Seven out of ten students take out loans to pay for school. So if you have student debt, you are not alone.
Fortunately, you can take advantage of several grants to pay off student loans faster. I’m talking about financial gifts, that unlike your student loans, you will not have to pay back.
If you see yourself owing thousands of dollars and struggling to pay it off, your best alternative-route to lead you to a debt-free life is receiving a student loan grant.
When we hear about grants, we usually think about scholarships and financial aid to help you pay for school while you are studying.
However, if you already graduated from college, there is financial help for you too. Considering the many students who graduate with a staggering amount of debt, governmental and private institutions created programs to relieve people from this burden.
Most grants are given in exchange for professional services. So depending on your field of study, you may find a wide range of grants to help you manage your debt. Here is why you should take advantage of every cent:
Take Advantage of Grants to Pay Off Student Loans
Saving money month by month is a popular option that works in some cases, but there are better options that you can explore.
You must aim to have a debt-free life as soon as possible if you want to achieve real peace of mind.
Large loan balances and monthly payments will hold your career back. The earliest you see yourself free from debt, the earliest you can launch a business, buy a house, or invest your money in whatever you feel is worth it.
Of course, there are a few challenges you need to face to see yourself free from debt. Most grants are given in exchange for something — such as your full-time professional service in a specific community that needs your service. Some people let this obstacle stop them from reaching financial peace much faster than they normally would. However, you must see these years of service as an opportunity, instead of an obligation.
Furthermore, you will be serving a community that needs your service. Besides the money you will be receiving, there is a personal fulfillment involved in this commitment. Many people get so attached to the community that they even decide to stay extra years.
In addition to the people who let this professional commitment stop them from applying for a grant, there are people who don’t even look into these grants because they are “too good to be true”.
But did you know that about 5 in every 10 individuals who have a student loan is eligible for a grant?
So buckle up because your much-dreamed financial freedom might be closer than you think:
Grants for Health Care Professionals
Entering the healthcare field requires a solid education, and that costs a lot of money. Even if you made smart financial choices during college, you probably left school with a tremendous amount of debt.
The great news is that there are many grants dedicated to easing healthcare professionals’ debt. Let’s look at the options:
1. National Health Services Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC)
The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program is the most common grant within the health industry. This program offers doctors the opportunity to have their student loans repaid in exchange for service in geographic locations with limited access to care.
So this means you have an opportunity to increase access to primary care services to communities in need while having your student loans paid for. And you still get a competitive salary for that.
To qualify for this grant you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen (U.S. born or naturalized);
- Be a certified physician (MD/DO), or physician assistant, or dentist (DDS, DMD), or dental hygienist, or a mental and behavioral health professional;
- Work for at least two years at a location classified as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA);
- Be a provider in the Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The amount of money you will be granted depends on the score of the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) location that you provide services. This means that the higher the need of the community you serve, the higher your grant.
If you commit full-time to a facility with HPSA score between 0 and 13, you can receive up to $30,000 within 2 years.
However, if you choose to commit full-time to a facility with HPSA score higher than 14, you can receive up to $50,000.
To apply for the NHSC you must create an application account and complete the online application. The online application process takes about three weeks to be completed.
Keep in mind that you will need the following supporting documents:
- Proof of status as a United States citizen
- Birth certificate;
- Or current U.S. passport’s ID page;
- Or a certificate of citizenship or naturalization.
- Loan Information Verification
- Account Statement
- Disbursement Report
2. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
This is the grant dedicated to assisting nurses in the student loan repayment. Just like the NHSC, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program offers student loan repayment in exchange for work commitment in a high-need area.
To receive the Nurse Corps grant you must:
- Be a licensed registered nurse;
- Have received nursing education from an accredited school of nursing in the U.S. territory;
- Work full-time in an eligible Critical Shortage Facility in a high need area.
Another way to be eligible for this grant is by teaching at an accredited school of nursing.
If you are eligible, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program can pay off more than 50% of your nursing school debt.
The amount granted depends on the time you commit. For two years of full-time service, the program pays 60% of your remaining debt. However, they can pay up to 85% of your debt if you commit an extra year.
Have you ever imagined you could get 85% of your student loans forgiven in 3 years?
If you wish to commit to this program, you should go over the Application and Program Guidance to review all the details on your duties. Keep in mind that the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is not always open to apply — there are different deadlines every year.
I recommend signing up for the HRSA email list to get notified about the next time applications open.
3. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (IHS)
The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (IHS) grants health care professionals a high award in exchange for a full-time service commitment to health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
This is an opportunity to dedicate a few years to support an Indian community while investing in your financial freedom.
In order to qualify for this grant you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen (U.S. born or naturalized);
- Have a health profession degree or are in your final year of academic clinical training;
- Have a valid license to practice. (If you are a student in your final year of postgraduate clinical training you are eligible to apply before obtaining a license. However, you are not eligible for an award until you provide proof of licensure);
- Be committed to practice at an Indian health facility;
- Be available to start the service on September 30 of the year you apply and commit two continuous years of full-time clinical practice.
If you qualify for the IHS grant, you can receive $20,000 per year toward the repayment of your student loans.
Considering that the program lasts two years, you will end up with $40,000 and the valuable experience of practicing where you are needed. Many professionals get involved in such a way that they decide not to go back home after the two years are completed.
If you have all the requirements to participate in this program, you must create an account at the IHS website and apply online.
Keep in mind that the grant opportunities are given based on Indian health program facilities with the greatest staffing needs in specific health profession disciplines.
Grants for Teachers
The north-american school system experiences a significant scarcity of qualified professionals. Teachers are in great demand, specifically in historically under-served areas.
For this reason, there is a variety of grants for educators available from multiple sources. The majority of these grants are awarded after the professional educator agrees to teach in a high-need institution. Let’s dive into the options:
4. Teacher Cancellation of Perkins Loans
Do you have a Federal Perkins Loan? Are you a teacher?
If you answered yes to these two questions, I have excellent news for you: you might qualify for a grant that covers 100% of your student loans.
Let’s see how:
To receive this grant to pay off student loans faster, you must:
- Teach in a school serving students from low-income families;
- Be directly employed by the school system;
- Be teaching for at least a full academic year.
Also, eligibility is determined by duties presented in a position description, not the title itself. Jobs that tend to qualify are teachers in specific fields of expertise (such as mathematics), and special education teachers.
If you qualify for this grant, you can receive up to 100% of your student loan debt if you commit for five years of eligible service.
In the first two years, you will be granted 30% of the total loan amount. An additional 40% percent will be paid off by the fourth year. And finally, in the fifth year, you will see yourself free from your student loan debt.
Keep in mind that each amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.
You need to go through your school to receive the grant for this program.
So, you must call your school’s Financial Aid Office and ask for a Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation application. They will provide you with the form, and give you directions to the next steps.
5. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
This grant is dedicated to teachers who have been working full-time in a low-income institution for the past five years.
This program was created to support professionals who have the will to teach in needy geographical areas.
If you want to receive this grant, you must:
- Be a qualified teacher (this means having at least a bachelor’s degree and having received full state certification as a teacher);
- Have been employed full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years;
- Be paying direct loans or Federal Stafford loans;
- Have been employed at a low-income school or educational service agency;
- Have made the loan (the one for which you are seeking forgiveness) before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service.
If you are an elementary school teacher, you may be granted up to $5,000. However, if you are a secondary school teacher you get up to $17,500 of your student loans paid for.
The first step to apply for this student loan grant is to fill out this form. Keep in mind that the Chief Administrative Officer of the institution you teach — or taught — will need to fill out a section of this form.
Once the form is ready, you should mail it to this address:
American Education Services
Attn: Teacher Loan Forgiveness
P.O. Box 2461
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2461
The confirmation that your grant was approved should arrive shortly after you mail the documentation.
Grants for Law Professionals
Becoming a law professional requires many investments when it comes to time and money. Therefore, it is often necessary to take out student loans to complete Law School.
For this reason, many institutions offer grants to assist professionals in the student loan repayment. Let’s go over the main ones:
6. Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Program (ASLRP)
This is a retention incentive program dedicated to any Justice employee hired to serve in an attorney position. If you are an attorney, you can receive more than $50,000 with the ASLRP grant.
In a general manner, you must be an employee hired to serve in an attorney position in the department of justice to be eligible for this grant.
If you are a temporary employee, who is serving on appointments leading to conversion to permanent appointments you may also be eligible to receive loan repayment incentives. Keep in mind that you would be subject to repayment provisions if you do not achieve permanent status.
As there are many variables used to determine whether you are eligible or not, the U.S. Department of Justice created an Eligibility Worksheet. Going over this document will help you to determine whether you meet the minimum qualifications.
