If your dream job is to be a teacher, a public defender or to milk cows in North Dakota, you’re in luck. A number of programs will forgive your student loan debt—if you’re eligible.
These state and federal programs are generally awarded to individuals who work for non-profit organizations or at underserved professions.
States use these programs to attract people in hard-to-fill jobs. “These programs can be a real win-win for areas that need professions and for borrowers that have taken on more debt than they can necessarily afford,” says Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance at the nonprofit organization American Student Assistance.
The most common jobs eligible for state-specific programs are doctors, nurses, veterinarians and attorneys.
One example of a state-level program is the North Dakota State Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program, which offers up to $80,000 in student loan repayment in exchange for veterinarians who have commercial practices.
On the federal level, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program offers borrowers early termination of loans in exchange for 10 years of working at a public service job at either the federal, state or the local level. In order to qualify, the borrower must have made 120 on-time payments.
Some of the jobs that qualify for this program include public school teachers, professors at public universities, firefighters, and state police officers, among many others. Employees of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that are classified as 501(c)(3) organizations are also eligible for the PSLF.
Other options are also available to teachers. The federal government offers Teacher Loan Forgiveness, which forgives a portion of highly qualified teachers’ loans after 5 years of teaching. Highly qualified teachers have certain licenses or certificates, hold at least a bachelor’s degree and are deemed competent.
Teachers with loans from the Federal Perkins Loan Program might also qualify for a full cancellation of their loan if they work full-time for one academic year in a school that serves students from low-income families, works as a special education teacher or teaches in a field that has a shortage of qualified teachers.
Members of the military can also eliminate their student debt upon joining. Although every branch is different, people who serve up to three years on active duty will have their loans forgiven.
While these programs offer students a great benefit, Mayotte cautions people against fully relying on them. “No one should ever go to school assuming their student loan will be forgiven later. People should look at programs like this as an added bonus, but should never plan on these programs,” Mayotte says.
That’s because repayment programs are subject to funding and can be tossed at any point.