Repayment Options, Student Loan Resources

Grants to Pay Off Student Loans

Paying back students loans can be a huge burden. When student loan payments are stressing you out, you need to exhaust all your options for repayment. Before you consider deferment or forbearance, see if you qualify for student loan forgiveness through a grant.

What is student loan forgiveness?

Forgive and forget– that’s exactly what student loan forgiveness is! It seems too good to be true, but when you are awarded a grant, a portion of your student loan debt is forgiven, or erased. It no longer exists and you are not obligated to repay it. Surely these opportunities are far and few between. You’d be surprised to learn that there are many student loan forgiveness programs out there, in a variety of fields and occupations.

Student loan forgiveness programs typically fall into these simple 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

Don’t assume that there isn’t a student loan forgiveness program out there for you. Dig in and do your research. It could really pay off!

What are grants and how can I use them to pay off my student loan debt?

As described by the office of Federal Student Aid, a government grant is a financial award given by the federal, state, or local government to an eligible grantee. Unlike loans, government grants are not expected to be repaid. The purpose of government grants is that they help fund ideas and projects providing public services and stimulating the economy. Grants support critical recovery initiatives, innovative research, and other programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).

Like scholarships, grants can be competitive! Unlike scholarships, grants usually require some type of quid pro quo. They are not always completely a gift, and sometimes they have strings attached. Whether it’s a commitment to engage in military service, serve in community outreach, or teach in high need areas, grants come with stipulations.

By finding the right niche that relates to your education, experience, and career field, you can identify and apply for grants that will help you repay your student loans. Grant applications are not for the faint of heart. They require a lot of time and effort to complete (weeks typically!). But if it may knock off thousands of dollars off your student loan debt, it’s completely worth it.

Where to Find Grants to Pay Off Student Loans

The first place you should go to look for possible grants the Federal Student Aid website. There you can find a chart that outlines big federal grant programs such as Federal Pell grants, TEACH grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. Most of these grants are unlimited in number, available to all who qualify. The website provides accurate and easy to read information on how these grant programs work, who is eligible, and how to apply.

Best Grants in the Health and Medicine Field for Paying off Student Loans

Dental and medical school are wildly expensive. It’s common for students graduate with six figures worth of student loan debt. Meanwhile, the demand for access to quality health and medical services in certain areas is high. Professionals in this field can take advantage of grant programs that award recipients for commitment of service in the high-need positions.

Contraception and Infertility Research National Institute of Health Grants

The National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) are a set of eight grant programs designed to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals into biomedical or biobehavioral research careers. Many people in this profession are having to leave their important research to take higher-paying private jobs just to repay their steep student loans. Established by Congress, these grants are meant to offset the rising costs of higher education and necessary training in medicine and clinical specialties.

What is contraception and infertility research?

As defined by the National Institute of Health, Contraception Research is research that has the ultimate goal to provide new or improved methods of preventing pregnancy. Infertility Research is research that has the long-range objective to evaluate, treat, or ameliorate conditions which result in the failure of couples to either conceive or bear young.

Eligibility:

There are eight LRPs, five for researchers not employed by National Institute of Health (Extramural) and three for researchers employed by National Institute of Health (Intramural).

Eligible research outside of the National Institute of Health: clinical research, pediatric research, health disparities research, contraception and infertility research, and clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Eligible intramural research: aids research, clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and general research.

Here are the General Eligibility guidelines:
  • U.S. Citizenship
  • Qualifying Degree (Extramural programs only) – Possess an 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., or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited institution.
  • Qualifying Degree (Intramural programs only) – Possess an M.D., Ph.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.P.M., D.V.M., A.D.N., B.S.N., or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited institution; or hold the position of Physician Assistant.
  • Qualified Educational Debt – You must have total qualified educational debt equal to or in excess of 20 percent of your institutional base salary at the time of award. Institutional base salary is the annual amount you are paid for your appointment, whether the time is spent on research, teaching, patient care, or other activities.
  • Qualified Research (Extramural programs only) – You must agree to conduct only research that is within all federal laws and regulations. You must engage in qualified research for an average of at least 20 hours per week during each quarterly service period of your LRP award.
  • Qualified Research Assignments (Intramural programs only) – You must be appointed at the NIH in a qualified research area.
  • Domestic, nonprofit research funding (Extramural programs only) – Your research must be supported by a domestic, nonprofit foundation, university, professional association, or other nonprofit institution, or a U.S. government agency (Federal, State, or local). Your employment must be with a nonprofit institution.
  • NIH Employment (Intramural programs only) – You must be an NIH employee or have a firm commitment of employment from an authorized official of the NIH.
Award amount:

The Loan Repayment Program grants can significantly relieve financial pressure by repaying up to $35,000 annually of a researcher’s qualified educational debt in return for a commitment to work in National Institute of Health related research.

