Many people simply have a calling – to help others, make a difference in their communities, and to put their education and expertise to noble use. Of course, student loan debt can often get in the way.
But did you know that one of the best ways to get help with student loan debt is to use your time, energy, and skills to volunteer? Many organizations will help pay off your loans and/or allow you to earn time served towards student loan forgiveness.
Here are five organizations and programs you can join RIGHT NOW to begin volunteer work to pay off student loans.
5 ways to volunteer to pay off student loans
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 provides volunteers work based on their specialized skills and 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 the projects as they would any job, and if selected, complete the project for the organization.
Who can volunteer: Current students (including graduate 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 the service of the volunteer by funding student loan payments. Each project could net anywhere from $200 to $1,000 towards your loans.
AmeriCorps / AmeriCorps VISTA
What it is: AmeriCorps, a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service, is a governmental 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.
VISTA (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 between the ages of 18 and 24. 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, or postponement of student loan payments, during service.
Following their service (usually 12 months full-time), all AmeriCorps volunteers receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which is tied to the maximum amount for the Pell Grant that year ($5,815 for 2016-2017). VISTAs may elect to receive a stipend of $1,500 in lieu of the Segal Award.
All AmeriCorps volunteers may also count time in AmeriCorps towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
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 remote, rural areas – where they work with economically disadvantaged populations.
Who can volunteer: Participants must have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university by their first day of training; have a minimum grade point average of 2.50; and be a citizen, legal permanent resident, or deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) recipient.
How it can help you pay down your loans: Teach for America positions pay a salary (generally between $24,000 and $55,000) and provide benefits. Teachers can also receive on-the-job training, which can help them later in their careers, and are eligible for PSLF after 10 years of service in nonprofit or government teaching.
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 at the grassroots level toward sustainable change that lives on long after their service—at the same time becoming global citizens and serving their country.
Who can volunteer: Anyone, subject to health screenings.
How it can help you pay down your loans: The Peace Corps offers generous loan compensation for volunteers. Forbearance is a necessity, but following service, volunteers receive more than $8,000 worth of a “readjustment” allowance, as well as a partial cancellation of any Perkins loans. All federal loans are also eligible for PSLF following the completion of service.
National Health Service Corps
What it is: The National Health Service Corps (NHSC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, helps bring healthcare to those in impoverished, remote, or otherwise underserved areas. This includes medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health primary care 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 always a way to feel good and give back, but it can also be a great method of finding ways to get help with your student loans. There are many organizations out there willing to help (and reward) you for doing good. So get out there and start building communities!
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