When you’re dealing with student loans, you might think you can’t afford to volunteer. After all, you need to make money so you can keep up with your monthly payments.
But as it turns out, taking part in community service is one of the best ways to get help with student loan debt. Many organizations offer student loan repayment assistance in exchange for volunteer work.
As a result, you can make a difference in the lives of others while still chipping away at your student debt.
To get started, check out these five charitable organizations that help pay off student loans for volunteers.
What it is: According to its mission statement, SponsorChange aims to “empower volunteers by creating a pathway to meaningful skill-based project opportunities at social impact organizations while helping volunteers raise funding to pay down their student loan debt.”
Essentially, the organization matches up volunteers with work based on their specialized skills. Then, it rewards their time with funds to put toward student loan payments.
You can find a list of the social impact organizations that are hosting skill-based project opportunities for volunteers on the website. Volunteers apply for projects similar to how they would apply for a job.
Who can volunteer: Current students and graduates with student loan debt are eligible.
How it can help you pay down your loans: For each project completed, an independent sponsor rewards you with student loan repayment assistance. Each project could net you anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for your loans.
2. AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA
What it is: AmeriCorps is a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service. It’s a government program that places young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.
Volunteers in Service to America was founded in 1965 to fight poverty in America. It stood as an independent agency for nearly three decades before being incorporated into AmeriCorps in 1993.
Who can volunteer: Volunteers for AmeriCorps must be at least 17 years old. VISTA volunteers may be 18 years of age or older.
How it can help you pay down your loans: All AmeriCorps volunteers qualify for forbearance during service. You might also get some of your interest covered while your loans are in forbearance.
Following 12 months of full-time service, AmeriCorps volunteers receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which is tied to the maximum amount for the Pell Grant that year ($5,920 for 2017-2018). VISTA volunteers may elect to receive an end-of-service cash stipend in lieu of the Segal Award.
AmeriCorps volunteers can also count time in AmeriCorps toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
3. Teach for America
What it is: Teach for America is designed “to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”
Teachers who opt to give their time to Teach for America serve in underserved districts, often in inner-city or rural areas, where they work with economically disadvantaged populations.
Who can volunteer: Participants must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited college by their first day of training; have a minimum grade point average of 2.5; and be a citizen, legal permanent resident, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient.
How it can help you pay down your loans: Teach for America positions pay a salary, typically between $33,000 and $58,000, and provide benefits. Teachers can also receive on-the-job training that can help them later in their careers. Their work also counts toward PSLF.
4. Peace Corps
What it is: The Peace Corps, inaugurated by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.
Peace Corps volunteers work for sustainable change at the grassroots level while becoming global citizens and serving their country.
Who can volunteer: Anyone who is 18 or older.
How it can help you pay down your loans: Peace Corps volunteers might get to defer their federal student loans, meaning they can pause payments. They might also be eligible for income-driven repayment and PSLF, along with a partial cancellation of Perkins Loans.
5. National Health Service Corps
What it is: The National Health Service Corps, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, helps bring health care to those in impoverished, remote, or otherwise underserved areas. The program enlists medical, dental, and behavioral health professionals.
Who can volunteer: Volunteers must be primary care physicians with one of the following qualifications:
- Medicine: MD, DO, NP, CNM, PA
- Dentistry: DMD, DDS, RDH
- Behavioral Health: HSP, LCSW, PNS, MFT, LPC
How it can help you pay down your loans: Primary care medical, dental, and behavioral health clinicians can get up to $50,000 to repay medical school loans in exchange for a two-year commitment at an approved NHSC site in a high-need underserved area.
What’s great is that the payment is free from federal income tax and is made at the beginning of service, so you can more quickly pay down your loans. Approved sites are located across the U.S. in both urban and rural areas.
Get rewarded for giving back
Volunteering your time is a way to feel good and give back, but it can also be a great method for getting help with your student loans.
There are many organizations out there willing to reward you for doing good. So get out there and start building communities!
Besides volunteering, don’t forget about other avenues for student loan forgiveness. This guide goes over every program that will forgive your student loans.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.
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