Are There Any Programs That Can Help Pay Off My Student Loans?

Question: I have a question from one of my readers, who wanted to know about what to do with regard to student loans that they’re not able to pay. The person said, “I currently have about $30,000 in student‑loan debt and have not been financially able to make any payments in about two years. I’ve been out of school since 2006.

Right now, what I make isn’t enough to pay my monthly expenses, such as rent, utilities, groceries, medical bills, et cetera. I was wondering if there are any programs, grants, or scholarships that I can apply for that will help pay off my student loans.

I’m scared to go into the military due to the war, so I don’t feel secure going that route. I also don’t have a state job, currently, or any kind of career that would qualify for the forgiveness program. Do you know of any other options?”

Answer: Yes, I actually do know of a couple of options with regard to work‑related programs that can help you to pay off student loans. The key one is via the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program. It’s administered through the Office of Personnel Management.

Essentially, if you will work for any federal agency in the government, you could be eligible for student loans to be paid off by the federal government, up to the tune of $60,000. This program will pay off, specifically, $10,000 per year of your federal student loans, up to $60,000.

Again, the catch is you have to agree to work for some agency within the Federal Government. It could be for Amtrak, which is sort of a quasi‑government agency. It could be for the Smithsonian Museum. It could be for the Department of Defense.

It doesn’t have to be for a Washington DC‑based federal entity. You could be working in any state in the country and potentially qualify for the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program. So that’s one.

In terms of grants or scholarships that will help you pay off your student loans, no, I don’t know of any. To my knowledge, there are no such programs. I’ve written an entire book about the subject of student loans. The book is called “Zero Debt for College Grads: From Student Loans to Financial Freedom.”

You mentioned teaching jobs that would qualify for loan forgiveness. Yes, there are certain careers; service‑based careers that would help you qualify for loan forgiveness. Generally speaking, those are available to professionals who work in the following areas: teaching, nursing, the medical field, doctors. People who work in the legal area, as well, often qualify.

Generally, these kinds of loan‑forgiveness programs are deemed appropriate and necessary to help people with student loans who are serving under‑served communities. So, maybe you don’t have to be a teacher, but if you are a social worker, if you are a lawyer helping an indigent group or population, if you are a nurse helping sick people in an area where there is a critical shortage of nurses, those could qualify you for some student‑loan relief programs.

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