For those truly drowning in student loans, there are few lifelines. It’s very hard to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, and that means lenders have little incentive to negotiate with borrowers. In fact, in his excellent book, The Student Loan Scam, activist Alan Collinge tells the stories of borrowers who have found the only way to escape from crushing student loans was to leave the country!
If you have a lot of student loan debt, I don’t have any easy answers for you. But there is at least a glimmer of hope for a small number of borrowers in the form of student loan forgiveness programs. Digging out all the details of these programs can be a full-time job itself, but here a few ways you may be able to get student loan debts wiped out:
Get a Public Service Job. If you work for a non-profit organization, Americorps, the Peace Corps, or are employed by the federal government, a state government, local government, or tribal government (including the military and public schools and colleges) you may be eligible for the Income Based Repayment Program. If you qualify, your federal student loan payments can be reduced based on your income, and any balance left at the end of ten years of payments under the program will be wiped out.
Join the Military. On a recent trip to DC, I noticed a huge banner in the GW Metro Station – next to George Washington University Medical Center – promoting student loan forgiveness for doctors who join the military. Student loan repayment programs can pay back as much as $65,000 in qualified student loans for those who enlist. Details vary widely by the branch of service you join, so think ahead if you are considering joining the military and hope to get student loans forgiven.
Become a Research Scientist. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) help researchers and scientists repay up to $35,000 of their qualified student loan debt each year. This includes researchers at NIH as well as others in nonprofits and universities.
Die. This sounds like an absolutely horrible way to end this post, but there is a trap I believe is important to point out. When a student loan borrower dies (or becomes permanently disabled), her federal student loan balances will be forgiven. But that’s not true with private student loans when there is a cosigner. Under those tragic circumstances, the cosigner may still have to repay those private student loans. Proposed legislation, The Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, would require disclosure of this fact, but wouldn’t change the fact that these loans survive when borrowers don’t.
Check out more student loan forgiveness programs at FinAid.com. If you do apply, make sure you keep a file for all your paperwork. One borrower on the Credit.com forums recently shared how her credit score tanked when the paperwork for her loan forgiveness program went astray.
But that’s another story.
Detweiler – Personal finance author and Credit Advisor for Credit.com, Gerri contributes
recovery and savings information online. She is also the co-author of Reduce Debt,
Reduce Stress: Real Life Solutions for Your Credit Crisis.