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While serving in the military is an honor, it also often requires sacrifice, such as giving up time with family and friends or putting your education on hold.
Thankfully, there are numerous benefits available that can assist service members with the student loans they might take on to attend school — including some that offer student loan forgiveness for military members.
If you served in the military, it’s a good idea to take advantage of any programs you might be eligible for that will reduce or forgive your student loan debt.
Here’s what you should know about student loan forgiveness for the military:
- Military student loan repayment assistance programs
- Military student loan forgiveness and discharge programs
- Alternative options for military loan repayment
- Federal vs. private student loans: What’s the difference?
- Subsidized vs. unsubsidized student loans: What’s the difference?
- What is the post-9/11 Federal GI Bill?
Military student loan repayment assistance programs
Here are several programs that could help you more easily manage your student loans:
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act interest rate cap
Who it’s for: Active-duty service members with federal or private student loans that they took out before serving in the military
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was designed to ease financial burdens for active service members. Under this law, borrowers who took out federal or private student loans before their military service can have their interest rates capped at 6%.
- Interest rates on pre-service loans capped at 6%
- Must be actively serving in the military
- Must have federal student loans that were taken out before Aug. 14, 2008 (federal loans consolidated after this date might not be eligible)
- Must provide a copy of your orders calling you to active duty for private student loan lenders
0% interest plan
Who it’s for: Active military members serving in hostile areas with federal Direct Loans taken out on or after Oct. 1, 2008 (including any portion of a Direct Consolidation Loan received on or after this date)
Under the 0% interest program, active-duty military members serving in hostile areas don’t have to pay interest on their eligible federal Direct Loans for up to five years.
- 0% interest on eligible federal Direct Loans for up to five years
- Must provide proof of deployment in a hostile environment
HEROES Act waiver
Who it’s for: Active-duty military members who have federal student loans and are serving in a war, military operation, or national emergency
Under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students (HEROES) Act, several of the documentation requirements for federal programs are waived by the Department of Education for active-duty military members.
For example, you don’t have to worry about recertifying your income if you’re on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.
- Waives documentation requirements for many federal student loan benefits
- Generally must provide military orders (if your servicer is aware of your active-duty status, it will apply the waiver itself)
Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program
Who it’s for: Army reserve soldiers with prior military experience who have federal student loans
The Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program is available to those serving in the Army Reserves who have also previously served in the military. Under this program, you could have up to $50,000 of your federal student loans repaid.
- Up to $50,000 to repay federal student loans
- Must have served one year or more in a hostile area
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Student Loan Repayment Program
Who it’s for: Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) who serve for at least four years and who have federal student loans
Under the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Student Loan Repayment Program (JA-SLRP), eligible JAGs could qualify to have up to $65,000 of their eligible student loans repaid over three years.
- Up to $65,000 of repayment assistance for eligible federal student loans
- Must be an active-duty Air Force officer
- Must agree to serve as a JAG for at least four years (and qualify to do so)
- Must not be eligible for Judge Advocate Continuation Pay or other bonuses during the qualifying year of service
- Must have eligible federal student loans
Army College Loan Repayment Program
Who it’s for: Army personnel who agree to at least three years of service with federal student loans
With the Army College Loan Repayment Program (LRP), student loan borrowers who serve for at least three years in the Army might qualify to have up to $65,000 of their eligible student loans repaid over three years.
- Up to $65,000 of repayment assistance for eligible federal student loans
- Must agree to at least three years of service
- Must sign up for the LRP during the enlistment process
- Must decline enrollment in the Montgomery GI Bill
- Must be a non-prior service accession
- Must have a high school diploma or higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test
- Must enlist in a critical Military Occupation Specialty
- Must have eligible federal student loans
Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
Who it’s for: Navy personnel during their first three years of service who have federal student loans
If you’re serving in the Navy, you could qualify for the Navy Student Loan Repayment Program during your first three years of active service. Under this program, you could have up to $65,000 of eligible federal Direct Loans repaid.
