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The vast majority of college students will have student loan debt when they graduate from college. In fact, the average college student will leave school owing over $30,000. While the amount of debt owed by college graduates is bad, it is not the whole story. The struggling economy of the past decade has made problems even worse for graduates. More than one in ten graduates are currently behind on their student loan payments. Those who are behind are racking up interest and penalties that cause their debt amounts to grow, making their debt obligations even harder to meet. While student loan debt is a serious problem, there are a number of things that graduates can do to reduce their debt burden. One method of reducing student loan debt is through the utilization of debt relief programs. There are a number of debt relief programs that graduates can use in different situations.

Loan Forgiveness

There are a variety of ways that a person can qualify for student loan forgiveness. If a person becomes disabled, spends years working for a non-profit agency, teaching or working in health care in high need areas, then there may be programs that provide for forgiveness of part or all of his or her student loan debt. A former student will need to contact his or her student loan servicer for more information on what specific loan forgiveness programs are available.

Mandated Debt Relief

Graduates of certain schools that have been found to have defrauded students may be eligible for loan forgiveness. Some schools, largely private, for-profit schools, have been prosecuted for fraud by state and federal authorities. Former college students who were victims of this fraud may file to have their student loan debt forgiven. Former students will need to contact the US Department of Education for more information on debt relief due to fraud.

Payment Options

Though not debt relief in a traditional sense, most loan holders offer a variety of payment options that can help a former student to manage his or her debt payments during periods of financial difficulty. Payments based on a person’s income are a common offering. Income based payment plans help people to obtain a manageable payment amount. Deferment and forbearance programs allow a person to reduce payment amounts or stop making payments for a specific period of time. It is also possible to refinance or consolidate student loans to obtain a lower interest rate which will make it easier to pay off the balance of the loan.

Employer Plans

Some employers offer to pay off student loans of employees as part of a fringe benefit package. In most cases, members of the Armed Services are eligible for loan payment programs. Many hospitals and mental health providers also have loan forgiveness programs. Employers in need of workers in remote areas of the world also often offer loan payment programs to entice employees. In return for working for a year or other period of time, the employer will make a significant payment on the employee’s loan debt.