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10 Grants to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

Income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) get a lot of press. But both require you to have federal student loans and require 10 or more years of monthly payments working full-time for a nonprofit or public employer before you can qualify for any forgiveness benefit.

But there are other grants and student loan repayment assistance programs that may be able to help you pay off your higher education debt faster. While some grants, like the Federal Pell Grant, are only available to enrolled students, others are specifically designed to help graduates manage their student debt.

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And many of these student loan grants offer payment assistance to both private and federal student loan borrowers. Here are 10 of the best student loan grants to pay off student debt.

Note that since the COVID-19 pandemic happened and federal forbearance relief measures were put in place, many student loan borrowers have been impacted – some for positive, some for worse. To learn more about your options, check out our guide.

1. National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program

The NHSC Loan Repayment Program pays up to $50,000 in student loan payments for medical professionals who sign a two-year service contract to work in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

HSPAs are areas identified as having a shortage of healthcare providers who serve in primary care, dental care or mental health. Healthcare professionals working at HPSA sites with a score of 14 or higher are eligible for the full $50,000 ($25,000 for part-time clinicians). Those working at HPSA sites with scores of 13 or below are eligible for up to $30,000.

And those who still have remaining unpaid student debt after their two-year service contract ends can apply for a continuation contract. If accepted, NHSC will pay the entire remaining balance.

2. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program pays up to 85% of the student loan debt of registered nurses, advanced practitioner registered nurses and nurse faculty. To qualify, nurses must serve in a Critical Shortage Facility (CFS) or work in an accredited school of nursing.

If your application for this grant program is accepted, the Nurse Corps will pay 60% of your debt over two years. There's also the option to extend to a third year to get another 25% paid off.

3. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs

The NIH Loan Repayment Programs are a set federally funded programs that repay up to $50,000 annually of the medical debt of researchers who choose to work in specific high-need fields.

There are several programs for researchers who are not employed by NIH (extramural) and a few for researchers who are NIH employees (intramural).

Notable NIH LRP programs include the Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program and the National Institute of Mental Health Loan Repayment Program. The other qualifying programs are listed below:

Extramural programs

  • Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program (LRP-CR)
  • Pediatric Research Loan Repayment Program (LRP-PR)
  • Health Disparities Research Loan Repayment Program (LRP-HDR)
  • Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Loan Repayment Program (LRP-IDB)

Intramural programs

  • General research
  • Aids research
  • Clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds

To qualify, your loans must equal at least 20% of your base salary. Any income you earn outside of the research organization is excluded from this requirement. You also must be doing research for at least 20 hours a week during each quarterly period that you receive a NIH award.

4. Teacher Cancellation of Perkins Loans

Low-income schools often have trouble attracting top teaching talent. The federal government has instituted two different teacher student loan repayment grants as incentive programs for teachers to serve in these schools.

One of these is cancelation of Perkins Loans. Teachers with Federal Perkins Loans can qualify to have 100% of their loans canceled. To qualify, teachers must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Teach in a school serving low-income students
  • Serve as a special education teacher
  • Teach in fields currently designated as having a shortage (Fields include mathematics, science, foreign languages and bilingual education.)

5. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program with the U.S. Department of Education forgives up to $17,500 of a teacher’s student debt on qualifying loan types.

To qualify, teachers must serve in an eligible low-income school or educational agency for at least five years. Teachers must also be “highly qualified.” This includes having a bachelor’s degree and full state certification as a teacher. Finally, teachers must not have student loan balances from before Oct. 1, 1998.

Applications for this program should only be turned in after teachers have completed their five years of service, not before.

6. Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Program (ASLRP)

The cost of law school is sky-high and shows no signs of dropping anytime soon. Even in a field with a reputation for paying well, the debt can be suffocating without student loan forgiveness or assistance for lawyers.

Thankfully, there are a couple of grants to pay off student loans for legal professionals.

One of these is the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP). The ASLRP will match up to $6,000 per year of an individual attorney’s student loan payments for a maximum of three years.

To qualify, attorneys must have at least $10,000 of student loan debt and commit to serving in the Department of Justice for at least three years.

7. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

The Bureau of Justice Assistance makes funds available to each state to repay the student loans of qualified attorneys as part of the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program. This grant offers up to $10,000 of student loan assistance per year and $60,000 lifetime for public defenders and prosecutors.

Like the ASLRP, you must commit to serving as a public defender or state prosecutor for at least three years.

8. Congress’s Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)

Many former military service members have taken advantage of the GI Bill, which pays for the education of military members enrolled in school after their term of duty.

But what about service people who acquired student debt before their enlistment? There are several grants to pay off student loans that military members or their families can qualify for.

The CLRP allows any branch of the military to make up to $65,000 in student loan repayments for non-prior enlistees.

Army and Navy active recruits can get the full $65,000. Army Reserve enlistments can receive up to $20,000, and Navy Reserves can receive up to $10,000. The Air Force only pays for active enlistments and sets a maximum of $10,000.

9. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant helps with paying off the student loans of the children of people who lost their lives defending our country in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Here are the qualification requirements: 

  • You must have been under 24 years of age or enrolled in college at least part time when your parent or guardian died serving our country overseas.
  • You must meet all the Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements except for your Expected Family Contribution. 

10. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)

Through the Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), veterinarians can receive up to $25,000 per year of student loan repayment. To qualify for VMLRP, you must agree to work in a NIFA-designated veterinarian shortage situation for at least three years. See the shortage areas map.

If accepted, you could receive up to $75,000 in total payment assistance through the VMLRP program. The application process typically falls between March and June of each year. See our full breakdown of the VMLRP program.

Are there scholarships to pay off student loans?

Companies and individuals usually establish scholarships for students currently enrolled, not graduates who already owe student loan debt.

One reason for this is that donors can get tax benefits by donating to an institution, such as for its scholarship fund; they can’t get the same benefits by donating funds directly to an individual.

If you receive a significant sum of money to pay back your student loans, that lump sum may be considered taxable income. If you get it while you're still in school, you might not have to pay taxes on the money if it is used for direct educational expenses like tuition.

Turn to these programs and grants to pay off student loans

If you don’t qualify for any of the grants from this list, don't worry yet. There may still be programs that could help with paying off your student loans. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for a comprehensive list of options.

If you’re not sure which grant or student loan forgiveness program is your best choice, consider a student loan consultation. We’ve helped hundreds of individuals find creative ways to pay off their federal and private student loans faster.

During a consultation, we discuss all the repayment options available to you, including student loan refinancing options for a lower interest rate. Whether through student loan grants or other means, we’d love to help you find a direct path to student loan freedom.

We're a professional consulting company staffed with CFAs, CFPs, and CPAs who make custom student loan repayment plans for borrowers with significant debt anxiety.

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Comments

  1. Tamara Krause April 17, 2019 at 9:21 AM
    Reply

    You can also apply for any of the scholarships at moneysolver.org/scholarships. They range in value from $1,000 to $2500 and can be used to pay down student loan debt. Past students are eligible to apply.

    • CA November 24, 2019 at 6:18 PM
      Reply

      Thank you ma’am. I’ve entered into a few. hopefully it works out.

  2. Mirlinda August 7, 2019 at 8:14 AM
    Reply

    How do I apply for grant to help pay my student loans!

    • Travis Hornsby August 7, 2019 at 1:56 PM
      Reply

      Well I’d start by seeing if the 11 above applied to you and if they didn’t I’d check state programs too.

  3. lakilla smith January 5, 2020 at 9:35 AM
    Reply

    HI I’M LOOKING FOR A GRANT TO HELP PAY OFF MY STUDENT DEBT. FEDERAL OR GOVERNMENT GRANTS WHICH WHO I WORK FOR.

    • Travis at Student Loan Planner January 6, 2020 at 2:55 PM
      Reply

      Usually the best one is PSLF, but you’d have to be more specific.

  4. Kathleen February 11, 2020 at 4:53 PM
    Reply

    Where can I find help to pay off 20 yr old student loan with Navient which because of forbearance and late fees has now doubled in price. I am desperate for help. Thank you.

    • Travis at Student Loan Planner February 16, 2020 at 3:34 PM
      Reply

      This might not be the answer we’d hope for, but if you’re not earning a lot of income then consolidating to something like REPAYE with 10% of your income as payments could help a lot in mitigating the payment amount Kathleen. You’d have to post your loans interest rate and name of the loan and your income for me to give more specific suggestions.