- Up to $65,000 of repayment assistance for eligible federal Direct Loans
- Must enroll at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) before your service
- Must have eligible federal student loans
National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
Who it’s for: National Guard members who have eligible federal student loans and who agree to a six-year service term
The National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) offers to repay up to $50,000 of eligible federal student loans for those who agree to serve for at least six years. Keep in mind that non-prior service, prior service, and current Soldiers might qualify for this program.
- Up to $50,000 of repayment assistance for eligible federal student loans
- Must enlist for at least a six-year service term (or extend your term by six years)
- Must have qualifying federal student loans
Military student loan forgiveness and discharge programs
There are also several student loan forgiveness and discharge programs available to military members, including:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Who it’s for: Borrowers with federal student loans who work for an eligible nonprofit or government organization (including military service)
If you work for an eligible nonprofit or government organization and make qualifying payments on your federal student loans for 10 years, you might qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Keep in mind that military service is also considered eligible employment for PSLF.
- Forgiveness of remaining Federal Direct Loan balance after making qualifying payments for 10 years
- Must be employed full time for an eligible nonprofit or government organization (including military service)
- Must make qualifying payments for 10 years
- Must submit an Employment Certification Form
Veterans Total and Permanent Disability discharge
Who it’s for: Veterans who have a service-related disability
Military veterans with a service-related disability might qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge of their federal student loans. Some private student loans also offer this discharge — be sure to contact your lender to see if it’s available to you.
- Discharge of federal and some private student loans if you have a service-related disability.
- Must submit TPD request form
- Must provide documentation from Veterans Affairs verifying your service-related disability
National Defense Student Loan Discharge
Who it’s for: Military members who served in a hostile area and who have Perkins Loans
If you served in an area that qualified you for imminent-danger or hostile-fire pay, you could be eligible for the National Defense Student Loan Discharge. With this program, 50% to 100% of your federal Perkins Loan balance could be canceled, depending on when your service took place.
- Up to 50% discharge if your service ended before Aug. 14, 2008
- Up to 100% discharge if your service ended after Aug. 14, 2008
- Must have completed one full year of military service
- Must have Perkins Loans
Learn More: What Is a Student Loan Grace Period?
Alternative options for military loan repayment
There are also other options available that could help military members repay their student loans. Here are a few alternatives to consider:
Student loan deferment
This option allows you to temporarily pause your student loan payments. For service members, federal student loan deferment is available during certain periods of active duty as well as immediately following your active-duty service.
Some private student loan lenders also offer deferment for active-duty military. If you have private loans, be sure to contact your lender to see what options are available to you.Check Out: How to Get Student Loan Repayment Help
Federal repayment programs
In addition to the standard 10-year repayment plan, federal student loans offer several repayment options that could help you more easily manage your loans, such as:
Graduated repayment plan
On this type of plan, your payments start low and increase every two years. A graduated repayment plan could be helpful if you expect your income to rise over time.
Extended repayment plan
This option allows you to extend your repayment term up to 25 years, which could reduce your monthly payments. You can choose between a standard extended plan that comes with fixed monthly payments or an extended graduated repayment plan that will start with low monthly payments that increase every two years.
Keep in mind that by extending your repayment term, you’ll pay more in interest over time.
On an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, your payments will be based on your income — usually capped at 10% to 20% of your discretionary income. Additionally, you could have any remaining balance forgiven after 20 to 25 years, depending on the plan.
The four main IDR plans include:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
Refinance student loans
Another potential option is refinancing your student loans. Through refinancing, you can consolidate multiple student loans — leaving you with just one loan and payment to worry about.
If you’re a service member, you might opt to refinance if you:
- Can get a lower interest rate: Depending on your credit, you might qualify for a lower interest rate than what you currently have. Many lenders offer lower interest rates than the 6% the SCRA guarantees you. This could save you money on interest charges and even potentially help you pay off your loans faster.
- Need a lower payment: If you opt to extend your repayment term through refinancing, you could reduce your monthly payments and lessen the strain on your budget. Just remember that this also means you’ll pay more in interest over time.