The Department of Justice caps the ASLRP grant to $6,000 per attorney per year. However, this value fluctuates a lot because it depends on their resources. The total lifetime grant allowed per attorney is $60,000.
Therefore, if you are granted the maximum amount every year — which is not likely — you will receive $60,000 by the end of ten years.
Once you go over the Eligibility Worksheet and confirm that you meet all the requirements, you can complete the Request for Consideration form.
Note that you must attach all required documentation to the Request for Consideration, such as your loan data, statements from lenders, Service Agreements, justifications, etc.
Also, there is a competitive selection process for the ASLRP grant. Knowing that will stop many people from even trying, so go for it.
7. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
This program provides repayment of eligible educational loans for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who commit to continue employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years.
This program covers both the Federal Family Education Loan Program and Federal Direct Loans.
To be eligible for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen;
- Have an outstanding balance due on an eligible FFELP and Direct educational loan(s);
- Be an attorney (or have accepted an employment offer) continually licensed to practice law.
Qualified defenders and prosecutors can be granted up to $4,000 per year, dependent on funding. The total amount one individual can receive is $60,000.
However, if the employment commitment is not fulfilled, any amount received must be repaid.
This program is administered by each state’s government. Every fifty states have a designated agency that takes care of these grant nominations. Therefore, if you want to apply to receive this student loan assistance, you should follow the procedures set by your specific state.
Grants for Researchers
These grants are dedicated to health professionals that are pursuing a biomedical or biobehavioral research career.
These professionals are extremely important because they represent future breakthroughs in medicine. For this reason, there is a set of eight grants within the National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Program that alleviate researchers’ student loan debt. Let’s go over these eight grants to see which one covers the type of research you do:
8. National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Programs (NIHLP)
The eight research programs within the NIHLP are divided between extramural research and intramural research. They are:
- Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Research: a two-year program for clinical investigators interacting with human patients in different settings.
- Intramural Loan Repayment Program for AIDS Research: a two-year program for scientists employed at NIH and conducting research with respect to AIDS.
- Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Pediatric Research: dedicated to researchers studying for at least two years causes directly related to diseases, disorders, and other conditions in children.
- Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research: a program dedicated to researchers that focuses on at least one of the minority health disparity populations.
- Intramural Loan Repayment Program for General Research: a three-year program for NIH scientific investigators conducting many types of research.
- Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Contraception and Infertility Research: a two-year program for investigators conducting research in conditions that prevent couples to either conceive or bear young.
- Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds: a program dedicated to clinical investigators that come from an environment that restricted his or her ability to learn and to enroll in, and graduate from, a health professional school.
- Intramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds: a version of the Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds, but dedicated only to NIH employees.
Every specific NIHLP has its specific requirements. But in order to apply for any of the eight categories of this grant, you must:
- Be a U.S. Citizen or permanent U.S resident;
- Possess a qualifying degree (M.D., Ph.D., Pharm.D., Psy.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.P.M., D.C., N.D., O.D., D.V.M., A.D.N., B.S.N. or equivalent doctoral degree);
- Have total qualified educational debt equal to or in excess of 20 percent of your institutional base salary;
- Agree to engage in qualified research for an average of at least 20 hours per week during each quarterly service period of your LRP award.
Note: The Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Contraception and Infertility Research is an exception to the requirement of having at least a doctoral degree (or equivalent).
With different requirements, there are also different grants for each program.
Overall, these programs offer a highly competitive grant. You can receive up to $50,000 per year.
The first thing to note: extramural and intramural programs have different deadlines to apply — so make sure to verify the application periods.
Once you decide which type of research you are most qualified for, you can create an account at the NIH website and apply online. The application requires multiple documents, including recommendation letters and a research plan, so it is a good idea to use NIH application roadmap to follow along with the steps.
Grants for Military Members
Military members are constantly risking their lives to serve the country. It is fair that the country assists them and their families in such crucial aspects, such as paying off student loan debt.
Therefore, along with the many benefits offered in exchange for military commitment, you can also get your student loans repaid. Let’s look at the options:
9. Army’s College Loan Repayment (LRP) Program
The Army offers a special incentive to highly qualified people that are enlisting the military.
