How to Repay Student Loans by Volunteering

Forgiveness is an eleven lettered word that can help shave thousands of dollars off your student loan debt when combined with the word "volunteer." The degree you're holding might have more bang for the buck than you thought. If your one of many recent college graduates combing through the employment section, seeking a lucrative position - you might be looking in the wrong places. There are many volunteer loan forgiveness programs available throughout the United States. These programs provide not only a great alternative option for repaying student loans, but also an opportunity to help those less fortunate through programs many recent graduates might overlook!

Law School

Most law school graduates walk out the door with cap and gown, owing between $80,000 and $125,000 (ouch!) in loans. No wonder personal injury has become so lucrative! Fortunately there are more than 30 law schools in the U.S. who implement loan forgiveness to students who take on public interest or non-profit positions. 

Medical School

National Health Service Corps offers a program in some states that helps graduates pay off their colossal medical school loans, and provides an annual salary, in exchange for practicing medicine in underserved areas.

Occupational or Physical Therapy Education

When you apply for a job in the occupational/physical therapy field, ask about your employer's loan forgiveness package. Because there is such a high demand for occupational and physical therapists, many hospitals and private health-related organizations will offer to pay off some of your student loans if you agree to lend them your valuable expertise.


The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program will repay up to $17,500 toward college loans for qualified teachers. Full time teachers with an outstanding FFEL or Direct loan balance on or after October 1998 qualify for $5,000 worth of college loan repayment after five consecutive years of service.

Student loan forgiveness at the increased amount of $17,500 is also available to qualified borrowers who teach full time in the field of mathematics or science at an eligible secondary school or who provide special education to students with disabilities.

Non-Profit Child or Family Services Agencies

In an effort to attract and retain more highly trained early childcare professionals, the federal government has developed programs to forgive up to 100% of the college loan balance for individuals at eligible centers.

To qualify for this student loan forgiveness program, borrowers must hold a degree in early childhood education, and work full-time for two years, at a qualified facility where at least 70% of the children receiving care come from families that earn less than 85% of the state median household income.

Law Enforcement Officials

You can protect and serve the community while the government does the same for your budget, by helping repay your college loans. Full time law enforcement or correction officers are eligible to have their loans paid off by the government at a rate of 15% per year for the first two years of service; 20% for the third and fourth year; and 30% for the fifth year.

Nurses and Medical Technicians

There are several generous student loan forgiveness programs available for physicians and RN's who practice in areas that lack adequate medical care.

  • The National Health Services Corps will repay up to $35,000 per year of service for qualified individuals.
  • The Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program (NELRP) repays up to 60% of your college loan balance for those who serve at least two years in critical shortage facilities.

Armed Forces

The government shows their appreciation of those who serve and protect with a variety of student loan forgiveness programs for the military. The National Guard offers its own student loan forgiveness program, paying off up to $10,000 worth of college loan debt for each qualified person.

Volunteer Work

Serving in the Peace Corps, Americorps, or Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) all qualify you for college loan forgiveness programs in various amounts.

  • Volunteers in the Peace Corps receive 15% of their Federal, Perkins, and Consolidation loans paid for each year of service up to 70% of the college loan amount. Your time spent volunteering not only helps pay down your loan, but you'll also get to see the world and feel great by helping make a difference.
  • Americorps—the domestic arm of the Peace Corps—awards volunteers $4,725 to apply toward their outstanding college loans after one year of service.
  • Volunteer 1700 hours for one of the many VISTA organizations across the country and have up to $4725 wiped off your college balance. These organizations focus on eradicating hunger, homelessness, poverty, and illiteracy.

Head Start Staff

Some states reward Head Start teachers and administrators by canceling 15% of their college loan balance for each year of service—up to 100% of the balance.Those who volunteer for their state's Head Start program not only help children from low income families prepare for kindergarten, they are also granted full or partial college loan forgiveness.

Providers of Intervention Services for the Disabled

The government will pay your Perkins loan in full if you provide full time services designed to aid disabled infants or toddlers who have physical, cognitive, communicative, social, emotional, or adaptive needs. Qualified programs can operate from an in-home setting or outside facility providing the program conforms to the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Civilian Employees

Federal agencies often use loan forgiveness in an attempt to recruit new employees.  Agencies can use incentives up to $10,000 per year for up to $60,000 in payments towards student debt. In return, the employee usually must agree to work for the agency for at least three years.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness


Check out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Fact Sheet!

Because of your service in volunteering, teaching, medicine, and other areas, under certain conditions, Uncle Sam will wipe your “loan slate” clean. Click on the loan forgiveness fact sheet to your right to learn more. The Department of Education has all the latest details on employment tracks that may allow you to have your loans forgiven.

About the Author: Sunny Shakula

Sunny Shakula is a copywriter, seasoned freelance journalist, and marketing professional with 10 years of industry experience under her belt. She holds B.A.s in Journalism and English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as training in graphic and interior design. Today, Sunny focuses on eco-friendly life and money management advice; her passion for design and eco-commerce extends to her own business, inside, whose motto is "Re-Purpose with a Purpose." Her forthcoming book, Cheap.Fun.Delicious, dishes on everything from eco-friendly cocktails to DIY interior design.

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