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Can I Volunteer to Pay Off Student Loans?

Can I Volunteer to Pay Off Student Loans?
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated September 15, 2023
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While volunteering doesn’t come with a big paycheck, it may help you pay off your student loan debt. There are several volunteer programs that are eligible for student loan forgiveness after a certain number of years. If you’re looking to volunteer to pay off student loans, read on for a closer look at your options. 

The Challenge of Student Loan Repayment

Paying off student loans can be a huge challenge, especially if you’re dealing with large balances and high interest rates. Once your grace period ends, you’re expected to pay back your student loans on a monthly basis.According to the Federal Reserve, the average student loan payment is $393, a hefty sum, especially for new graduates who are figuring out their career path. However, that financial obligation doesn’t have to prevent you from giving back to your community through volunteering. 

Exploring the Concept of Volunteering and Paying off Student Loans

There are ways to volunteer and pay off student loans at the same time. In fact, your volunteer work may make you eligible for student loan forgiveness programs, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which requires 10 years of service and 120 payments on an income-driven repayment plan. Here are some programs to put on your radar if you’re looking to shorten the time it takes to pay off student loans

Teach for America

The Teach for America program places teachers in underserved communities for a minimum of two years. You must have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for this program, along with a college GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. You’ll get paid a salary for your work — anywhere from $32,000 to $72,000, depending on your location — and your Teach for America will count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. As mentioned, PSLF forgives your student loans after 10 years of qualifying service. 

Peace Corps

If you volunteer for the Peace Corps, you could get sent to another country to help with community development. Peace Corps volunteers work in a variety of fields, including healthcare, education, and agriculture. You can defer payments on your student loans while you’re volunteering in the Peace Corps. Plus, your service qualifies for the PSLF program. If you have a Perkins loan, you could get between 15% and 70% of the balance forgiven. Note that the Perkins loan program stopped lending new loans in 2017, so this Perkins loan cancellation benefit would only be relevant to borrowers who took out loans prior to that time. 


AmeriCorps places volunteers around the U.S. to help address issues related to poverty, education, and the environment. Your volunteer work in AmeriCorps is eligible for the PSLF program. Plus, you could qualify for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which gives you money toward your student loans. The award amount equals the Pell Grant amount for the year, which is currently $7,395 for the 2023-24 award year. If you use your Segal AmeriCorps Education Award toward your student loans while they’re in forbearance, you’ll get credit for 12 payments toward PSLF (the program requires 120 payments in total). What’s more, you won’t have to worry about paying interest that accrues during forbearance. As long as you complete your term of service, the National Service Trust will pay off the interest that accrues during this time. 

Potential Benefits and Drawbacks

Before choosing to volunteer to pay off student loans, it’s worth considering both the benefits and potential drawbacks. 


  • Contribute to an underserved community. Volunteer work is all about giving back. By volunteering either in the U.S. or abroad, you can help economically disenfranchised communities and make a difference in the world. 
  • Gain work experience in an area of interest. There are a variety of volunteer positions in anything from healthcare to education to entrepreneurship. This experience could serve as the springboard to your future career. 
  • Work toward student loan forgiveness. Some volunteer work is eligible for PSLF or comes with other student loan assistance benefits to help you pay off your student loans. You may also have the option of pausing payments through forbearance while you’re volunteering, but find out whether interest will accrue and cause your balance to grow during this time. 


  • May have to live on a strict budget. Volunteer work isn’t going to come with a high salary. The position may come with housing or a small stipend, but you’ll have to be comfortable living on a tight budget for a while or working a job in addition to volunteering. 
  • Limit your earning potential. Along similar lines, the time you spend volunteering is time you’re not spending earning a full-time income or working toward a promotion at work. 

Organizations and Charities That Pay Off Student Loans

Along with volunteer work, you may find organizations and charities that offer grants to pay off student loans. The Shared Harvest Fund, for example, offers student debt assistance in exchange for volunteer work. In particular, it connects healthcare workers, such as doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers, with MyCovidMD, an organization that provides Covid-19 care, testing, and vaccines to communities in need. To date, the Shared Harvest Fund has provided $120,000 toward student debt relief. 

Tips for Getting Involved 

Before applying to become a volunteer, review the rules and requirements around student loan repayment and forgiveness. Find out if you need to get your loans on an income-driven repayment plan or apply for forbearance. By researching the program’s rules from the start, you can make sure you’re on track to receiving student loan forgiveness. Then, you can enjoy your time volunteering and giving back without having to stress about your student loans. 

The Takeaway

Student loans can be a burden, but they don’t have to stand in your way if you want to volunteer after college. Fortunately, there are several programs that are eligible for PSLF or offer assistance toward your student loans. Another student loan management strategy worth exploring is refinancing your student loans for better rates. Reducing your interest rate can save you money over the life of your loans. Keep in mind, though, that refinancing federal student loans turns them private, so you’ll lose access to federal programs like PSLF and income-driven repayment. It wouldn’t make sense to refinance federal loans if you’re working toward federal forgiveness or using other benefits. If you have high-interest private student loans, though, Lantern can help you find and compare student loan refinancing rates, all with a single application and no obligation to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get student loan forgiveness by volunteering?
Can I make a deal to pay off student loans?
Does volunteer work count for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Photo credit: iStock/monkeybusinessimages

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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