How to Get Rid of Student Loans Fast and Legally — Through Service

 November 30, 2020
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Note that the government has paused all repayment on federally held student loans through the end of 2022, with no interest to be charged during that period and no loans to be held delinquent or in default.

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Looking ahead at years of student loan bills can be distressing, and programs that can cancel out that debt — like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment — require a decade or more of payments to get rid of student loans.

Fortunately, there are forgiveness programs that can help borrowers pay down their loans at a faster pace while working in jobs that make a difference. Here’s how to get rid of student loans fast — both legally and quickly.

Ways to get rid of student loans fast Forgiveness Timeline
1. National Health Service Corps ● $15,000 to $50,000 ● 2 years
2. Military service ● $20,000 to $120,000 ● 3 to 6 years
3. AmeriCorps ● $5,815 ● 1,700 hours
4. Teach for America ● $5,300 to $6,100 (via AmeriCorps) ● 1 years
● $5,000 or $17,500 (via Teacher Loan Forgiveness) ● 5 years
● 15% to 100% of loan balance (via Perkins Loan Cancellation) ● 1 to 5 years
5. Peace Corps ● $10,000 ● 2 years
● 15% to 70% of loan balance (via Perkins Loan Cancellation) ● 1 to 4 years
Plus: More loan repayment assistance programs

1. National Health Service Corps

If you’re a health care provider in an eligible discipline, you can enroll in the National Health Service Corps. Those whose specialty is medicine, dentistry or mental health can receive up to $50,000 to repay federal loans from medical school. In exchange, you must provide at least two years of service in a specific Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

One of the biggest advantages of this award is that loan forgiveness through this program is tax-free. As long as you’ve gone through the appropriate medical training and are willing to commit to working in an underserved area — where you might not earn as much as you would in private practice — this could be an attractive way to super-charge your student loan repayment.

2. Military service

There are several loan repayment programs aimed at helping those who serve in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Additionally, there are programs for reservists and members of the National Guard. Take a look at our in-depth overview of military student loan forgiveness programs.

In many cases, you’re required to enlist for between three and six years in order to qualify. In exchange for your service, however, depending on the program, you can receive $20,000 to $120,000 toward your student loans.

Military service also qualifies you for PSLF — so even if the program you’re eligible for doesn’t offer enough to pay off your loan balance, you can still benefit from other types of loan repayment assistance as you figure out how to get rid of student loans.

3. AmeriCorps

Looking to serve your community and earn an education award to help you pay down student loans a bit faster? AmeriCorps jobs can help. You can receive up to $5,815 for a minimum of 1,700 hours of service.

Depending on the program you choose, it’s possible to stay in your community, working with local nonprofits, public agencies and projects that benefit lower-income Americans. Many of the jobs, in addition to providing you with a way to earn the education award for student loan repayment, also qualify for PSLF. You can also take advantage of income-driven repayment, which lowers loan payments to a percentage of your income, while working for AmeriCorps.

One of the benefits of this program is that you may be able to hold a separate part-time job during your service. However, if you don’t live in an area of qualifying need, you might have to travel to an area where there are AmeriCorps opportunities.

4. Teach for America

It may be hard to repay student loans on a teacher’s salary. But working for Teach for America can help. First, your time as a teacher in the program may qualify you for an AmeriCorps education award in your first and second years in that position. Plus, when you teach beyond the initial two-year required term, you get access to extra programs.

For example, if you teach full-time for five consecutive years in a low-income school, you might be able to receive forgiveness of up to $17,500 on your Federal Family Education Loan Program and federal direct student loans. A portion of your Perkins loans could also be canceled, as well. These forgiveness programs are available to teachers at low-income schools who are not Teach for America corps members, as well.

It’s important to find out if the school you work at qualifies, since forgiveness programs are for teachers who work in underserved schools. A good first step is to search the Department of Education’s Teacher Cancellation Low Income directory.

Participating in Teach for America at qualified schools can also allow you access to PSLF — plus, income-driven repayment is available to you if you need to lower loan bills, too.

5. Peace Corps

If you have federal Perkins loans, you could be eligible for partial loan cancellation through work in the Peace Corps. Depending on your terms of service, 15% to 70% of your Perkins loans could be canceled after four years of service.

Participating in the Peace Corps also qualifies you for PSLF. However, you’d have to consolidate Perkins loans into a direct consolidation loan to cancel them through PSLF, which means you’ll lose access to Perkins loan cancellation. It may be best to keep Perkins loans separate from any consolidation loan you take out so you can make use of the separate Perkins loan cancellation program. During your Peace Corps experience, you can participate in income-driven repayment or choose to have your federal loans deferred.

Another opportunity to accelerate your loan repayment comes with the stipend you receive upon completing your Peace Corps term: You receive more than $10,000 (pre-tax) that can be used for anything, including student loan repayment.

Check out our additional strategies for managing student loans while in the Peace Corps.

Loan repayment assistance programs

Several states and universities also offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) to qualified borrowers. Many LRAPs are for borrowers in specific professions, such as teachers, doctors, pharmacists and veterinarians.

Some employers have also started offering student loan repayment assistance as a workplace benefit. Contact your human resources representative to find out what’s available at your company — or perhaps you can be the one to encourage your company to start its own program.

To see a full range of options, check out Student Loan Hero’s database of loan repayment assistance programs and find out if one could work for you.

Andrew Pentis and Yael Bizouati contributed to this report.