Grants to pay off student loans

How grants can pay off student loans

I’m sure you’ve heard of student loans and scholarships, but what about grants? Grants are an underrated way to pay for school, and the best part? They’re totally free. Just like scholarships, grants are free money for school that you don’t have to pay back. But while scholarships tend to be merit-based, grants tend to be need-based. Grants can be used during or after school to help pay down student loans. Keep reading to find out how grants can help you pay yours.

Can you get a grant to pay off student loans?

If there’s anything you take away from this article, it’s that yes—you can definitely get grants to pay off student loans. Getting a grant to pay off your loan means that your loan is forgiven. There are various organizations that offer grants to those who need them. This process can help make your loan repayment goals much easier. It differs compared to other repayment options like deferment or forbearance.

Deferment is when you temporarily reduce or postpone payments on your loan until after you finish school and your grace period. Forbearance is when you are allowed to make smaller payments or stop making payments altogether for a certain period of time.

Student loan forgiveness is when some or all of your student loan debt is cancelled or discharged. This can be done through grants or various loan forgiveness programs.

There are so many types of grants and student loan forgiveness categories out there—here are a few:

  • Career-based student loan forgiveness
  • Federal student loan forgiveness
  • State-based student loan forgiveness
  • Military student loan forgiveness
  • Nonprofit/volunteer student loan forgiveness
  • Forgiveness programs administered by corporate employers for employees

P.S. If a grant application period has passed, set a reminder in your calendar to check back at a later date and see if it reopens. Many grants are given out every year, and they’re often first-come, first-served.

Career-based grants

Career-based grants are national grants that provide funds to people in specific careers who qualify, like teachers, medical personnel, and more. They can be awarded by the government, colleges and universities, hospitals, and businesses.

Grants for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals

National Health Services Corps

This is a grant program for medical personnel, like dentists, doctors, mental health professionals, and more. If you work full-time for two years in a high-needs community, you may get up to $50,000 taken off your student loan debt. Part-time work may also be eligible for a grant. Check out the award amounts for your service commitment.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

This national grant for nurses will give you funds to pay off 60% of your student loan debt if you work for at least two years in a critical shortage area. For a third year, eligible nurses may get another 25% of their student loans paid off.

IHS Loan Repayment Program

For two years of service in American Indian and Alaska Native areas, the IHS Loan Repayment Program can give out grants to pay off up to $40,000 of your eligible student loans. Plus, you may be able to keep working for more than two years to pay off all your student loan debt.

Students to Service Loan Repayment Program

For students in their last year of dental or medical school, up to $120,000 of student loan debt can be repaid with this grant. All you need to do is spend three years after you graduate working in an area in need of more medical professionals.

Grants for teachers

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLF) can offer student loan forgiveness of up to $17,500 off of Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. In exchange, you’d have to teach full time for five complete, consecutive academic years in a low-income school or within an educational service agency, among other qualifications.

Teacher Cancellation of Perkins Loans

Although there haven’t been any Perkins loans distributed since 2017, you may qualify for student loan forgiveness if you got one before then. Qualifying teachers teach high-needs subjects or work in low-income schools. If you’re a qualifying teacher, you may get all your student loan debt forgiven in five years.

Grants for veterinarians

Veterinarian Medical Loan Repayment Program

This veterinarian grant program can pay up to $25,000 a year towards your student loan if you work for three years in an area that’s low on veterinarians.

Grants for lawyers

John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

State prosecutors and public defenders can apply for this grant program through the state in which they live and work for three to six years. The award is worth up to $10,000 a year (maxed at $60,000) to pay towards law school student loans.

Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

For three years of service, attorneys working in the Department of Justice with at least $10,000 in federal student loan debt may be able to win $6,000 a year and up to $60,000 total to pay off their student loans.

Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program

To win a grant from this repayment assistance program’s lottery system, you have to be an attorney working with one of Herbert S. Garten’s grantees and have at least $75,000 in student loan debt. The prize is up to $5,600 in grants.

There are a lot more resources out there for graduates working in the public sector, public-service lawyers, and more through the American Bar Association.

Grants for researchers

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs

This is a group of loan repayment programs for various health industries. You don’t have to work for the NIH to qualify, and you could get up to $50,000 a year for a total of two years if you conduct research the NIH defines as “critical.”

The critical research topics include:

Need money for college?

Consider a Sallie Mae® private student loan

  • Available for online or on-campus study
  • Competitive fixed and variable rates
  • No origination fee or prepayment penaltyfootnote 1
  • 95% of undergraduate students who’ve been approved were approved again when they returned with a cosigner the following yearfootnote 2
Photo webImage blog Cross Sell study Girl.

Federal student loan forgiveness

Federal student loan forgiveness is when your federal student loans are cancelled or discharged—this means your remaining balance has been taken care of and you don’t have to pay them back. This is similar to career-based forgiveness and programs because they all involve paying off some or all of your student loan balance, but they differ in where the money is coming from. Federal student loans are forgiven by the government exclusively, while career-based forgiveness and grants can come from the government, colleges and universities, and more.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

You may be eligible for grants through PSLF if you are a government employee or work for a not-for-profit organization. You could get your total Direct Loan balance forgiven if you’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments through an eligible repayment plan, or if you work full-time for an eligible employer.

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

With four different income-driven repayment plans to choose from, they all will base your federal student loan payments on a percentage of your income. If you’re still carrying a balance after 20 or 25 years, your total balance will be forgiven. Keep in mind that you will have to pay taxes on your forgiven balance.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

We mentioned how Perkins Loan Cancellation is a great way for teachers to get some student loan debt relief, but first responders, librarians, health care workers, and more may be eligible. See the full list on the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website.

