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How to Pay Off Your Student Loans With Grants

Chances are you’ve heard plenty about income-driven repayment plans, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and a handful of other methods for paying off or reducing your student loan balances. But if you’re still searching for ways to pay off your student loans faster, don’t forget about grants! They’re essentially “free” money that you can put toward your student loans and reduce your debt.


Do you have to repay grants you are awarded?

Unlike student loans themselves, grants typically don’t have to be repaid. However, most grants have stipulations and requirements for keeping the awarded money, and if you don’t meet all of those requirements, you could lose the full grant amount or even have to repay some or all of the money you received.


Where should you look to find grants to pay off your student loans?

Student loan grants come from several different sources. For example, the federal government offers several grants through various departments, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but you can also find grants through your state.

Several states offer grants and other incentives meant to encourage graduates to live and work in fields with staffing shortages. You can also check certain nonprofits that offer grants to workers in your field. Depending on your career, you might have a wide range of options available to you.


Types of Grants

Keep reading to learn more about the specific types of grants available. They can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Career-based student loan forgiveness
  • Federal student loan forgiveness
  • State-based student loan forgiveness
  • Military student loan forgiveness
  • Nonprofit/volunteer student loan forgiveness
  • Forgiveness programs administered by corporate employers for employees

If you see one that looks like it could be a good fit for you, do your research and apply!


Career-Based Grants

Doctors, Nurses, and Health Care Professionals

National Health Service Corps: Sign up for two years of full-time work within a high-needs community, and get up to $50,000 off your student loans.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: The program will pay off 60% of student loan debt for registered nurses who work at least two years in a critical shortage area. Those who opt to work an optional third year may receive an additional 25% in reimbursement.

IHS Loan Repayment Program: This program will repay up to $40,000 of your qualifying student loans if you sign up for two years of service in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program: If you’re in your final year of medical or dental school, you could earn up to $120,000 in student loan repayment by agreeing to work in an area with a shortage of medical professionals for three years after you graduate.



Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: You could earn up to $17,500 in forgiveness for your federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (including Stafford loans) if you agree to teach for five years in a low-income area.

Teacher Cancellation of Perkins Loans: Qualifying teachers work in low-income communities or teach high-needs subjects like math, special education, science, bilingual education, or foreign languages.



Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment Program: This program pays as much as $25,000 per year toward your veterinarian school debt if you agree to work in an area with a shortage of veterinarians for three years.



John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program: This program is designed for public defenders and state prosecutors. You can get up to $10,000 per year ($60,000 in total) toward your law school loans if you agree to three to six years of service.

Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program: This program provides about $6,000 per year, up to $60,000 in total, for attorneys who work in the Department of Justice and have federal student loan debt totaling at least $10,000. There is a three-year service obligation.

Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program: This program operates on a lottery system, offering as much as $5,600 in grants to attorneys with at least $75,000 in student debt. You have to work with one of the organization’s grantees to qualify.



National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs: You can get up to $50,000 per year (for a total of two years) by agreeing to conduct research considered critical by the NIH.


Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): You can get the remainder of your federal student loans forgiven after 10 years or 120 qualifying payments if you work for a qualifying government or nonprofit employer.

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness: After 20 or 25 years, the remainder of your balance will be forgiven, but you’ll have to pay taxes on the forgiven balance.


Military Grants

Army Loan Repayment Program: If you enlist in the military after going to college and you have student loans, you can get forgiveness for those loans.

Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program: This program provides up to $50,000 in student loan forgiveness for those in specific specialties who agree to serve for at least six years.

Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant: If your parent was a member of the military and died while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, and you were not eligible for a Pell Grant based on financial criteria, you could be eligible for an amount up to the maximum Pell Grant amount available for the award year.

Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program: Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, veterinarians, and other healthcare professionals who enlist in the army can receive up to $120,000 in student loan forgiveness if they enlist for a specified amount of time.


Volunteer and Nonprofit Grants


Peace Corps

Teach for America


Private Company Grants

Aetna: If you work for this healthcare company full-time, it will match your payments of up to $2,000 per year, for a maximum of $10,000 toward your student loans. Part-time employees are eligible for half that.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers: Get up to $1,200 per year, up to a total of $10,000, toward student loans for associates and senior associates.


Where to Start

You might be feeling a little overwhelmed by your options, but the best thing for you to do is to get methodical. Search for grants that fit your circumstances, then read the application requirements and apply. Make sure to keep an eye on due dates! If you miss one or get passed over for a grant, you can always reapply and try again.


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