These days, many graduates have no choice but to take out student loans to pay for college.
And in some cases, those loan balances can be staggering. The average class of 2017 graduate, for example, came away with $28,650 in student debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. That’s a staggering sum, and one that can haunt borrowers for many years after the fact.
Now most people who take on debt for college are stuck paying it off until they've whittled their loan balance down to nothing. But depending on the field you work in, you may be eligible to have your remaining student loan balance wiped out.
If you qualify for loan forgiveness under these programs, you're eligible to have your federal student loans forgiven after meeting certain requirements. If you took out private loans for college, unfortunately, such an option will not be available.
Here are a few jobs that might render you eligible for student loan forgiveness:
1. Public service worker
If you work for a government agency or nonprofit organization, you're typically considered a public service worker, and as such, you might manage to get your remaining student loan balance wiped out after a period of time. Public service workers include, but aren't limited to, law enforcement agents, firefighters, and disaster response professionals. To meet the conditions for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you'll need to make 120 payments while working full time for an eligible organization.
Not all teachers qualify for student loan forgiveness, but if you teach in a low-income school district, or are a special education teacher, you may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. You're only eligible once you've been teaching full time for five complete, consecutive years, but if you meet these requirements, you may be eligible to have up to $17,500 in student debt wiped out.
It's common for doctors to graduate from medical school with loads of debt. Thankfully, student loan forgiveness exists for doctors, but to qualify, you'll need to work in an area that's considered high-need (like a remote corner of the country that may not be your first choice to live in), or for a nonprofit hospital. These constraints might limit the salary you're able to command, which is why many doctors don't pursue student loan forgiveness.
Just as people doctors are eligible for student loan forgiveness, so too can veterinarians get similar relief. But as is the case with physicians, to qualify for loan forgiveness, you'll need to work in an underserved area, which could impact your income and quality of life.
Don't count on having your loans forgiven
Although it is possible to eventually have your student loan balance forgiven, the aforementioned programs can be difficult to qualify for. A good bet, therefore, is to take steps to keep your loan payments as manageable as possible. You could apply for an income-driven repayment plan if you took out federal loans, or refinance your student debt if you borrowed privately. Remember, student loan forgiveness generally doesn't kick in right away, so even if you eventually wipe out that debt, there will still be a period of your life in which you'll have to deal with it. Consider yourself warned.