A number of student loan forgiveness programs are available to military personnel to relieve them of the bondage of crippling debt. You put your life on the line for our freedom and country. You should not come home to a mountain of debt simply because you furthered your education.
Thankfully, there is help in the form of discharge and deferment programs.
1. The National Defense Student Loan Discharge (NDSLD)
The NDSLD program provides debt relief to military personnel who took out National Direct Student Loans or Perkin Loans.
To be eligible for this loan discharge program, you must:
- Have served at least one year in an area with direct fire and/or imminent danger
To apply, you must fill out a DD 214 discharge form, and provide an explanation for why you believe you should qualify for the program. The form and letter must be sent to your loan servicer.
2. The Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)
The CLRP program helps people pay for student loans they contracted before joining the military. Payments are made directly to your loan servicer, with the first one being sent after one year of service.
To qualify for this program, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have a college degree.
- If applying for the 4-year program, you must give up your rights through the GI Bill.
- Have a federal student loan.
- Have an Armed Forced Qualification Test score above 50.
The CLRP program is available to all branches of the military, and the amount forgiven will depend on which branch you serve.
- Army Corps: $65,000
- Navy: $65,000
- Navy Reserves: $10,000
- National Guard: $50,000
- Coast Guard: $30,000
- Air Force: $10,000
The Marines does not have a CLRP program.
3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Military personnel may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives loans for people working in the government or a qualifying non-profit.
The PSLF program cancels all remaining student loan debt after making 120 on-time monthly payments. You must maintain a job while paying off the loan.
The only drawback with this program is that you must wait 10 years to have your loans forgiven.
4. Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge
If you become totally and permanently disabled while serving in the military, you may qualify for the TPD Discharge program.
This program will wipe out all of your remaining debt, and can be applied to FEEL, Direct or Perkins loans.
To take advantage of this program, you must notify the Department of Education that you have a TPD and also submit an application with appropriate documentation proving your disability. The form must be sent to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
If you do not qualify for any of these programs or you still have student debt even after having loans forgiven, you have military service deferment options, which include:
- Active Duty: You can postpone your payments if you’re serving on active duty during war, a national emergency, or other military operations – and immediately after active duty.
- Public Service Deferment: You can defer your payments if you are on active duty in the Armed Forces.
- Post-Active Duty: You may defer payments if you were served on active duty, and were enrolled at least half of the time at an eligible school, or within six months prior to being called to duty.