Military Student Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Programs
Table of Contents
- 1 Can Joining the Military Get Student Loan Debt Forgiven or Deferred?
- 2 Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)
- 3 Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program
- 4 National Defense Student Loan Discharge (NDSLD)
- 5 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
- 6 Military Spouse Student Loan Forgiveness
- 7 Military Student Loan Deferment
Can Joining the Military Get Student Loan Debt Forgiven or Deferred?
A college education is more expensive than ever, and stagnant wages are making it difficult for a recently graduated workforce to pay off rising student debt. Fortunately, there are programs available that will help with student loan payments or forgive student loan debt entirely, as long as borrowers meet certain conditions.
One such condition is military service. There are a number of programs available that will provide student loan assistance as a benefit of joining the Armed Forces. Let’s cover some of the options available for military student loan forgiveness.
Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)
The CLRP is one enlistment incentive approved by congress for military use. Each branch of the military determines the level of assistance that they will offer depending on their current recruitment needs, but some conditions of the program are identical across each branch of service:
- Applicants should have no prior military service.
- Applicants must opt out of GI Bill benefits.
- Applicants must have a high school diploma. A GED will not be enough for this benefit.
- The ceiling for assistance is $65,000, but individual branches of the military will determine exactly how much support they want to give.
Army Student Loan Repayment Program
In order to satisfy its recruiting requirements, the Army will pay up to $20,000 towards the student loans of service-members who are recruited into the Army Reserves and have held their position for at least six years. Members of the Army who are on active duty are eligible for the full amount in benefits ($65,000) after three years.
Similar to the Army, the Navy will offer $65,000 to those who enlist in active duty service. However, you must be enlisted for at least four years before you can receive this benefit. Members of the Navy Reserves can get $10,000 towards their student loans after six years.
Air Force Student Loan Repayment Program
The Air Force will pay $10,000 to active duty enlistments after four years, but they don’t offer any student loan assistance to those who enlist in the Air Force Reserves.
National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
The National Guard falls under the purview of the Army and they will offer $20,000 in student loan assistance after six years. This is identical to the benefits available to those who enlist in the Army Reserves.
Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program
Student loan forgiveness for public service is available to those who work in fields approved by the government for a certain period of time. This list of approved fields includes any position working for any level of government, and that includes time spent in the military. In order to qualify for Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness for your military service, you will have to:
- Hold a government job, including any position in the military.
- Make 120 on-time student loan payments under an income-driven repayment plan while you’re in that job.
- Complete an employment verification form immediately to confirm that you work in the military.
After you make 120 on-time payments under your approved repayment plan, the remaining balance of your student loans will be completely forgiven. If you don’t miss a single month, then you can be completely finished with your student debt in just 10 years.
National Defense Student Loan Discharge (NDSLD)
The National Defense Student Loan Discharge program can kick in much more quickly than other loan assistance programs, but it also has much more stringent requirements. In order to qualify for NDSLD, which will grant a partial discharge of your student loan balance, you must have been in a hostile fire or imminent danger area for at least one year. If this describes your situation, then you should send a copy of your DD214 form to your loan provider asking for partial discharge of your balance.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is meant to give members of the military some relief from the burdens of civilian life while they carry out their service. The law covers a wide range of things that typically affect civilian life, including a limit on the amount of interest that people engaged in active duty can be charged on any loan. The law caps out student loan interest for active duty members of the military at six percent, meaning that you can’t be charged any interest above and beyond that amount on your student loans.
Military Spouse Student Loan Forgiveness
Unfortunately, there is are no programs that offer student loan forgiveness for military spouses at this time. Spouses will have to seek out their own student loan forgiveness. Options such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness are promising for those interested in jobs in nonprofit organizations. There are also programs that offer loan forgiveness for teachers and for nurses.
Military Student Loan Deferment
Even if you can’t quite get your loans forgiven, you can still get a deferment on your student loans while you’re engaged in active duty. A deferment means that you won’t be held responsible for student loan payments over a certain period of time. In order to qualify for student loan deferment for military service, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- You must be engaged in active duty related to a war, military operation, or national emergency.
- You are in a 13 month grace period after active duty service, during which you have time to regain your footing in civilian life. If you return to school during this time, your deferment for active duty service will be lifted, but likely replaced with a deferment for taking classes.
Those who have served in the military deserve the best education available and these programs are there to make sure that cost is not an issue when service-members decide to go to school.
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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.
This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published March 18, 2018.