To qualify, you must be involved in volunteer work, serve in the military, teach in a designated secondary or elementary school for low-income or special education students or other "teacher shortage areas", and meet other various requirements.
Peace Corps volunteers may be able to defer payment on their Stafford, Perkins, direct and consolidation loans. Also, they can receive forgiveness for their Perkins Loans. For each of the first two years of service, 15% can be canceled. Then, for the next two years, 20% can be canceled for each year for a total of 70% for a four year commitment.
Partial student loan forgiveness through volunteer work can also be achieved through VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), a private non profit group dedicated to the eradication of poverty in the United States. A one year commitment to VISTA will allow you a $4,725 education award. Your student loans may be placed in deferment or forbearance while you are serving.
The Army National Guard has a program called Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)which will provide for forgiveness of up to $20,000 in student loans. It's available to those who have existing student loans when enlisting or those who get the loans after joining. This program is in addition to the Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and tuition assistance program. The downside to this is there is a six year commitment.
If the military isn't for you, and you don't really want to be a volunteer for years just to get rid of your loans, there are a few other options available.
Student loan forgiveness for either Perkins Loans or Stafford Loans can be achieved through full-time teaching positions at a low-income school as designated by the U.S. Department of Education or teaching in certain subject areas such as special education, mathematics, science, foreign languages and bilingual education. The chief administrator of the qualified school at which you taught will have to verify your participation and completion. Depending on your qualifications, you could earn forgiveness of from $5,000 to as much as $17,500 in loans.
Certain health care professionals can also have their payments deferred or totally forgiven with participation in the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program. The NELRP will repay 60 percent of the qualifying loan balance of registered nurses who are selected for funding in exchange for 2 years of service at a critical shortage facility. Those selected may be allowed to work a third year and receive repayment for an additional 25 percent of their qualifying loan balance. Only about 15% of the total number of applicants were selected to participate in the program for the last two years.
The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program provides for up to $50,000 in forgiveness for qualifying educational loans in exchange for two years service in a underserved communities. Areas of need currently are primary care professionals, including dental and mental and behavioral health clinicians.
There are other, less common ways to become eligible for partial or total student loan discharge. For example, if the school happened to close within 90 days of your enrollment and you were unable to finish your course(s), you may be eligible for a partial discharge of your loan, dependent on the amount of your expenses. If you did not receive an expected refund, you may be eligible for forgiveness of the amount of that refund. If your signature was forged on your loan agreements, your loan can be forgiven. If you die or find yourself temporarily or permanently disabled, you may receive student loan cancellation.
If you are thinking about a student consolidation loan, check first because by consolidating, you may lose the opportunity to have certain loans forgiven.