If the incoming soldier qualifies for this program, he or she will be granted partial repayment of the student loans. If you have an interest in committing to the Army, this grant can save you years of income going towards your student loans. Let’s see what are the requirements to apply for this grant:
First of all, you must enlist as an active-duty soldier to qualify for this grant. Additionally, you must:
- Agree to a term of service of at least three years;
- Be a non-prior service accession — which means be enlisting for the first time;
- Have a high school diploma and a score of 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB);
- Enlist in one of the critical Military Occupational Specialities (MOS) that qualifies for the program (this changes quarterly and you can check the updated information with Local Army recruiters);
- Decline enrollment in the Montgomery GI Bill in writing, using DD Form 2366.
Furthermore, your student loan payments cannot be in default at any time. So make sure to do your best to avoid losing out on the thousands of dollars that you deserve.
If you commit to serve for the necessary period and fit all the eligibility requirements, the Army will repay 33% of the outstanding principal balance per year of service (or $1,500, whichever is greater). Each soldier can receive up to $65,000 in total.
Once you enlist to the Army, you will be able to ask your local Army recruiter all the details about this grant.
If you want to take a peek on the details right now, you can visit the Army’s “MyArmyBenefits” page. This page breaks down the specific eligibility requirements and grant amounts of each type of MOS. This is a great way to start deciding which occupation interests you the most.
10. Federal Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
This grant is dedicated to people who lost their parent or guardian as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the 9/11. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is a way to honor these people who died serving the country, by providing college funding for their children.
The model of this grant is similar to the Federal Pell Grant. However, the Federal Pell Grant is dedicated to undergraduate students under extreme financial need.
In order to qualify for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, you must meet the following requirements:
- You were under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death;
- You must meet the general financial aid eligibility requirement;
- Your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and passed away as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy;
- You must be ineligible for a Federal Pell Grant on the basis of your Expected Family Contribution but meet the remaining Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
According to the grant rules, the award amount for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant can be equal to the maximum Federal Pell Grant amount for that year but cannot exceed your Cost of Attendance.
The maximum Pell Grant’s amount changes every year, but to give you an idea, the maximum award in the 2008 academic year was $5,920.
If you went through the unfortunate situation of missing a parent during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, it is your right to claim for this grant.
The first step to being awarded this grant is completing the online application.
Grant for Veterinarians
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 20% of veterinary school graduates have at least $200,000 in debt. Veterinary School is expensive, but thankfully, you can find assistance to pay off your student loan debt:
11. The Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment
The Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment was created to incentivize professionals to work at locations with veterinarian shortage. Therefore, one of the requirements to receive this grant is committing to work for at least three years in one of the NIFA-designated veterinarian shortage areas.
Besides working for at least three years in a location with veterinarian shortage, you must meet these requirements:
- Have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, or the equivalent, from a college of veterinary medicine accredited by the AVMA Council on Education;
- Be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States;
- Have qualifying educational loan debt as defined in 7 CFR 3431 Section 3;
- Have total qualified debt that meets the debt threshold of $15,000.
Through The Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment, you can receive up to $25,000 per year for three years.
This means that at the end of the three-year period, you can be $75,000 closer to your financial freedom.
The application for this student loan grant opens at the beginning of every year, and they announce the awards close to September.
To apply, you’ll need to complete eight forms that you can find on NIFA’s official application guide. In addition to completing the application forms, you’ll need to provide loan documentation, including a current account statement for each loan prior to the application deadline and a promissory note.
Other Alternatives to Pay Off Student Loans Faster
If you don’t meet the requirements of any of these grants above, don’t stress out yet. There are other ways out.
Many companies have been offering student loan repayment as an employee benefit. If you already work at a company you love, and they don’t offer this benefit, you can always suggest it. By adhering to this benefit, the company will be making a positive impact on your personal wellness while contributing to the country’s economy.
Another option is to overcome your debt is to access income-driven repayment programs such as the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, Income-Based Repayment Plan, and the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan. All these repayment plans will considerably reduce your monthly payment.
If you have a stable income and good credit, refinancing your student loans is also an option. Refinancing means taking out a new loan to pay off your old loan. This might sound like nonsense, but that can result in a new term length, a lower interest rate or both.
Your Financial Freedom is Around the Corner
Did you find the ideal grant to pay off your student loans faster?
There are many options to relieve the burden that your student loans represent in your life. It is just a matter of focusing on your goal and doing what it takes to get there.
If you need some motivation, then picture yourself as a debt-free person. You must dig your way out of this hole before you take the next big steps in life, such as buying a home.
Keep your intentions clear, and make smart choices every day.
Smart choices combined with consistency will take you a long way.