20 Grants To Pay Off Student Loans and End Your Debt
If you’re one of the roughly 46 million Americans with student loan debt, you may already be aware of loan forgiveness and special repayment plans. But also know that there are grants to pay off student loans.
You can find these student loan grants via federal and state government-funded programs as well as nonprofit organizations. Many are easy grants to get, though the majority of these opportunities also come with service or employment requirements.
Below is a list of some popular grants and how to apply for them.
20 grants to pay off student loans
Wondering how to get rid of student loans? There are plenty of free grants and student loan forgiveness programs available based on your profession, where you work and how long you’ve carried your student loan debt.
Here are the main categories to help you narrow your search:
Grants for health care professionals
1. National Health Service Corps loan repayment program
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) provides a grant designed to help doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists, mental health providers and other health care professionals reduce their overall student loan debt.
It’s fairly straightforward: You do two years of full-time service in an area with limited health care availability. In exchange, you receive up to $50,000 to go toward your student loan debt. Part-time service opportunities are also available, with grants up to $25,000.
2. Nurse Corps Repayment Program
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) offers student loan grants for the following nursing professionals:
- Licensed registered nurses (RN)
- Advanced practice registered nurses (APRN)
- Nurse faculty members (NF)
Applicants who commit to two years service in either a health care facility with a critical shortage or at an accredited school of nursing will receive 60% of their outstanding student loan balance. You can earn an additional 25% by completing a third year of service.
3. Indian Health Service loan repayment program
The Indian Health Service (IHS) is a culturally enriching program that contributes up to $40,000 to your eligible student loans in exchange for two years of service. Opportunities are designed to address the needs of the underserved American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
You can opt to stay longer, renewing your contract until your student loan is paid in full. Many students find this program stimulating and rewarding.
4. Students to Service loan repayment program
The NHSC (see section above) offers up to $120,000 student loan repayment assistance to medical, dental and nursing students who are in their final year of school. You will need to provide health care services for three years, or six years if working part time, at a NHSC-approved site. The purpose is to help serve communities with limited access to medical facilities and services.
Grants for veterinarians
5. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)
If you’re a veterinarian looking for grants to pay off student loans, look no further than the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Its loan repayment assistance program awards up to $25,000 per year — $75,000 total — in exchange for three years of paid work in an underserved area.
To be eligible, you must have an accredited degree in veterinary medicine and carry at least $15,000 in loan debt.
Grants for teachers
6. Teacher loan forgiveness
If you’re a teacher, you have several options for teacher loan forgiveness.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF): Devote five years of teaching in a low-income area and you could potentially earn up to $17,500 to be applied toward your direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Although the PSLF program isn’t designed exclusively for teachers, you may be eligible if all requirements are met. We’ll discuss PSLF in more detail below.
- Teacher Cancellation of Perkins Loans: The Perkins loan program ended in 2017, but the forgiveness program still exists. You can apply to have a percentage of your Perkins loan forgiven after every year of teaching in a low-income community, with the possibility of wiping out 100% of this loan.
- State-sponsored student loan forgiveness programs: Many states have teacher loan forgiveness programs, especially for high-need areas. In fact, the American Federation of Teachers created a loan forgiveness and funding opportunities database to help you find programs in your area.
You can find more information about teacher loan forgiveness programs, including how to apply, at www.studentaid.gov.
Grants for lawyers
7. John R. Justice Student (JRJ) Loan Repayment Program
If you are a state public defender or prosecutor, you may be eligible for the John R. Justice (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program. Under this initiative, you can receive up to $10,000 per year with a maximum benefit of $60,000. The funds can be applied to the remaining balance of most federal student loans, apart from parent PLUS loans.
To apply for the grant, you must agree to work as a public defender or state prosecutor for at least three years. For more information, visit your state agency website to learn about your area’s requirements.
