Student loan forgiveness and repayment programs exist for many professionals who serve the public. Current members of the military as well as veterans have undoubtedly chosen a career that qualifies as public service. As a result, there are many options available for military to get help repaying student loans.
Some of these options depend which branch of the military you’re serving with while others are limited only to people who do specific jobs within the military. The list below will help you understand the options available to you that could help you to deal with your student debt.
The Army College Loan Repayment Program
Highly qualified soldiers with Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) can qualify for this program, which repays the greater of $1,500 or 33 1/3 percent of a soldier’s outstanding loan balance after each year of service. The maximum repayment is $65,000 and soldiers are eligible to take part in the program for up to three years.
To qualify, soldiers must agree to serve at least three years, must decline to enroll in the GI Bill, and must have a score of at least 50 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Loans must have been acquired prior to entering the military and only certain loans qualify including those insured or guaranteed under the Higher Education Act.
The Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
This program provides up to $65,000 in loan repayments for enlisted Navy sailors, paying the greater of $1,500 or 33 1/3 percent of outstanding loan balance at the end of each year of service.
Repayment help is provided during the first three years of military service and is available only to eligible sailors in the delayed entry program who will be enrolling as active duty sailors. However, repayment is available only for loans guaranteed by the federal government.
Eligible sailors will have the chance to enroll at the Military Entrance Processing Station if their rating is eligible.
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Student Loan Repayment Program
Eligible JAGS in the US Air Force can receive up to $65,000 in student loan repayment assistance, with payments made at the end of each year of service for up to three years.
National Guard Loan Repayment Program
This program provides repayment of student loans made through the Department of Education, including PLUS Loans. State and private loans cannot be repaid through it. Guard members must enlist for a minimum six year term of service to become eligible and must enlist in a critical skills vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below. To be eligible, service members must also enroll in a qualifying position within a guard unit and must have scored at least 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test.
The maximum repayment through this program is $50,000 and the maximum annual amount repaid is the greater of $500 or 15% of the initial amount borrowed.
Coast Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
Eligible students in a bachelor’s degree program or a graduate program at certain educational institutions can qualify for this program, as can recent graduates of those institutions who are between the ages of 21 and 28. Eligible schools include but aren’t limited to Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as schools serving Alaska natives.
Students must apply to be accepted into the program and must demonstrate academic excellence and leadership skills. Accepted applicants will receive up to $10,000 annually in student loan repayment help for up to six years. They must must enlisted in the coast guard and given an assignment in a coast guard mission.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Military service is one of the public service jobs that can qualify borrowers for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This program is open not just to military members but to anyone who works full-time in an eligible position for the government or for a nonprofit. Most federal loans can be forgiven under this program, including those consolidated with the Department of Education using a Direct Consolidation Loan.
With this program, borrowers must make 120 on-time payments on a qualifying income-driven repayment plan. Any remaining balance is forgiven, provided the payments were all made while working in public service.
Explore all your options for loan forgiveness
While these are the main programs that provide loan forgiveness for members of the military, you may have other options. For example, veterans who have become totally and permanently disabled could qualify to have federal student loans discharged. And military members who served in an area qualifying them for hostile fire or imminent danger pay could have up to 100% of their Perkin’s Loans forgiven (or up to 50% if their military service ended prior to August 14, 2008).
Military recruiters and the Veterans’ Administration can help you understand what assistance may be available to you if you are considering enlisting or if you have served your country but are still working to repay your loans. By exploring all of your options, you can hopefully find a program that provides you with help you need so your education loans don’t become a major burden as you serve your country.
Other Options Besides Student Loan Forgiveness
There are ways you can lower your student loan payments, including enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan for federal loans. Consider refinancing student loans to potentially lower your interest rate, which can save you money. Keep in mind that refinancing federal loans into private loans means the loss of federal loan perks, including student loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans and more.