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What Military Student Loan Forgiveness Options Are Available?

Student Loan Forgiveness for Military Personnel Explained
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated August 6, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Whether you’re an active duty servicemember or a veteran of the Armed Forces, your military service could qualify you for student loan cancellation. Rather than managing your education debt on your own, it’s worth exploring your options for military student loan forgiveness. From military loan repayment assistance programs to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), you might be eligible to have part or all of your student loans discharged. 

Military Student Loan Forgiveness Options

If you served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or other branch of the U.S. military, you might be able to get help paying down your student loans. Some military student loan forgiveness programs offer partial assistance toward your student loans, while others will cancel your debt in full. 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps make your loans more manageable while you’re serving on active duty. It can reduce the interest rate on any loans you took out before enlisting to 6%. This includes student loans, car loans, mortgages, and even credit cards. Although the SCRA doesn’t forgive your student loans, it can reduce the amount of interest your loans accrue while you’re serving in the military. 

Eligibility for SCRA 

To be eligible for this 6% interest rate cap, you must have borrowed your loans before you enlisted. Plus, these loans must have originated on or after 8/14/08. Both primary borrowers and cosigners can qualify as long as the servicemember is on active duty. 

How to Apply for SCRA

You can request this interest rate adjustment from your loan servicers. You’ll likely need to provide documentation of your active duty service. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program provides full student loan forgiveness for public service employees after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments on your student loans (this typically takes 10 years). You usually need to put your loans on an income-driven repayment plan to qualify.

The Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) 

The military offers a variety of college loan repayment programs to servicemembers and veterans. Eligibility requirements may vary depending on what branch you serve in and the types of loans you hold. College loan repayment programs are available for service members in the Army, Navy, National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard. 

The Army Student Loan Repayment Program 

The Army Student Loan Repayment: Active Duty program offers up to $65,000 in loan assistance for servicemembers on active duty. Through this program, the Army will pay up to one-third of your student loan balance every year for a maximum of three years. You can use this money to pay off federal student loans, including Direct loans, FFEL loans, and Perkins loans. Unfortunately, you can’t put this assistance toward private student loan debt. To qualify for this program, you need to enlist for a minimum of three years and get a score of at least 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).The Army also offers the Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program for service members in a qualifying Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) who have enlisted for at least six years. This program will pay off up to 15% of your federal student loans with a maximum amount of $20,000. 

The Navy Student Loan Repayment Program 

Servicemembers in the Navy could get up to $65,000 of their federal student loans paid off through the Navy Student Loan Repayment Program. If you qualify, this program will repay up to one-third of your loans for three years. 

The National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program 

The National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program offers up to $7,500 annually in student loan assistance for borrowers who enlist for at least six years. As with most other loan repayment programs through the military, this assistance can only be used toward federal student loans. 

The Air Force College Loan Repayment Program 

Members of the Air Force who study law through the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps could get assistance upwards of $65,000 toward their student loan debt. Once you’re a JAG officer, you’ll receive student loan help each year for three years. 

The Coast Guard Loan Repayment Program 

The Coast Guard Loan Repayment Program offers up to $30,000 in student loan assistance for borrowers who serve for at least three years.

The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program 

If you’re a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare professional on active duty or in the Army Reserve, you could receive up to $120,000 in student loan help. This program pays out a maximum of $40,000 per year for up to three years to qualifying borrowers to help them pay off their student loans. 

National Defense Student Loan Repayment Discharge 

National Defense Student Loan Repayment Discharge offers student loan forgiveness for military veterans who spent a year or more of their service in hostile fire. The amount of student loan cancellation varies, so you’ll need to contact a representative from your branch for instructions on how to proceed. 

Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program 

Soldiers with prior service in the Army Reserve can qualify for a maximum of $50,000 to pay off their student loans through the Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program. 

Veterans’ Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

If you experienced a service-related disability, you can apply to have your entire federal student loan balance discharged through Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge. You will need to provide documentation from the Department of Veterans Affairs that you have a total and permanent disability. 

Student Loan Refinancing Options With Lantern 

Besides qualifying for military student loan assistance or discharge, you could explore how student loan refinancing works to manage your education debt. Refinancing involves paying off your existing student loans with a new loan from a private lender. Refinancing can help simplify your debt, as well as potentially get you a lower interest rate. Plus, you’ll get the chance to choose new repayment terms, whether you want to opt for a shorter term to pay off your loans faster or a longer term to lower your monthly payment. To qualify for refinancing, you’ll need to meet a lender’s requirements for credit and income — or apply with a cosigner who can. Before you apply, however, it’s worth weighing both the pros and disadvantages of refinancing student loansOne major downside of refinancing federal student loans is that they become ineligible for federal repayment plans, such as income-driven repayment, and programs such as the military student loan discharge programs described above. If you want to retain access to federal student loan benefits, it wouldn’t make sense to refinance your federal student loans. If, however, you decide the pros of refinancing outweigh the cons, Lantern can help you find and compare student loan refinance options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply for military student loan forgiveness?
What does the military student loan forgiveness cover for a spouse?
Does the military pay off student loans for officers?
Photo credit: iStock/MivPiv

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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