8. Department of Justice Attorney student loan repayment program
If you work as an attorney for the Department of Justice, you can apply to receive about $6,000 per year, with a lifetime maximum of $60,000 in student loan assistance. You need at least $10,000 in federal student loan debt to qualify. However, this grant is highly competitive so it’s worth applying for additional grants in case you don’t get selected for this one.
9. Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)
The Legal Services Corporation uses a lottery system to award attorneys up to $5,600 in student loan assistance. You must have at least $75,000 in student debt, a total annual income below $62,500 (higher limits for Alaska and Hawaii) and be employed by one of the company’s approved grantees to qualify.
10. National Institutes of Health loan repayment programs
If you are a medical professional excited to dive into research, you may be able to receive grants to pay off student loans from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The award runs as high as $50,000 per year (for a max of two years), which you can use to pay off doctoral level degrees. You don’t have to be employed with NIH in order to apply.
Some key research areas may include:
- Health disparities for minorities
- Contraception and infertility
- Research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds
Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers even more research grants in the field of mental health.
If you’ve served in the Army or Navy after attending college, you may be eligible for military student loan relief. And if you’ve served and are looking to attend college in the future, there are a range of military scholarships to pay off student loans.
11. Military college loan repayment program
The Army offers student loan assistance to those on active duty. Requirements include enlisting for a minimum of three years and having a score of 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). You could potentially earn up to $65,000 to go toward your federal student loans. However, private loans aren’t eligible.
If you’re enlisted under a different branch, here’s what you might be able to receive:
- Navy: Up to $65,000
- Air Force: Up to $65,000
- National Guard: Up to $50,000
- Coast Guard: Up to $30,000
- Army Reserve: Up to $50,000
- Navy Reserve: Up to $10,000
Remember that military college loan repayment grants typically come with service requirements. Contact your recruiter or chain of command to see if you qualify for any of these programs.
12. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
If you had a parent who served in the military and died as a result of their service in either Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, and you didn’t meet the Pell Grant eligibility requirements, you could qualify for this grant instead. The amount goes up to the maximum Pell Grant award for that year, which is $6,895 for the 2022-2023 school year.
To apply via the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website, you must have been under 24 or or enrolled at least part time in college at the time of your parent’s death.
13. Health professional in military
The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program can help medical professionals tackle student loan debt while on active duty or in the Army Reserve. If eligible, you can receive up to $40,000 per year for a specified term, which is typically three years. That’s a potential total of $120,000 of student loan forgiveness.
14. Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program
Physicians, dentists, psychologists and other health care professionals willing to work in underserved areas in Pennsylvania can receive between $24,000 and $80,000 to be applied to their eligible student loans.
To receive Pennsylvania’s health care grant, you must make a two-year service commitment. Opinions for both part-time and full-time work are available.
15. New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program
In New York, graduates who want to pursue a career in farming can receive up to $10,000 a year for up to five years to pay off their student loan debt. Requirements include having received your degree from a New York college or university, and residing in the state for the 12 months prior to applying.
You need to submit your application within two years after graduating from school. Funds can be applied to both federal and private student loans.
16. The ND Career Builders loan repayment program
If you reside in North Dakota and are employed in a high-need occupation, you can apply for the ND Career Builders loan repayment program. You will need to secure a commitment from a private-sector donor, who will be responsible for matching state dollars. The grant awards up to $5,667 per year for a maximum of three years. The award can go toward both federal and private student loans.
17. California loan repayment for health care workers
California’s Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI) offers a range of loan repayment programs for those working in the health care field, including therapists, dentists, chiropractors and more.
For example, the Allied Healthcare Loan Repayment program provides up to $16,000 per year if you provide direct patient care in one of HCAI’s underserved areas. You can receive this award up to three times, and funds can be applied toward most federal and private student loans.
18. Maine Alfond Leaders Student Debt Reduction Program
The Alfond Leaders Student Debt Reduction Program offers up to $60,000 in student loan relief for eligible candidates employed by a STEM-based company within the state of Maine. The funds can be applied toward outstanding federal and private student loan balances.
