As student loan debt piles higher for students each year, they are increasingly looking for ways to get out from under that debt and get on with their lives. The average cost of college is $26,593 which is so daunting that many young people wonder if college is even worthwhile. When people are taking on this kind of student loan debt, they look for high paying jobs to help repay it after graduation. They might prefer to enter teaching or public service, but don’t find it practical. Jobs that offer student loan forgiveness for federal student loans change this dynamic. They not only help students with their debts, but help to fill vital roles that might otherwise remain empty
Federal student loan forgiveness programs are a way out for those interested in the teaching or public service professions. You can have a great deal of your federal student loan forgiven if you take a qualified teaching or public service position. Federal student loan programs forgive a great deal of student loan debt for those who qualify. So, if either of these areas appeals to you, you will want to learn all you can about them as soon as you can rather than waiting until you are struggling to avoid becoming delinquent on your monthly student loan payments.
In addition to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, there are additional programs for those in specific professions including law and medicine. Some people who qualify for these programs may also qualify for the Public Service Forgiveness Program.
Consider These Jobs that Offer Student Loan Forgiveness
There is no comprehensive list of jobs that enable student loan forgiveness because in some public sector work it really depends more on who you work for than what you do. But these are careers where you are more likely find jobs that offer student loan forgiveness. Here are some of them.
Teaching is a much-needed profession that is unfortunately often low paid. The good news is that if you are willing to meet the criteria, there are programs for student loan forgiveness for teachers. Programs may require you to teach in a low-income school for example. There is a federal program described below, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) Program, but about half the states also have student loan forgiveness programs for teachers willing to work in areas with an urgent need for teachers.
Not all lawyers want to work in high-paying corporate jobs. If you entered the field to contribute to your community, there are jobs out there that will enable you to get some of your student loans forgiven. Lawyers in the public or non-profit sectors may qualify for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), but there are also other nationwide and state options. These programs make it possible for students to attend law school with dreams of helping their communities to contribute. After checking into some of the programs listed in this article, it would also be wise to check with your state bar association and your university. The University of Virginia School of Law, for example, has a program that gives benefits that cover 100% of student loans of qualifying graduates who work in the public sector, makes under $55,000 and meets other requirements.
Certainly, good health care is vital for any community to thrive, which is why there are programs that help doctors and other medical professionals who take on high-need roles. Forty percent of medical students with student loans say they plan to seek loan forgiveness. Some doctors will qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, but you should also know that about 30 states offer repayment assistance for doctors who work for a designated time (usually two years) in an underserved area.
Nurses may be able to find employment that will qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program as well as doctors. Nurses who are willing to work in a registered nurse shortage area for two years may also have up to 60% of their student loans paid under the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program. There are many nurse forgiveness and payment assistance programs, and we’ve compiled the most detailed list on the web.
Pharmacists may also be able to qualify for a loan forgiveness program if they are willing to work in a high need area for a couple years. Many programs that doctors are eligible for are open to other health professionals including pharmacists. For example, the Arizona State Loan Repayment Program makes up to $105,000 in student loan assistance available to qualifying pharmacists who are willing to work for a designated time period in an area with a pharmacist shortage. Check with your school and with your state pharmacy association for other programs. Don’t forget that pharmacists may also qualify for PSLF.
Dental school isn’t cheap. The average dental student graduates with over $247,000 in student loans. Contact your state dental association and your school to ask about loan assistance programs. Many programs are open to anyone in the healthcare area including dentists and the PSLF is always a possibility. Of course, there are also programs specific to dentist such as the Maine Dental Education Loan Forgiveness Program that pays up to $50,000 if you meet the criteria.
Veterinarians are not left out when it comes to student loan assistance. They, like anyone with a degree related to their work with a qualified employer under PSLF may be able to take advantage of that program. But there is a specific federal program called the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program that offers up to $25,000. Also check with your university and state veterinary association.
Psychologists can often take advantage of student loan assistance programs that are open to doctors and other health professionals. You may qualify for PSLF or state or university programs. For example, psychologists (and specified other health professionals) may apply for the Colorado Health Service Corps Program, where psychologists are eligible to receive up to $50,000 in student loan assistance.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
If you are interested in a job that offers student loan forgiveness and are a teacher, you may be able to qualify for forgiveness under both the Teacher Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Forgiveness Program. Be sure to examine both options. Let’s look first at the Teacher Forgiveness Loan Program.
Under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, you may be eligible for forgiveness up to $17,500 on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and your Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. PLUS loans do not qualify. Perkins loans also don’t qualify under this specific program, but it may still be possible to have your Perkins loan canceled.
You must fulfill these criteria under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program:
- You taught full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years.
