Believe it or not, it is possible to get out of paying some, or even all, of your student loans. All it takes is a little detective work, time, and a willingness to participate in a handful of programs or careers.
Join the AmeriCorps. The AmeriCorps is a volunteer organization that serves on both a state and local level. AmeriCorps members can receive a modest living allowance, student-loan forbearance, health coverage, and even child care for those who qualify. After successfully completing their term of service, volunteers receive an AmeriCorps Education Award of up to $4,725. This award can be used to pay off qualified student loans, all while providing assistance to those in need and building community. Learn more at http://www.americorps.org/.
Join the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps serves third world countries by combating hunger, poverty, and building education. The Peace Corps provides it's volunteers with a living allowance (based on the local economy in which volunteers are stationed) and upon returning home, the Peace Corps provides just over $6,000 toward your transition to life back home and can be used in any way the volunteer wishes. Volunteers may apply for deferment of Stafford, Perkins and Consolidation loans, and may receive partial cancellation of Perkins loans (15% for each year of service, up to 70% in total). Learn more by contacting the Peace Corps at 1111 20th St., NW, Washington, DC 20526 or call 1-800-424-8580 or 1-202-692-1845.
Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA). By volunteering for a private, non-profit group that helps to eradicate hunger, homelessness, poverty and illiteracy, and providing 1700 hours of service, volunteers can receive $4725. Learn more by calling 1-800-942-2677 or 1-202-606-5000.
Military Service. Students who are members of the Army National Guard may be eligible for their Student Loan Repayment Program, which offers assistance up to $10,000.
Teaching. By teaching in a low income school district, teachers that serve in an elementary or secondary school can have a portion of their Perkins Loan forgiven under The National Defense Education Act. This program forgives 15% of your loan for the first and second years of teaching service, 20% for the third and fourth, and 30% for the fifth. Learn more about canceling your Perkins loan here: http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/teachercancel.jsp?tab=repaying Additional programs are available, including deferment and partial cancellation of Stafford Loans. View programs by state: http://www.aft.org/tools4teachers/loan-forgiveness.htm
Child Care. If you are a child care provider, it may be possible to have a portion of your FFEL or direct Stafford Loan forgiven. Learn more here: http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/childcare.jsp?tab=repaying
Legal Service. Some law schools may forgive the loans of students who serve in public interest or non-profit positions. To learn more, contact Equal Justice Works (formerly the National Association for Public Interest Law) at 2120 L Street, NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC 20037-1541 (phone 1-202-466-3686 or fax 1-202-429-9766).
Medical Service. The US Department of Health and Human Services offers loan forgiveness programs through the National Health Service Corps and the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program. These programs offer loan forgiveness to physicians and registered nurses who agree to practice for a set number of years in areas that lack adequate medical care (including remote and/or economically depressed regions). Furthermore, The US National Institutes of Health's NIH Loan Repayment Programs can repay up to $35,000/year of student loan debt for US citizens who are conducting clinical medical research. Finally, some hospitals and private health care facilities use loan forgiveness as a tool to recruit occupational and physical therapists. Contact the American Physical Therapy Association (1111 North Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1488; 1-800-999-2782) for more information.
Government Employee. The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program allows federal agencies (FBI, etc.) to establish loan forgiveness programs to help recruit employees. This is technically a loan repayment program and not a loan forgiveness program, as your employer will make payments directly to the loan holder and the payments represent taxable income to the employee. The agencies can repay up to $10,000 in Federal student loans per employee per calendar year, with a cumulative maximum of $60,000 per employee. Employees must agree to work for the agency for at least 3 years. For more information, see Student Loan Repayment FAQ here: http://www.opm.gov/oca/pay/StudentLoan/HTML/QandAs.asp
Remember, programs may vary by state. Visit your alma matter's financial aid office to see what programs they can suggest. Read the fine print very carefully. Most programs have very stringent requirements. Act quickly. As the economy changes, the amount of forgiveness programs may change.