Payments are distributed on a quarterly basis. They start with the loan with the highest priority. If a loan is paid-in-full before the end of the awardee’s contract, payments will be directed to the loan with the next highest priority.

How to Apply:

Be aware that the process takes a full calendar year, so plan ahead using the NIH interactive roadmap for applications. Online applications are accepted during September and November. The review process occurs from February- July. Notification of awards happens in August.

All applications to the Contraception and Infertility Research LRP are reviewed by the Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Applications are then sent to the most appropriate NIH Institute or Center (IC) for review. Want to check up on your application? The IC assignment can be viewed in the LRP Online Application System once CSR makes the assignment, which typically takes place by the end of January.

Besides the online application, there are several other attachments requested during the application process. Below are some of the commonly required attachments:

  • An Institutional Business Official (IBO) to verify eligibility and employment;
  • A minimum of three reference letters, but no more than five will be accepted.
Awardee responsibilities:

If you are awarded — congratulations! What a huge financial relief that will be! But remember, the grant is in exchange for your commitment of service to NIH related research. Each of the eight LRPs has slightly different terms and conditions, but all require 2-3 of service in exchange for the loan forgiveness.

Be sure to know what your responsibilities are, and uphold them. Otherwise, you can lose your grant, or even have to pay it back! Check out the awardee contract for all the details.

National Health Service Corps

NHSC Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP) is available to licensed primary care clinicians in eligible disciplines-including primary medical care, dental care, and in behavioral and mental health fields. Recipients of the grant must serve at least two years of service at an NHSC-approved site in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

It is important to note that while the National Health Service Corps grant will repay most types of student loans, it cannot be applied to Parent Plus loans, Residency loans, or loans subject to cancellation.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for a NHSC LRP award, all applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be eligible for, or hold, an appointment as a commissioned officer in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service or be eligible for selection for civilian service in the NHSC;
  • Participate or be eligible to participate as a provider in the Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Programs, as appropriate;
  • Have a current, full, permanent, unencumbered, unrestricted health professional license, certificate or registration in the discipline in which he/she is applying to serve; and
  • Submit a complete application
Award amount:

NHSC LRP participants have a choice of two service options and award amounts. Here are the details outlined in the National Health Service Corps 2018 Application & Program Guide:

(1) 2-year Full-Time Clinical Practice. The NHSC will pay up to $50,000* for an initial 2 years of full-time clinical practice to clinicians serving at an NHSC-approved service site with an HPSA score of 14 or higher. Applicants who will be working at NHSC-approved service sites with HPSA scores of 13 or lower are eligible to receive up to $30,000* for an initial 2 years of fulltime clinical practice.

(2) 2-year Half-Time Clinical Practice. The NHSC will pay up to $25,000* for an initial 2 years of half-time clinical practice to clinicians serving at an NHSC-approved service site with a HPSA score of 14 or higher. Applicants who will be working at NHSC-approved service sites with HPSA scores of 13 or lower are eligible to receive up to $15,000* for an initial 2 years of half-time clinical practice.

How to apply:

Expect to spend about three weeks completing the online application. You’ll need to gather all required and supplemental documentation. The answers you provide in your application must match your supporting documents. If it doesn’t, it will result in your application being rejected.

Awardee responsibilities:

Recipients of the NHSC grant are responsible for providing a minimum two-year service contract for either full-time or part-time clinical practice at an NHSC-approved placement in an HPSA. Full-time is considered 40 hours per week, 45 weeks per year. Part-time is defined as 20 hours per week, 45 weeks per year. If the awardee fails to uphold the terms of the contract, they will be responsible for paying back the grant.

Best Grant in the Education Field for Paying off Student Loans

Teachers have it rough! With the cost of college always on the rise, and higher demand for teacher’s with Master’s degrees, many teachers are burdened with student loan debt that is disproportionate to their meager salaries. Luckily, there is some relief available!

