Not only do the members of our military make sacrifices for our country, but many also struggle with student loan debt. Fortunately, there are several programs that give servicemen and -women the opportunity to have some or all of their loans forgiven or discharged. The Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and/or Reserves, Marines, and Coast Guard all offer a form of student loan repayment programs.
Keep in mind that most military student loan programs apply to federal loans, such as Direct, FFEL, and Perkins* Loans, but not to private loans.
*The Perkins Loan program expired in September 2017. If you took out a Perkins Loan in the past, however, they still qualify for loan assistance.
Army Student Loan Repayment Program: Active Duty
This program is for people on active duty who have enlisted for at least three years and have received a score of 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). If you qualify, the Army will pay up to 33.33% of your principal balance each year for three years.
Army Reserve College Student Loan Repayment Program
Soldiers who enlist in the Army Reserves for six years can qualify for this repayment program. It pays 15% of your student loan balance annually, up to $20,000.
Prior Service Soldier Student Loan Repayment Program
Unites States soldiers who have joined the Reserves after serving in the Army may qualify for this program. It offers up to $50,000 in student loan repayment. You can get more information here.
National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
Members of the National Guard who enlist for a minimum of six years may receive up to $50,000 in military loan forgiveness for federal student loans. If you have not had prior military service, you must have scored a minimum of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) and must enlist in an MTOE (deployable) unit or medical temporary duty assignment unit only.
To qualify for this repayment program, you cannot have had more than 16 years of service in the National Guard. Be sure to read the full-list of eligibility requirements.
Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
The Navy repayment program offers up to $65,000 in loan repayment over the course of a three-year active duty enlistment, paying 33 1/3% of your loan balance each year. You must have taken out the federal loan prior to enlisting in the Navy, and you must submit an application to the repayment program prior to enlisting.
Navy Reserve Loan Repayment Program
For Navy Reserve enlistments, the Navy will repay up to $10,000 of a service member’s federal student loans.
Air Force College Loan Repayment Program
The Air Force will repay up to $10,000 for those who enlist for active duty. Benefits are capped annually at 33.33% or $1,500 (whichever is greater) for eligible federal student loans. If you have prior military service, you are not eligible.
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program
In the Judge Advocate General's Corps (or JAG Corps), JAG officers handle all legal matters for the military. Lawyers who join the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps program could receive up to $65,000 in loan repayments. After your first year of service as a JAG officer, you will receive the payments over a three-year period.
Coast Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
This program is for students who wish to enlist in the Coast Guard and who are:
- currently enrolled in a bachelor's degree program
- recent graduates from a bachelor’s program
- enrolled in a graduate program at a qualifying college or institution
Once you are a commissioned officer, you can receive debt repayment up to $10,000 per year for six years.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you have been employed by the military for 10 years, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness payments through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, There is no cap on how much debt can be forgiven, but you only qualify for PSLF after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments (10 years’ worth) toward your Direct loan student loan debt.
You can find a PSLF application here.
Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (Army)
This program pays up $120,000 ($40,000 per year for three years) to doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals who are on active duty or are in the Army Reserve. The amount of repayment is determined by your length of service after the date on which the loan was made.
Are you in demand? The Secretary of Defense must first determine that your specific health profession is critically needed to offset wartime combat medical skill shortages.
Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program (Army)
This program pays up to $250,000 for repayment of education loans to physicians in certain specialties who serve in an Army Reserve Troop Program Unit, an Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Professional Management Command, or the Individual Mobilization Program. Payments are made annually with a cap of $40,000 for each year of satisfactory service.
National Defense Student Loan Discharge
This program provides debt relief to military personnel who served at least one year in an area deemed in imminent danger or in direct fire. In order to apply, you must fill out a Department of Defense form and write a letter to the servicer of your loan explaining why you believe you qualify.
Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
In the sad event that you suffered an injury during service and have been deemed permanently disabled, you may have your student loans canceled out. Most types of loans are eligible. Your disability must be documented by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Reserve Officer Training Corps College Program
ROTC (pronounced rot-see) is not a loan forgiveness program, but a college program that prepares students to become officers in the military. The program pays for your college education in exchange for your service post-graduation. This program is offered through the Army, Air Force, and Navy. The Navy ROTC offers a Marine curriculum if you aspire to become a Marine Corps officer. You can learn more at https://www.todaysmilitary.com/training/rotc, or on the military branches’ respective websites.
Ready to Apply Today?
If you see a loan that looks right for you, get your paperwork in order and get ready to submit that application. Be sure to read each program’s terms and eligibility requirements carefully, also noting whether the rewards are taxable and if they accrue interest.
Serving in the military takes sacrifice and dedication, but it can be incredibly fulfilling. These loan repayment programs recognize that many of our military servicemen and -women not only serve our country, but also have invested significantly in their educations. Hopefully, if this is the case for you, a military loan forgiveness program may offer you some much-welcome debt relief!