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23 Grants for Student Loan Repayment

23 Grants for Student Loan Repayment
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarcoUpdated August 1, 2023
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Student loan debt is a major financial burden for many Americans. This is where grants to pay off student loans can come in handy. There are a wide variety of grants for student loans that borrowers may be able to qualify for. Keep reading to learn more about how these grants work and for information on 23 student loan grants that may be worth looking into.

What Are Grants for Student Loan Repayment?

Grants for student loan repayment are funds awarded to help individuals pay off their student loan debt. This is money that borrowers won’t have to pay back (unless their grant requires a service commitment and they fail to complete it), similar to a scholarship.  There are federal and state government-funded grant programs. Many student loan repayment grants also come from nonprofits and private organizations.

How Do Student Loan Repayment Grants Work?

One important thing to know about accepting grants to pay off student loans is that while the borrower generally does not have to pay back the money, they may have to work for it. Grants often come with service or employment requirements that borrowers must meet to qualify for the funding. For instance, some grants are limited to professionals in certain roles. They also may require that you work a certain number of years in a qualifying role.

A Non-Exhaustive List of Student Loan Repayment Programs

Now let’s look at some grants to pay off student loans and how these programs work. It’s worth noting that this list only includes one federal program, but they are worth looking into. A popular example of a federal grant is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

1. College Repayment Grant

The College Repayment Grant is open to college graduates or parents who took out student loans on behalf of their children. There is a rolling application deadline for this grant at the end of each month, and awards are $2,000 off a student’s loan balance.

2. Forget Your Student Debt Grant

Anyone with student loan debt (federal or private) can qualify for this award through the Forget Your Student Debt Grant program. The award amount is $10,000.

3. Charles Cheesman's Student Debt Reduction Scholarship

The Charles Cheesman Student Debt Reduction Scholarship aims to help reduce student loan debt for African American or Hispanic/Latino first-generation students.  Both those who have graduated and still owe student loan debt as well as those who are still in college are eligible for the $10,00 award.

4. @ESPDaniella Debt Grant

The @ESPDaniella Debt Grant award is unique in that borrowers who have dropped out of college can qualify, as can current students and graduates. The award amount is $4,500. Proof of student loan debt is required. 

5. National Healthcare Heroes Grant

Students or graduates with any level of nursing education can qualify for a $1,000 award through the National Healthcare Heroes Grant. This award can go toward the cost of tuition or student loans.

6. Nitro Student Loan Forgiveness Grant

The Nitro Student Loan Forgiveness Grant offers $1,000 toward student loan debt for any U.S. college graduate with debt. 

7. WiseGeek No-Essay Military Appreciation Grant

The WiseGeek No-Essay Military Appreciation Grant provides $500 in debt forgiveness grants to recipients who are currently serving, have already served, or plan to serve in the U.S. military. Members (past, present, or future) of all branches of the military can qualify.

8. Noah Jon Markstrom Student Debt Paydown Grant

This Noah Jon Markstrom Student Debt Paydown Grant awards $500 to those who have a career in pediatric medicine and who still have student debt. Preference is given to applicants who live in the Pacific Northwest.

9. WiseGeek Lifelong Learners No-Essay Grant

Anyone who has student debt or intends to can qualify for the $500 WiseGeek Lifelong Learners No-Essay Grant. Applicants are eligible whether or not they are still in school. They can also qualify if they have student debt from funding the education of a family member. 

10. Graduate Debt-Free Scholarship

This $500 award helps support high school seniors who are pursuing a college education and who want to avoid taking on student loan debt. To apply for the Graduate Debt-Free Scholarship, applicants must talk about themselves and their plans to avoid college debt. 

11. NIH Loan Repayment Programs

The NIH Loan Repayment Programs were established by Congress to recruit and retain qualified health professionals pursuing biomedical or biobehavioral research careers. The programs repay up to $50,000 annually of a researcher's qualified educational debt in exchange for engaging in National Institutes of Health (NIH) mission-relevant research.

12. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program pays up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for qualifying nurses. To be eligible, nurses must commit to working for two years in a Critical Shortage Facility or an eligible nursing school, as nurse faculty.

13. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides financial support for federal and state public defenders and state prosecutors who commit to working as public defenders and prosecutors for three years. As a result, recipients can receive up to $60,000 in total to put toward their student loan debt. 

14. NHSC Loan Repayment Programs

Licensed primary care clinicians in select disciplines can qualify for loan repayment assistance of up to $50,000 through the NHSC Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP). To qualify, applicants must commit to a minimum of two years of service at a National Health Service Corps (NHSC)-approved site in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

15. DOJ Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program awards from the Department of Justice (DOJ) are only available to students who have a minimum of $10,000 in federal student loans. Award amounts max out at $6,000 per calendar year, with a lifetime maximum of $60,000. Recipients must commit to three years of service with the Department of Justice.

