Americans owe $1.26 trillion in student loan debt, with the average monthly student loan payment being $351, according to The Center for Microeconomic Data. These payments are even tough for people with well-paying jobs, and the loans can become particularly overwhelming in the event of unemployment, divorce, illness or injury.
However, there are a number of professions that offer student loan forgiveness. There are two main programs that offer loan forgiveness for many types of jobs that fall into the public-service sector. Keep reading to learn more about these main programs, as well as some additional specialty positions that have help available.
What are the Main Student Loan Forgiveness Programs?
- Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation: This program is available to a number of occupations with additional eligibility requirements for each. Eligible professions include firefighters, law enforcement, corrections officers, nurses, medical technicians, VISTA or Peace Corps volunteers, librarians for certain schools and public libraries, public defenders, Head Start staff members, staff at state-run child care programs, qualified professional providers of services for the disabled, speech pathologists in elementary or secondary schools, special education teachers, teachers in fields designated as shortage areas, teachers serving students in low-income areas, and faculty members at a tribal college or university.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF): This applies to U.S. Department of Education Direct Loans, and is offered for anyone who works in a qualified public service position in government or for a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. You must have made 120 timely monthly payments to qualify for loan forgiveness under this program.
What Professions Offer Additional Student Loan Forgiveness or Assistance?
The loan forgiveness programs above apply to a number of jobs, but there are additional programs for specific fields, as well:
- NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program: Loan forgiveness for nurses who work at a qualified facility at least 32 hours a week.
- Kansas State Loan Repayment Program: This program offers up to $20,000 for repayment assistance if the nurse works in a Health Professional Shortage Area in Kansas for two years.
- Doctors graduate with an average of $183,000 in student loan debt—a number that is daunting even for people who have a high earning potential. A variety of state programs offer loan forgiveness for medical students and doctors who do their residencies or first jobs in underserved areas including: The Missouri Health Professional State Loan Repayment, the Primary Care Resource Initiative for Missouri (PRIMO), the Kansas Bridging Plan, and the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program.
- Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness: This program is available to teachers of schools that receive Title I funding for loans established after October 1, 1998. Most teachers qualify for $5,000 in loan forgiveness, although it can be as much as $17,500 for highly qualified math, science and special education teachers.
- The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program will contribute up to $25,000 annually for vets who agree to work in an area where there is a veterinarian shortage for three years.
- The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program offers licensed clinical social workers up to $50,000 in student loan payment when they agree to work for two years in a high-need designated Health Professionals Shortage Area.
- The trade association SEMA, or Specialty Equipment Market Association, offers a student loan forgiveness program for college or vocational/technical program graduates who work at SEMA-member companies.
Fail to Qualify for Any of These Student Loan Programs?
Even if you do not work in the above professions or otherwise qualify for loan forgiveness, there is still student loan help available. The best student loan debt program currently available for borrowers in any profession may be the Income Based Repayment Plans (IBR). These plans consolidate existing student loan debt and allow borrowers to make monthly payments that are approximately 10% of their incomes. Many people who would not be eligible for loan forgiveness may still qualify for reduced monthly payments in an Income Based Repayment Plan.
The Kansas City bankruptcy lawyers at The Sader Law Firm provide free telephone consultations to student loan borrowers who would like to know more about their options for relief from student loans, mortgages, household bills, medical expenses and other debt. The Sader Law Firm was featured in Missouri Lawyers Weekly for our work in reducing our client’s student loan debt by $250,000.