  5. Teresa Robinson March 11, 2020 at 6:20 PM
    Reply

    I am writing on behalf of my son, Matthew, born May 11, 1980 in VT. He graduated from The University of Vermont in May of 2005 with a degree in Political Science and a VSAC Student loan of $18,829.13. He was offered a position at a Landscape Architect firm in VT after his professor said he was the most naturally talented student he ever had. After working there for two years, his boss said Matthew should get a Landscape Architect degree so he could be paid what he deserves.

    In 2009, Matthew applied to Cornell which had one of the best programs in the country and was so proud to be accepted. He needed to apply for Federal Assistance and started down the road to enormous debt through Direct Consolidated Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans but was told he would be able to pay it off with a good paying job when he graduated. When he graduated he owed $116,474.68 for three years at Cornell including two semesters where he had his tuition reduced because he worked overtime as a Teaching Assistant and on top of this he has an undergraduate VSAC loan which he has paid every month and he currently owes $3,000.00.

    He graduated in 2012 with a Masters of Landscape Architecture at the height of the recession and had to wait a year to get a position at a VT Landscape firm. After three years working at his old boss’ company he realized he would not be able to pay back his loan while living in VT and looked for a better paying job out of state. He got a job in Syracuse and he and his wife moved there in 2016 full of hope, knowing that their dream is to come back to VT as soon as possible.

    Today in 2020 after paying every month for 9 years, Matthew currently owes $150,885.61, an increase of $34,410.93 while he diligently paid his premium every month under the “Income Sensitive Plan” which was recommended by Navient. The increase is due to high interest rates and compounding interest. The interest rate has been 7.375% for the entire loan and cannot be negotiated as per the Federal Education Loan Agreement. None of the principal has been paid off and the total amount of interest is not paid off each month in his income sensitive repayment plan and the interest keeps increasing monthly. The total amount he has paid so far in 9 years is $17,800.55 which hasn’t made a dent. He has also paid $180 every month on his undergrad loan.

    His loan is being serviced by Navient, a company that has been in the news lately for often giving misguided advice or inaccurate advice to its borrowers.

    As Matthew approaches his 40th birthday this year, it becomes clear that he will never be able to pay off this loan. He will still be paying off his loan into his sixties.

    Please help. I don’t know if he should continue with the income sensitive repayment plan which has forgiveness in Nov of 2040 but the loan amount will be up to over 400,000 by then. Or should he consolidate and have a 30 year loan at over 1,1000 each month which he can’t possibly pay.
    Please help
    Sincerely,
    Teresa

    • Travis Hornsby March 13, 2020 at 8:37 PM
      Reply

      At this point, it might make sense for him to consolidate the loan at studentaid.gov and sign up for the REPAYE plan, which is 10% of his income. He might be able to at least lower the payments.

  6. Nicole January 14, 2021 at 10:38 PM
    Reply

    Hello i got my degree in network Engineering and currently for my student loan debt I have $20,274.97 what can I do to help pay that back i am a Single mom currently working a full time job

    • Amy at Student Loan Planner January 19, 2021 at 6:17 PM
      Reply

      You have plenty of options. It depends on so many factors, though, so it’s hard to say without analyzing your loans. The general rule of thumb is if you make more than you owe, refinancing with a private lender to lower your interest rate and get them paid off faster is usually the best option.

  7. Jim’s May 3, 2021 at 1:33 PM
    Reply

    I have a similar situation as mentioned in email from Teresa Robinson in March 11, 2029 about her son’s loans, except I am in the education business. I have already paid around $82,000 on a $61,000 student loan. I have been paying for more than 12 years, $573.71 a month, and it has not made a dent. My loans won’t be paid off until I am in my 90’s, and I would have paid approximately $285,000 or more. This is insane. I’m 65, and will retire this year. Navient said I am eligible for Income Sensitive Payment Plan, but this is like starting over, and the interest will compound more, while the principal is less.

    I’m not eligible for the PSLF or any of the Teacher Forgiveness Programs. I don’t know what to do. Are there any lawyers that can help? Is anything happening with President Biden’s plan?

    Thanks

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