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is for highly-qualified teachers serving in high-need school districts. It is meant to help equip struggling schools and students with high quality teachers. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency, you could receive a grant of up to $17,500 that can be applied to Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.

Eligibility:

As described by the Federal Student Aid office,

  • You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998.
  • You must have been employed as a full-time, highly qualified teacher for five complete and consecutive academic years.
  • A teacher is a person who provides direct classroom teaching or classroom-type teaching in a non-classroom setting. Special education teachers are considered teachers.
  • You must have been employed at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves low-income students.
  • The loan(s) for which you are seeking forgiveness must have been made before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service.
  • You must have attained at least a bachelor’s degree and received full state certification as a teacher.
  • You must also have demonstrated subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum by passing a rigorous state test.
  • Your school of employment must be listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits (Low-Income School Directory), which is published by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) each year.
  • You are not eligible to receive forgiveness on a defaulted loan unless you have first made satisfactory repayment arrangements with the holder of the defaulted loan.
  • You must not have received benefits through the AmeriCorps Program under Subtitle D of Title I of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 or loan forgiveness under the Direct Loan Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for the same teaching service for which you are seeking forgiveness on your Direct Loan and/or FFEL program loans.
Award amount:

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Grant ranges in from $17,500 or $5,000, depending on the subject area taught. The good news is, the number of grants is not limited. All who qualify will be awarded! If you have eligible loans under both the Direct Loan Program and the FFEL Program, $17,500 or $5,000 is a combined maximum forgiveness amount for both programs.

If you were a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher who taught students at the secondary school level, or a highly qualified special education teacher (at either the elementary or secondary level) whose primary responsibility was to provide special education to children with disabilities, and you taught children with disabilities that corresponded to your area of special education training, then you are eligible for the top dollar amount – up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness!

Not a mathematics, science, or special education teacher? No worries, you can still receive up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness if you are a highly qualified full-time teacher in another grade or subject area.

How to apply:

The process of applying for the teacher loan forgiveness grants starts with submitting a completed Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer. This application can be printed from the Federal Student Aid website. Be sure that you have in fact completed the required five consecutive years of qualifying teaching! Your principal, or chief administrative officer of your school where you performed your qualifying teaching service must complete the certification section of the application.

It is important to note that the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application is in the process of being cleared through the Office of Management and Budget. The current form with the July 31, 2017, expiration date is valid and should be used until the revised form has been approved and implemented.

Have more than one loan? If wish to apply the grant to loans that are with different loan servicers, you must submit a separate form to each of them.

Awardee Responsibilities:

Unlike many of the health medical field grant programs, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness grant does not require the award recipient to fulfill any obligations after receiving the grant. The terms of service are completed prior to receiving the grant.

Best Grant in the Field of Law for Paying off Student Loans

If you framed your law degree but hid your student loan statement, it’s ok- there are grants available for you too! Like other professional schools, law school is pricey. Learn how you can erase some of that debt by completing professional service to the public.

John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Grant Program

Like many other professions, lawyers also leave public service roles for private sector jobs with higher salaries when under pressure to repay student loans. The goal of the JRJ Grant Program is to attract and retain qualified local, state, and federal public defenders and local and state prosecutors who commit to extended employment in those public roles.

Eligibility:

Who can receive the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Grant? State and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who agree to remain employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years. Here are the basic requirements for consideration:

  • Attorneys must be “continually licensed to practice law” to be eligible.
  • Eligible prosecutors are full-time employees of a state or unit of local government (including tribal government), who “prosecute criminal or juvenile delinquency cases at the state or unit of local government level.”
  • Public defenders are either full-time employees of a state or unit of local government (including tribal government), or full-time employees of a nonprofit organization operating under a contract with a state or unit of local government, who “provide legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases.”
  • Full-time federal defender attorneys in a defender organization providing legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases pursuant to Subsection (g) of section 3006A of Title 18, United States Code are eligible.
  • Attorneys providing supervision, education, or training of other persons providing prosecutor or public defender representation are also eligible.
  • Prosecutors who are employees of the federal government are not eligible.
  • Attorneys who are in private practice (and not a full-time employee of a non-profit organization) are not eligible, even if providing public defense services under contract to the state.
  • An attorney must not be in default on repayment of any federal student loans.
Award amount:

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.

It should be noted that the grant can only be applied to certain loans. Federal student loans (both FFEL and Direct loans) are ok. But loans in default, Parent PLUS loans, and private, commercial, or alternative student loans are not applicable.

