When Deborah Rykers graduated from college in 2008, she didn’t think she would spend eight years of her life in the United States Air Force. As an education graduate, that wasn’t her plan.
“An opportunity came my way, and I was recruited by a friend of mine,” said Rykers. “It was the best eight years of my life, but I wasn’t prepared to come back to civilian life, especially with the student loans I had taken out for my teaching degree.”
For many like Rykers, military enlistment can open up doors of opportunity and provide a fulfilling career. But one of the biggest drawbacks is being isolated from real world financial responsibilities like student loans, Rykers explained.
Rykers isn’t the only service member burdened with student loans. A 2012 study found that 41 percent of armed forces members held student loan debt, according to Reuters. Given the increase in student loan debt since that time, that number could be even higher today.
But there is good news for both active duty servicemen and veterans. Military student loan forgiveness, repayment relief, and refinancing options are available to those who qualify.
Here’s a list of options for military student loan repayment and forgiveness that will help you get out of debt fast.
Military student loan repayment assistance programs
What’s better than lower monthly payments or a reduced interest rate? How about no student loans at all?
There are several military student loan repayment assistance programs that can help eliminate some or all of your debt.
Army Student Loan Repayment: Active Duty
The Army Student Loan Repayment: Active Duty program offers military student loan repayment assistance to people on active duty. Among other requirements, you must enlist for at least three years and score 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
If you qualify, the Army will pay up to 33.33 percent of your principal balance each year for three years. You could receive up to $65,000 in loan assistance. Note that you can only use this money to pay off federal student loans, such as Direct, FFEL, and Perkins Loans. Private loans aren’t eligible.
The Perkins Loan program expired in September, 2017. However, if you took out Perkins Loans in the past, they still qualify for loan assistance.
Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program
If you’re in a qualifying Military Occupational Speciality (MOS), you could get assistance through the Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program. You must enlist for at least six years and have loans before you go on active duty.
This program will pay 15 percent of your loan balance for up to $20,000. It applies primarily to federal student loans, not to private ones.
Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program
The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program helps doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals on active duty or in the Army Reserve. Qualifying borrowers can receive up to $40,000 per year for up to three years. This $120,000 in military loan forgiveness could go a long way toward paying off medical or dental school loans.
Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program
Army Reserve soldiers with prior military service can receive up to $50,000 toward student loan payments. You can request more information about student loan forgiveness for veterans through the U.S. Army website.
National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
Members of the National Guard could receive up to $50,000 in military loan forgiveness. You must enlist for a minimum six-year term of service.
Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
If you’re in the Navy, you could receive up to $65,000 in student loan repayment assistance. The Navy program helps sailors in the first three years of service.
Air Force College Loan Repayment Program
The Air Force College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) is available to any person enlisting with past student loan debt. It awards up to $10,000, made in yearly payments of 33.33 percent of the debt or up to $1,500 — whichever is higher.
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program
If you join the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, you could get up to $65,000 in student loan repayment assistance. You’ll receive payments over a three year period after your first year of service as a JAG officer.
Military student loan forgiveness and discharge programs
Loan repayment assistance programs give you money to help pay off your student loans, but forgiveness and discharge programs get rid of your loans completely. Below are three options for military student loan forgiveness and cancellation.
National Defense Student Loan Discharge
The National Defense Student Loan Discharge is designed to help those who have put their lives on the line for their country. To qualify, you must have served at least one year in an area deemed imminent danger or in direct fire and have a Perkins or Direct student loan.
The application for the discharge includes a Department of Defense form and a letter explaining why you believe you qualify sent directly to the servicers of your loan. The amount discharged is partial and varies, so it is best to contact your loan company.
Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
For those who have sacrificed so much, the Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge is there to release you of your loans. To qualify, you must have a service-related disability documented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and been deemed permanently disabled. Most loans are eligible for military student loan forgiveness through this program.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Service to our country qualifies borrowers for one of the most popular student loan forgiveness programs — Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This program forgives all student loan debt after the borrower makes 120 qualifying payments while working full-time with the military or another qualifying non-profit.
