest, First Republic Bank, LendKey or the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) and meet other eligibility requirements.

7. Look for scholarships to offset student loans

This could be the smartest way to pay off student loans because it doesn’t involve asking your family and friends to chip in money. Who doesn’t want another organization to pay off their student loans? Besides, if you’re smart about it, you may be able to get a huge chunk of your student loans covered.

Many companies and organizations offer money based on various factors such as your field of study, income and demographics. Student Loan Hero offers scholarships twice a year. Find out how you can qualify and submit an application.

From big moves (choosing a PSLF-eligible job) to small ones (making payments with a different debit card), you can use these ideas to get help with your student loans.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of every available opportunity to get your student loans paid. This way, you could repay your loans months — or even years — faster.

Sarah Li Cain contributed to this report.