How to apply:

The application for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Grant Program is submitted through the Grants Management System (GMS). Operating under the umbrella of the State Justice Department, the Grants Management System offers guidance and support every step of the way. To start, you need to register in GMS for the specific funding opportunity you wish to apply for. Registration and application deadlines vary by state.

General steps to apply are as follows:
  • Read, complete and sign the Federal Service Agreement.
  • Read, complete and sign the JRJ Application, which needs to be signed both by the applicant and the applicant’s employer.
  • Submit copies of all loan-related documentation confirming outstanding student loan debt reported on JRJ application. Documentation submitted should confirm name of borrower, current outstanding loan amount, and type of student loan.
  • All materials must be completed, signed, scanned and attached as PDF documents to be sent electronically through our secured server.
  • Find complete instructions on how to register and submit an application in GMS at www.ojp.gov/gmscbt/.

Applications typically take 2-5 weeks to complete and process. Like many of the other grant opportunities on this list, the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Grant Program requires supporting documents to be submitted with the application (see the list of requirements and documents). Missing documentation will hold up the process or invalidate your application.

Awardee Responsibilities:

Recipients of the grant are obligated to complete a minimum of 3 years in public service as a public defender or prosecutor. The awardee may complete up to six years of service to maximize the value of the grant.

Best Military Service Grant for Paying off Student Loans

Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant

This special grant honors men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice during military service. If you had a parent who served in the military and died as a result of their service in either Iraq or Afghanistan, you may receive a grant to pay off student loans.

Eligibility:

The Office of Federal Student Aid has simple guidelines for grant qualification:

  • you must not be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant on the basis of your Expected Family Contribution but meet the remaining Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements
  • your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11
  • 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.
Award Amount:

Grant Awards are not limited in quantity. Eligible applicants may receive up to $6,095 to use towards your student loans.

How to Apply:

There’s not an extensive amount of complicated paperwork for this grant. Just submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. This easy application can be completed online and will determine whether or not you qualify.

Other Grant Opportunities for Paying off Student Loans

There are other, more specific, grant opportunities available by state. Here are a few offering top dollar that are worth checking into.

  • New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program: NY wants to incentivize farmers. If you are in the field of agriculture, look into this loan opportunity. If you received your degree from a New York college or university and agree to operate a farm in New York for at least five years, you could be eligible.
  • North Dakota Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Student Loan Grant: available to those working in a STEM-related career in North Dakota, this grant could knock $1,500 a year off your loans.
  • Pennsylvania Primary Healthcare Loan Repayment Program: If you live in Pennsylvania and are willing to make a two-year commitment in primary care or dentistry in a high need area, you could get $30,000- $100,000 to use towards your student loans.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers:

Q: Why would I have to repay all or part of a federal grant?

A: As outlined by the Federal Department of Student Aid, here are a few examples of why you might have to repay all or part of a grant you received:

  • You withdrew early from the program for which the grant was given to you.
  • Your enrollment status changed in a way that reduced your eligibility for your grant (for instance, if you switch from full-time enrollment to part-time, your grant amount will be reduced).
  • You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid.
  • For a TEACH Grant, you did not meet the requirements of your TEACH Grant service obligation.
Q: Does student loan forgiveness hurt your credit?

A: Some federal student loan forgiveness programs (though not all of them) count your forgiven amount as extra personal income. This won’t affect your credit score, but affect your finances if you have to use your credit card or a personal loan to cover your tax bill. Check the details on your grant to see how it may be counted towards your taxes.

Q: Can student loan payments be forgiven after 10 years?

A: For some people, yes. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a federal grant program that helps people working in public service jobs. This can include teachers, social workers, police officers, etc. Many job titles and career fields meet the criteria for the PSLF program. After 120 payments on your loan (10 years) you can qualify for 100% loan forgiveness.

Q: How is student loan discharge different from student loan forgiveness?

A: Discharged debt is debt that technically is forgiven, by legal route (for example, in the event of bankruptcy). Loans eligible for discharge are determined by the court.

Both forgiveness and discharge involve the cancellation of debt. But, forgiveness is generally provided in exchange for service (especially a high-need area) or for improving the community. Loan discharge, on the other hand, happens when the borrower can’t repay the debt (death, disability, and bankruptcy) or rejects the debt.

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