- Have multiple student loans: Managing several loans with different interest rates and payments can be difficult. Refinancing lets you combine some or all of your student loans into just one loan with a single monthly payment.
If you decide to refinance your student loans, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your needs. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)||Loan terms (years)||Loan amounts|
|4.54%+||N/A||10, 15, 20||$7,500 up to up to $200,000
(larger balances require special approval)
|2.15%+||1.87%+||5, 7, 10, 15, 20||$10,000 up to $250,000
(depending on degree)
|2.39%+1||2.24%+1||5, 7, 10, 15, 20||$10,000 to $500,000
(depending on degree and loan type)
|2.99%+2||2.94%+2||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20||$5,000 to $300,000
(depending on degree type)
|2.16%+||2.11%+||5, 7, 10, 15, 20||$5,000 to $500,000|
|3.91%+5||1.80%+5||5, 10, 15, 20||$1,000 to $250,000|
|2.58%+3||2.39%+||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20||Minimum of $15,000|
|3.47%+4||2.42%+||5, 10, 15, 20||$5,000 - $250,000|
|2.74%+7||N/A||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20||Up to $300,000|
|3.05%+||3.05%+||7, 10, 15||$10,000 up to the total amount of qualified education debt|
|2.89%+||N/A||5, 8, 12, 15||$7,500 to $300,000|
|3.29%+||N/A||5, 10, 15||$7,500 up to $250,000
(depending on highest degree earned)
|2.74%+6||2.25%6||5, 7, 10, 15, 20||$5,000 up to the full balance of your qualified education loans|
|Compare personalized rates from multiple lenders without affecting your credit score. 100% free!
All APRs reflect autopay and loyalty discounts where available | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2College Ave Disclosures | 5EDvestinU Disclosures | 3 ELFI Disclosures | 4INvestEd Disclosures | 7ISL Education Lending Disclosures | 6SoFi Disclosures
Federal vs. private student loans: What’s the difference?
While federal and private student loans can both help you pay for education-related expenses, they have several differences.
- Federal student loans are provided by the government and come with interest rates determined by Congress. To be eligible for these loans, you must have financial need and must attend an eligible institution that participates in the federal financial aid program. There are also several student loan forgiveness programs available — some of which military members might qualify for, such as PSLF.
- Private student loans are offered by private lenders that set their rates according to market conditions. You’ll typically need good to excellent credit — or a creditworthy cosigner — to qualify for a private student loan. Unlike federal student loans, private student loans generally don’t offer any forgiveness options.
Refinancing your student loans might help you save money on federal or private student loans — though remember that refinancing federal loans will cost you access to federal benefits and protections. You can use our calculator below to see how much you could save by refinancing your student loans.
Step 1. Enter your loan balance
Step 2. Enter current loan information
Step 3. Enter your new loan information to start calculating your savings
If you refinance your student loan at % interest rate, you can save will pay an additional $ monthly and pay off your loan by . The total cost of the new loan will be $.
Does refinancing make sense for you?
Compare offers from top refinancing lenders to determine your actual savings.
Checking rates won’t affect your credit score.
Subsidized vs. unsubsidized student loans: What’s the difference?
There are a few types of federal student loans available, including:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are available for undergraduate students with financial need. The government pays for the interest accrued on subsidized loans while you’re in school, leaving you with a lower balance to pay off later.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available for both undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of financial need. Unlike with subsidized loans, you’re responsible for all of the interest that accrues on unsubsidized loans.
What is the post-9/11 Federal GI Bill?
This bill helps service members pay for college or job training for up to 36 months. Some of the costs this bill covers include:
- Tuition and fees
- Housing (if attending school more than half time)
- Books and supplies
- Moving from a rural area to go to school
The amount of benefits you’re eligible for under the GI Bill is based on the amount of active duty you’ve had since Sept. 10, 2001.
Keep Reading: A Key Consideration When Refinancing Your Student Loans