Cancellation and Discharge: There are also a few other circumstances in which the federal government may forgive your loans, including:

State-based grants

There are state grant programs nationwide, and the state you live in probably has at least one. Many state-based grants are tied to certain jobs and industries, so it’s worth researching the state and industry you’re interested in to see what grants may be for you. Here are a few so you can get an understanding of what’s out there.

New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program

New York State has $10,000 up for grabs for students who graduate from an in-state university, plan to run a farm in New York for at least five years, and apply within two years of graduation.

New York State Child Welfare Worker Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program

This incentive program could earn you $10,000 a year for up to five years of you working in a New York State child welfare agency.

Maine Alfond Leaders Program

For people living in Maine and working in STEM, you could get up to $60,000 to put towards your student loans with this program.

Grants for members of the military (and their families)

Military grants are need-based grants for members of the military, veterans, and relatives of active military members and veterans. They are often funded by the government, but some may be offered by colleges and universities. To be eligible, students must have a military status or have a family member with a military status. They will also likely need to complete the FAFSA® to be considered.

Army Loan Repayment Program

If you enlist in the military after going to college, the military can forgive any student loans you’ve accrued over the course of your studies.

Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program

If you work in a specific specialty and serve in the army for at least six years, this grant program can give you up to $50,000 to pay off your student loan debt.

Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant

To meet the criteria for this grant, you must have a parent or guardian who was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, you had to be under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least half-time at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death, and you must meet the eligibility requirements of the Federal Pell Grant. The award amount is the same as the maximum Pell Grant available for that award year. The award for the 2023-24 year is $7,395.

Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program

Healthcare professionals like pharmacists, nurses, veterinarians, doctors, dentists, and more who enlist in the army may be eligible for up to $120,000 to pay off their student loans depending on how long they enlist.

The military also offers special student loan forgiveness programs in:

Grants for volunteers/non-profit employees

Volunteers and non-profit employees are also eligible for grants through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and through other national organizations, like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and Teach for America

Grants for employees at private companies

Some private companies also have their own grant and loan forgiveness programs for their employees. This is often a benefit offered to employees and is a part of their benefits package. If you’re interested, it may be worth it to ask your employer if your company has a grant or loan forgiveness program you qualify for.


Chegg has a grant program that’s also leveraged as a recruitment tool. Entry-level to manager-level employees who have been working at the company for at least two years, have graduated from college, and have student loan debt are eligible for an annual $5,000 grant. An employee on the Director level or Vice President level must adhere to the same criteria to earn a $3,000 annual grant towards their student loans.


Participating associates or senior associates at PwC may be eligible for a grant worth up to $1,200 a year (up to $10,000 total) towards their student loan debt.

How to find grants yourself

Grants and student loan forgiveness programs aren’t too hard to find—you just need to know where to look.

Check within your industry of choice. There may be state- or federal-based programs that offer student loan forgiveness to people who do the jobs that you do. You may need to work in high-needs areas to get the grants, but it’s worth taking a look.

Talk to the financial aid office at your school. Certain post-grad schools like law school or medical school may offer to forgive your student loan debt in exchange for your service working in communities that need you the most.

Ask your employer. Some companies have grants, scholarships, and student loan forgiveness benefits for employees—you should definitely take advantage of them if they’re available to you.

Quick guide on how to apply for student loan grants

Here are some quick tips on how to apply for grants to pay off your student loans. For starters, you are NOT taking out another student loan to pay off your other student loans. Grants are free money you don’t have to pay back. 

1. Look for grants that fit you

As you start searching for grants, look for ones that are suited for your exact situation. You may have better luck at winning them!

  • Find organizations related to your career interests and see what grants may be out there.
  • Look up your state and see if they have any state grant programs available.
  • If you’re employed, ask your employer if the company offers grants or other student loan benefits to employees.
  • Contact the financial aid office of the college you attended and see if there is anything they can help you with.

2. Fill out the grant application

Once you find a grant you want to apply to, it’s time to fill out your application. Keep in mind that the application may be online or in a physical document you’ll have to mail in. Here are some of the things you may be asked:

  • The name of your university and proof of graduation
  • Proof of employment—a pay stub or letter from an employer
  • Proof of residence—such as a bill with your name on it
  • Legal identification—a driver’s license, passport, or state-issued ID
  • Info on all the loans you’re applying to get forgiven
  • Resume and/or cover letter
  • Personal essay
  • Recommendation letters

3. Keep an eye on the grant’s due dates

Due dates are super important when it comes to grants. Many grant programs operate annually, so you can only apply for them once a year. If you miss a deadline, that’s okay. Keep looking for grants with open deadlines, and take note of the ones you missed. Mark those grants in your calendar or set a reminder to prepare for next year’s deadline.

Ready to look for grants?

Grants can be a great way to help you pay off your student loans. Just remember to look for grants that suit your needs, keep track of grant opening and closing dates, and always look into other repayment options if you’re having trouble paying back your loans.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks, and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote Sallie Mae, the Sallie Mae logo, and other Sallie Mae names and logos are service marks or registered service marks of Sallie Mae Bank. All other names and logos used are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners. 

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.

footnote 1. Although we do not charge you a penalty or fee if you prepay your loan, any prepayment will be applied as provided in your promissory note: first to Unpaid Fees and costs, then to Unpaid Interest, and then to Current Principal.

footnote 2. Sallie Mae loans cover enrollment periods of up to 12 months. Students must apply for a new loan each school year. This approval percentage is based on students who were approved for a Sallie Mae undergraduate loan with a cosigner in the 2021/22 school year and were approved for another Sallie Mae undergraduate loan when they returned with the same or new cosigner in 2022/23. It does not include the denied applications of students who were ultimately approved in 2022/23.

StudentHub by