16. IHS Loan Repayment Program

The IHS Loan Repayment Program provides Indian Health Service (IHS) clinicians with up to $40,000 in funding to help repay their eligible health profession education loans. Recipients must agree to an initial two-year service commitment to practice in health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

17. Students to Service Loan Repayment Program

The NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program provides funds to repay outstanding, qualifying, educational loans for students enrolled in their final year of medical, nursing, or dental school. Award amounts are up to $120,000. In exchange, recipients must commit to providing three years of full-time clinical practice at an NHSC-approved site in a Health Professional Shortage Area. 

18. Military College Loan Repayment Program — Regular Army: Active Duty

The Military College Loan Repayment Program is only geared toward select members of the Army. Through this program, active duty soldiers can get help repaying part of their student loans. The Army will repay the greater of 33 ⅓ percent of the outstanding principal balance or $1,500.  

19. Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program

The Contraception and Infertility Research Loan Repayment Program provides incentives for health professionals to work in areas of reproductive research relating specifically to contraceptive development or infertility diagnosis and treatment. Recipients can get up to $35,000 toward their student loan principal and interest for each year of commitment. Additionally, the program may pay a portion of the recipient’s tax liability resulting from the program’s loan repayments.

20. Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program

The Department of Health offers grants such as the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. The goal of this specific program is to recruit and retain primary care practitioners working in underserved areas of Pennsylvania. Award amounts vary based on level of commitment (part-time versus full-time) and specialty. Physicians, dentists, and psychologists can qualify for up to $80,000, and other practitioners can qualify for up to $48,000. Especially given the weight of student loan debt for doctors, this can be a big help.

21. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program funds awards of up to $25,000 a year for eligible veterinarians. Recipients must agree to serve in a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-designated veterinarian shortage situation for three years. 

22. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are federally funded, but have very unique eligibility criteria for career school students. Funds can help pay for education expenses and are equal to the amount of a maximum Federal Pell Grant. However, the amount can’t exceed the cost of attendance for the award year.

23. New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program

The New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program is designed to encourage recent graduates to pursue farming careers specifically in New York State. Applicants can qualify for a maximum lifetime award of $50,000 paid in annual disbursements of up to $10,000, or whatever the remaining debt amount is. 

Alternatives to Student Loan Grants

If a borrower decides that grants to help pay off student loans aren’t the right fit for them, they do have other options for making faster progress on repayment of a student loan.

Student Loan Refinancing

Refinancing student loans involves paying off student loans with a new loan. This is usually a move made when the borrower can qualify for a lower interest rate with the new loan, which can save them money on interest payments. This can make it easier to pay off their debt faster. While it is possible to refinance both private and federal student loans, refinancing federal student loans has some risks and results in losing valuable federal protections, such as income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness for public service employees. It’s important to understand the risks and benefits of student loan refinancing before proceeding.

Student Loan Forgiveness

While student loan repayment grants are an amazing opportunity for borrowers, they aren’t the only option for financial relief from student loan debt. Student loan forgiveness is available for select federal loans. Usually, the borrower has to work full-time for a government agency or qualifying nonprofit in order to qualify for a grant. They must make 120 payments through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in order to qualify for forgiveness.

Deferring Student Loans

While deferring student loans doesn’t help repay your debt faster, it can make it easier to manage student loan debt during difficult financial periods. Deferring federal loans (which essentially pauses them for a certain period of time), can happen if one of the following situations applies:
  • The borrower returns to school.
  • The borrower is on or has recently returned from active duty military service.
  • The borrower is unemployed.
  • The borrower enrolled in an approved rehabilitation program.
  • The borrower is undergoing cancer treatment.
  • The borrower is enrolled in an approved graduate fellowship program.
  • The borrower is serving in the Peace Corps.
  • The borrower is experiencing financial hardship.
  • The borrower is a parent who took out Parent PLUS Loans and their child is still in school.
Usually private lenders only offer student loan deferment to borrowers who are returning to school, but that’s not a guarantee with all lenders. 

The Takeaway

Student loan repayment grants can be a great way for borrowers to alleviate some of their student loan debt. While grants offer free money to borrowers, this usually comes at a tradeoff that involves making a service or employment commitment for a certain amount of years. Borrowers will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of student loan repayment grants before applying. 

3 Student Loan Refi Tips

  1. Refinancing your student loan can lower your monthly payments and help you adjust your loan term. Compare student loan refinancing rates to find a loan that works for you.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do grants allow you to pay your student loans off for free?
How competitive are student loan grants?
What types of student loans can be paid back with grants?
IStock/Delmaine Donson

About the Author

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a personal finance writer and editor based in Southern California. While she spends the bulk of her time writing about complex financial issues, she also tackles a variety of subjects ranging from food to fashion to travel. Her work can be found across dozens of publications such as Credit Karma, LendingTree, Northwestern Mutual, The Everygirl, and Apartment Therapy.
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