- You taught at least one of those years in a low-income title 1 elementary or secondary school or educational service agency.
- One of the qualifying years you taught must have been after the 1997/1998 academic year.
- You did not have an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.
- Your loan was made before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service.
- You have the requisite degrees and certifications that qualify you as a teacher.
How Much Can Be Forgiven
You may be able to have $17,500 forgiven, but not everyone gets that much. To qualify for $17,500, you must
- Be a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher who taught students at the secondary school level or
- Be a highly qualified special education teacher at either the elementary or secondary level whose primary responsibility was to provide special education to children with disabilities
If you are not a math, science or special education teacher, but rather have some other specialty, you are eligible for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness. You must be a highly qualified full-time elementary or secondary education teacher. To be “highly qualified,” you must meet certain basic requirements such as have at least a bachelor’s degree, have a state certification and not had certification requirements waived.
How to Apply for Teacher Loan Forgiveness
To apply for student loan forgiveness, complete a Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application and submit it to your loan servicer. You should do this after you have finished the five required consecutive years of teaching. You will need to ask the chief administrative officer of the school where you taught to complete the certification section of the application. If you have more than one loan, and if they are with different loan servicers, you must submit an application to each.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program is for those who work for qualifying employers in various capacities. It forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan.
The key to qualifying for the PSLF program is who you work for. To qualify, you must work for one of these kinds of organizations:
- A government organization (If you are an employee of a for-profit government contractor, that does not qualify.)
- Not-for-profit, Section 501(c)(3) organizations
- Not-for-profit organizations which provide certain types of services but are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
- Work as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer
Only Direct Loans are eligible, and you must not be in default. Though FFEL Program and Federal Perkins Loans are not eligible, if you consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, then the amount they represent may become eligible. However, if you consolidate, you restart your count of the 120 payments you must make before you are eligible for the PSLF. You can find out what kinds of federal loans you have at the My Federal Student Aid web page.
How to Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Complete the Employment Certification form and submit it to your loan servicer if you would like to apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. You will want to do this sooner rather than later, because you may discover on submission that you have not been making qualifying payments. So, to be sure your payments count toward the 120 payments required before you can have your loan forgiven under the PSLF, get the form in early. Not only that, but you should submit the form every year and each time you get a new employer. Only payments made after Oct. 1, 2007, count toward PSLF.
Once you have completed your 120th qualifying monthly payment, submit the PSLF application to receive loan forgiveness. You must be working for a qualifying employer at the time you submit the application for forgiveness and at the time the remaining balance on your loan is forgiven.
Specific Programs for Lawyers
Though lawyers may qualify for the Public Service Forgiveness Program, there are other programs that offer repayment assistance to lawyers. Here are some of them:
- Universities and states sponsor LRAPs (Loan Repayment Assistance Programs) for various professions including attorneys. These are often (but not always) tied to public interest work. For a list of LRAPs tied to public interest, see this list from the American Bar Association. Another source of information is Equal Justice Works.
- If you are an attorney who has worked three years at the Department of Justice, you may be eligible for up to $60,000 in student loan assistance.
- If you are a lawyer who works as a local, state, or federal public defenders or a local or state prosecutor, you may be eligible for up to $60,000 in loan assistance through the John R. Justice Program.
Specific Programs for Doctors & Nurses
Forty percent of medical students with student loans say they plan to seek loan forgiveness. Of course, some doctors will qualify for PSLF, but there are many other programs. You can find a list from the American Medical Association of Loan Repayment/Forgiveness and Scholarship Programs here. Below are just a few loan assistance options for doctors.
- There are LRAPs for doctors and other professions as well as lawyers. For example, many states offer substantial student loan assistance to doctors who work in areas where there is a critical shortage of doctors.
- The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program is for doctors and other health professionals who agree to work two years at an NHSC-approved site. They can get up to $50,000 in student loan assistance.
- The Students to Service Program is also sponsored by the NHSC. This program is for students in their last year of medical school. They can get up to $120,000 for student loan assistance in exchange for their commitment to work three years at an NHSC-approved site.
- The National Institute of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs are for researchers in the medical field. You can get up to $35,000 of your student loans repaid in exchange for working two years a qualifying nonprofit.
Here is an extensive list of loan forgiveness programs for nurses.
Jobs That Offer Student Loan Forgiveness in Other Areas
There are state programs for those who have careers beyond that of doctor, teacher or lawyer. If you are in a field that serves the public good, you may be able to get an LRAP in exchange for two years of service. You may find LRAPs for nurses, pharmacists, dentists, psychologists, veterinarians and more. Look into federal programs also. There is, for example, a Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program that offers up to $25,000. The key to getting a job that offers student loan forgiveness is to do your research and do it early.