Student debt relief options include loan forgiveness programs, forbearance, loan modifications, and debt reduction. Options can vary based on choice of school program. Attorneys, doctors, and veterinarians, for example, can enter special programs that are not available to members of the general public if they agree to perform work that serves the public interest. Students with concerns about paying student loans may be able to access free counseling services through financial aid offices, lenders, and nonprofit organizations.
Numerous nations have debt reduction programs for graduates of professional schools who work in public interest jobs. Public defenders, doctors who work in public health organizations, and veterinarians employed by government programs can qualify for reductions on their loan balances for each year of work. Some of these programs are available through the government, while others are offered through charitable organizations. The amount of forgiveness available per year can vary, depending on the profession and the program.
For people who do not qualify for such student debt relief programs, it still may be possible to request full or partial forgiveness of student loans. Some lenders may wipe out loans for disabled people who can demonstrate that they will not be able to work again and cannot realistically repay their loans. Others may offer partial forgiveness to people who experience significant financial hardship, and to those with very old student loans that are unlikely to be repaid.
It may be possible to access student debt relief through consolidation or interest rate reduction. Consolidation often allows students to lock in loans at a very low rate, and to send payments to a single lender, rather than having to pay against multiple loans at once. Students may want to shop around to see which lenders offer the best consolidation rates before applying. This form of student debt relief can reduce monthly payments and help students pay less over the life of the loan.
Another option is a loan modification. A lender may agree to put loans into forbearance for someone in financial hardship, in which case payments will be suspended until the debtor can start repaying again. Another form of student debt relief bases payments on income, allowing students to apply a sliding scale to their monthly payments. Often this allows former students with less than average income to remain current with the loan by making small payments. When earning increases, the lender can increase the monthly payments to keep the graduate on track to repay the loan on time.