Note that deferred payments do not count towards the 120 monthly payments and might extend your timeline to receive PSLF.
Other options for managing your student loan debt
Beyond military student loan forgiveness and repayment assistance, you have other options for making your student loans more manageable. The four approaches below can reduce your interest rate or lower your monthly payments. If you’re dealing with a lot of student debt, these four strategies could help ease the burden.
Cap interest through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act could provide some relief from student loan debt. This act caps the amount of interest that can be collected on an active duty service person’s debt at 6.00%. This is especially good for borrowers with high-interest private loans, which often have higher rates than federal student loans.
For example, using our student loan payment calculator, a $20,000, 10-year loan at 8.5% interest has a monthly payment of $247. With the rate reduced to 6%, the monthly payment is lowered to $222. That’s a savings of $3,112 over the 10-year period. Apply those savings as extra payments on your loan and, you’ll cut a full year from your repayment plan.
To qualify for this benefit, your loans must be more recent than August 14, 2008. Contact your loan servicer for information about SCRA eligibility.
Defer your student loans while you’re on active duty
If you’re currently serving, your monthly payment doesn’t have to be a burden. The Department of Education allows you to defer your student loan payments during active duty service and 13 months after your return (or until you return to school with at least half-time status).
During this time, the government will pay the interest on your Direct Subsidized and Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans while the principal is delayed. While you won’t pay your loans off any faster, you also won’t have to worry about accruing interest while your payments are paused.
This is not the case for unsubsidized loans, however. If you have an unsubsidized loan, you might benefit from using a student loan deferment calculator to see the amount of interest you will accrue while in deferment.
Lower your monthly payments with an income-driven repayment plan
Another way to manage your monthly payments is to apply for an income-driven repayment plan. These plans take into account your current discretionary income and family size in order adjust your monthly payments accordingly. In some cases, your new monthly payment could be as low as $0.
For example, Income-Based Repayment is one of the most popular plans. It limits your monthly payments to 10 or 15 percent of your discretionary income and results in forgiveness of any remaining debt after 25 years.
Overwhelmed by the thought of all the paperwork required to maintain enrollment? That’s where the Heroes Act Waiver comes in. With HAW, you’re not required to submit applications or proof of income during active duty periods. This means that even if your income increases, you can request to maintain the old, lower payment.
Note that this option does come with possible drawbacks. So always consider the pros and cons of income-driven repayment before enrolling.
Refinance your student loans for a lower interest rate
Whether you’re a civilian or an active duty member, an effective way to tackle student loan debt is by refinancing your loans. Refinancing is the process of paying off one or more student loans by obtaining a new, single loan through a private lender. Unlike the military loan repayment assistance program, refinancing applies to both federal and private loans.
Usually, the goal is to get a lower interest rate on the new loan, and in turn, enjoy smaller monthly payments. This move can save thousands of dollars in interest charges, too. You might also be able to extend your repayment period to lower monthly payments even more (though this could cancel out some or all interest savings).
It’s important to note that refinancing isn’t a magical solution to your debt problem and it’s not a great choice for all borrowers. There are several important pros and cons to consider, especially when it comes to refinancing federal student loans.
For example, refinancing federal loans with a private lender means permanently giving up access to government-backed benefits, including income-driven repayment options and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
However, if you have several high-interest loans or private loans — or don’t qualify for income-driven repayment — refinancing could be the answer to cutting the cost of that debt.
Student debt relief is available for servicemembers and veterans
Student loan debt shouldn’t be a burden to carry on and off the battlefield. The government has provided incentives, benefits, and student loan forgiveness for veterans and those on active duty.
“Without my student loans, I wouldn’t be a teacher today,” Rykers said. “But without my service, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 7 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 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 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.81% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.49% 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 November 6, 2019, 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 11/06/2019. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 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.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
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. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.
4 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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.9299999999999997% effective October 10, 2019.
6 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 11/07/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.65% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
7 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Disclosures
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.
4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 09/23/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
|1.81% – 6.49%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.31% – 7.61%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 7.60%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.02% – 6.30%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 8.65%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.74% – 6.24%7||Undergrad & Graduate|