Didn’t Get Student Loan Forgiveness? Other Alternatives To Tackle Student Debt

Although the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, his administration has canceled close to $48 billion of student debt since June, according to CNN. Nearly 804,000 borrowers received an email that they qualified for student loan forgiveness.

The loan forgiveness program is for those who have opted for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans for their federal student loans. Under IDR, if the borrower can make consistent payments for 20-25 years, the government can forgive the remaining balance.

If you did not receive an email on loan forgiveness, don't despair. There are alternative programs and measures you can go for to manage and eventually eliminate your student debt. These alternatives are for those who have completed their education and for those who are about to join a university.

1.Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

If you work in a qualifying public service or nonprofit organization, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Under this program, after making 120 qualifying payments, the remaining balance of your federal student loans will be forgiven. This program is an excellent option for those dedicated to public service careers. This allows borrowers to have their debt canceled in 10-20 years.

2.Employer Assistance and Repayment Programs

Some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as part of their benefits package via direct repayment programs or discretionary programs.

In a direct repayment program, the employer can make cash payments to pay the student loan. Under a discretionary program, the employer can take multiple routes, from PTO to signing bonuses.

1) Vacation time: An employee can ‘cash in’ if they do not use all their vacation time or PTO by the end of the year. 

2) 401(k) plan: Set up a student loan repayment program where you and your employer contribute a mutually agreed amount to the 401(k) plan

3) Bonus: Many companies offer a signing bonus that can considerably cut down the debt. 

4) Regular payments: Your employer can either send payments to your lender or you every month via a paycheck.

This benefit is becoming more common as employers recognize the financial strain student loan debt can cause for their employees. Be sure to check with your employer's HR department to see if they offer any programs or benefits to help you pay down your student loans.

3.Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs)

More than 200 colleges and universities across America offer LRAP in partnership with Ardeo Education Solutions (formerly LRAP Association). Under this initiative, a student can get assistance on any loan that has a 10+ year repayment term. 

To qualify for LRAP, a student must graduate from the partnered university and work at least ¾ time after graduation. This program often comes with specific eligibility criteria, so be sure to research and apply if you qualify.

4.Refinancing or Consolidation

Consolidating or refinancing your student loans can be a smart move, especially if you have multiple loans with varying interest rates. Consolidation combines multiple federal loans into a single Direct Consolidation Loan, simplifying your monthly payments. If your credit score is good, you might get a lower interest rate. This means saving thousands of dollars over the life span of your education loan while repaying the loan in a shorter time.

Another advantage of having a consolidated loan is to have one fixed interest rate as opposed to variable interest rates which could rise over time.

Refinancing, on the other hand, involves taking out a new private loan to pay off your existing ones. This could potentially lead to a lower interest rate, which can save you money in the long run. However, be cautious when refinancing federal loans, as you may lose access to certain federal benefits and protections.

5.Other Ways

5a: Volunteer or Service Work: Some organizations have student loan repayment assistance if you volunteer or work in deprived communities. AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, for example, offer programs that provide partial loan forgiveness in exchange for a specified period of service.

5b: Teacher Loan Forgiveness: If you teach full-time or are about to become an educator, you might be eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $17,500.

5c: Total and Permanent Disability (TDP): To qualify for TPD, you must have a disability that severely limits your ability to work. In most cases, you’ll have to provide specific kinds of proof of your disability. As of May 2023, around 492,000 borrowers have gotten loan forgiveness through TPD discharge. Veterans can also take advantage of this if they have a permanent disability.

5d: Borrower Defense to Repayment: This is available if you have a direct loan and you have either been misled by your school or the school was found to have violated state laws.


At present, the outstanding education debt in the U.S. is more than $1.7 trillion. The average loan balance at graduation stands at $30,000, three times higher than what it was in the 1990s

While student loan forgiveness programs can be a lifeline for some borrowers, they are not the only solution to tackling student debt. By exploring alternative options like refinancing, employer assistance, etc, you can take proactive steps towards managing and eventually eliminating your student loans. 

For students who will start their academics next year, keep an eye on colleges that receive ‘Title IV financial aid’. These colleges will be obligated to offer adequate financial aid and counselling to students. Additionally, the colleges may not be able to withhold transcripts if the students are not able to pay their bills on time.