Volunteer and nonprofit grants
19. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
One of the benefits of working for a nonprofit organization is that you may qualify for PSLF. With PSLF, you can potentially have 100% of your direct loans erased after 10 years of full-time work in the public sector. Other criteria include making 120 qualifying monthly payments.
And unlike other forgiveness options, the discharged balance is not taxable as income, which can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Also, try using our PSLF calculator to get an idea of how much you could potentially receive.
20. Other volunteer grants
Here are some nonprofits that may help with your eligibility for PSLF:
Check out our guide on how to apply for PSLF for more information.
Employer sponsored grants
Some companies help pay off student loan debt. This can be a great way to launch your career while simultaneously whittling down that student debt.
For example, if you work full time at Aetna, you can receive a match up to $2,000 per year, with a maximum contribution of $10,000 to go toward your student loans. Part-time employees can apply to receive half of this amount.
Other businesses to consider include:
- Google: Will match up to $2,500 in student loan payments per year per Google employee
- SoFi: Offers $200 per month per employee in student loan assistance
- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC): Associates and senior associates can receive up to $1,200 a year to go toward their student loan payments. The lifetime maximum is $10,000.
How to apply for student loan grants
In general, you apply for student loan grants after graduation. However, some grants are available while you’re still in school. Additionally, there’s a wide range of scholarships that can help cover college expenses.
There are plenty of easy grants to get, however applying for them usually takes a bit of time. But in the end, it’s worth it to receive a free contribution toward your student loan debt.
The application process will vary based on the grant, but here are the typical steps you can expect to take:
- Research grants that fit your specific background and needs. There’s no sense in considering a health care grant if you have a STEM degree. Furthermore, make sure you’re able to commit to the required time period. For example, if a grant stipulates that you work in a low-income area for three years but you have upcoming plans to travel abroad, this might not be the opportunity for you.
- Pay attention to deadlines since some grants have very specific application windows. Because of this, it’s a good idea to start researching grant opportunities well before graduation. Consider setting reminders to alert you to upcoming deadlines so you don’t miss them.
- Apply for multiple grants to increase your odds. Some grants are competitive, some are lottery-based and some are awarded to everyone who applies. Regardless, grants usually don’t charge a fee to apply so it’s worth applying for as many as you can.
Do you have to pay back grants?
Grants don’t function the same as student loans, and you typically don’t have to repay them.
There may be some grant programs, however, that have stipulations for keeping the award — such as agreeing to work for a specified amount of time. If you don’t meet all of the requirements, you could lose the full grant amount or even have to pay back some of the grant money you’ve already received.
What if you can’t get a student loan grant?
Not all people will be eligible for grants to pay off student loans. Repayment grants are typically limited to certain fields and only offered in particular areas.
But that doesn’t mean you are out of options. If you’re overwhelmed with your student loans, there are still ways to manage your debt.
Income-Driven Repayment plans
If you are struggling to keep up with your payments on your current salary and have federal loans, check out Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans. There are four separate plans:
- Income-Based Repayment
- Income-Contingent Repayment
- Pay As You Earn
- Revised Pay As You Earn
While each plan differs slightly, the basics are the same: The government extends your repayment term and caps your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income.
Switching to an IDR plan can drastically reduce your monthly payment, making managing your loans much easier. Keep in mind that it’ll also allow interest to accrue over time, increasing the total cost of your loan.
If PSLF and IDR plans are not an option, another path to consider is refinancing your debt. With refinancing, you take out a new loan for your student debt balance with new terms. You can secure a different repayment term, and maybe a lower interest rate or a smaller monthly payment as well — check out our list of favorite lenders to get an idea of what’s available.
Just make sure you’re aware of the drawbacks to refinancing. Specifically if you have federal loans, refinancing will lose you access to a variety of benefits special to federal student debt.
Still, by refinancing, you may be able to save money over the length of your repayment and have more room in your budget. You can use a student loan refinancing calculator to see what kind of savings you might net from refinancing.