“We are raising the bar for accountability and making sure that when students invest in higher education, they get a solid return on that investment and a greater shot at the American dream,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. Biden administration will introduce this new consumer protection for student loan borrowers which will go into effect July 1, 2024. 

7 Ways to Pay For Grad School

Many people want the advanced degree that grad school gives you, but not the debt that comes along with it. People go back to school for various reasons, but grad school isn’t cheap. Yes, those with a graduate or professional degree earned about $12,948 more a year than those who just held a bachelor’s degree in 2019. However, the average cumulative student loan debt for those who graduated with a master’s degree was $50,300 in 2015-2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Paying for grad school shouldn’t leave you with high debt that you doubt you can pay off anytime soon. However, here are some ways to pay for grad school with the least amount of student loan debt:

1. Money from Federal and State Sources

To get money from Federal or State sources, you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many people who went to undergrad are probably already familiar with it. If you are looking for aid in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, or federal work-study, you will have to apply through this. You are probably now old enough to qualify as an independent student. This means that you no longer need to give your parents’ financial information on the FAFSA form.

If you are applying to law or medical school you will still need your parent’s financial info. But, you won’t need their signatures like in undergrad. If you are pursuing education for teaching, you can apply for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program. This grants you up to $4,000 if you are getting a master’s degree. You will need to work in a high-need, low-income area for a specific amount of time in order to qualify, and if you don’t meet all of the requirements, the grant turns into a direct unsubsidized loan.

Federal Pell Grants are also available to students who are getting a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program. You need to show financial needs, and the amount will change each year. It is important that you apply using the application as soon as possible because the FAFSA may also be a requirement to qualify for state and institutional grants and scholarships. 

2. Your Employer

If your company wants to keep you, it might be in their best interest to pay for your grad school. It differs for every employer, but this can mean a tuition reimbursement program or writing a proposal about how your advanced degree could help you in doing your job. You could also apply for a job at a university that gives free tuition as a benefit. It might take longer to complete a degree this way as employees are limited on the number of free or reduced-price credit hours each semester, but you don’t need to necessarily find a job in your field to take advantage of free tuition. 

3. Graduate Assistantships

Getting a graduate assistantship can be worth the effort because they provide money for part of or all of your tuition and a living stipend on top of the resume-boosting experience. You can either be a teaching assistant (TA) during your time at a graduate or Ph.D. program. Depending on the school/program, you might spend a good portion of your time preparing for class each week. You will also spend more time with faculty which can give you valuable connections and mentors.

Another option is being a research assistant. Many fields of study require research and as a graduate research assistant, you can be tasked with duties such as developing proposals and looking for outside funding to collect data and present findings. Another option is becoming an administrative assistant. Grad students who serve as these provide administrative support to their department. This can be a valuable addition to your resume, provide you with work experience, and can be influential in the connections you make. 

4. Your Institution

As a grad student, you have the chance to be awarded scholarships and grants from your school and your academic department. One source of funding is a fellowship which is essentially a scholarship given for academic excellence or research rather than financial aid. This can also be a valuable addition to your resume. However, academic fellowships are highly competitive, and the process involves more than an application. You will most likely have to submit nominations, recommendations, and presentations. You can find out more information through your school’s graduate program chair and your adviser about fellowships available in the field you are looking to go into.

5. Federal Student Loans

Graduate students are limited to two options for federal student loans: Direct Plus Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Neither are subsidized, so the Department of Education won’t pay the occurring interest while you are in school. However, because of the ongoing pandemic, federally held student loans are in forbearance through September of 2021. During this time, loans will not accrue interest and you can make loan payments without incurring late fees. However, you will still owe money at some point. If you want to apply, you will have to fill out the FAFSA application again. If you are pursuing an advanced degree in public service or working for a government or non-profit organization, you can also qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. However, make sure to review the list of strict requirements before you consider this as an option. 

6. Professional Organizations

If you have looked at federal, state, and institutional sources for funding, you can also look within your field. You can join organizations within your desired profession. This could cost money to join as a member, but many will offer student discounts. You can then be eligible for money the group distributes to encourage growth within the profession. 

7. Private Lender Student Loans

Federal loans you take out as a graduate student most often come at a higher interest rate than the ones given to undergrads. However, because you went to grad school to earn a larger paycheck in most cases, you will be more likely to negotiate better interest rates on private loans after graduation. Make sure to avoid private loans while in school, but afterward, it might be a good idea to refinance.

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