Our men and women in uniform protect us every day from threats outside of our country and inside.They serve in times of natural disaster to restore order, deliver supplies and provide access to necessities. And they do this not only in America but abroad as well. It seems that the least we can do is offer them some respite when it comes to their student loans. If you’re in the Armed Forces (or considering enlisting), you should know you have options.
Check out these four ways servicemen and women can get better student loan repayment results:
#1 Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Even if you don’t think you’ll stay in the military for 10 years, you may want to consider PSLF. If you transition into a public service job after leaving the military (teaching, working for local, state or federal government, etc), your time clock for the required years of service will continue to click. And if you’re looking at the military for a career, pursuing PSLF is a no-brainer. Combine it with Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR) to get the lowest payment to maximize your benefit.
#2 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
If you think a decade of military service is in your future, PSLF with IBR (above) is the way to get the best repayment deal. But if you complete your degree and your borrowing while you’re in the military, are in repayment and plan on leaving the military behind, you need a different plan. One way to get lower payments is to have your interest rates lowered using the SCRA. By filing a request letter (JAG can help you with this) your lender is required to lower your interest rate to no more than 6%. This can result in more affordable payments!
#3 Deferment During Times of Conflict
If you’re serving in a war, military operation or called on for a national emergency, you should be able to defer your debt during this period and for six months after it ends. Direct loans don’t accumulate interest during a deferment. If you are cash strapped and can’t get deferment, you may be able to get forbearance, but interest will accumulate. A better option may be to apply for IBR first and see if your payments are affordable before you put them on hold. You can always pay more when your income increases and you’ll keep interest from piling on!
#4 Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)
If you’re considering enlisting after you get your degree, your best shot at maximizing military service student loan benefits is to negotiate for SLRP before you sign on the dotted line and take your oath of service. Certain jobs, specialties and degrees can score you up to $65,000 in loan forgiveness. Army and Navy cap at $65,000, Coast Guard at $30,000 and the Air Force at $10,000. The Marines doesn’t offer SLRP. It doesn’t require 10 years of service like PSLF and is available after four to six years depending on the terms of your enlistment agreement.
If you’re serving our country, we know you do so for low wages and often under the worst conditions. We salute you and we want to help however we can. Click here to sign up for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool. Read our blog for tips on dealing with your debt and repayment strategies. Also check out our Student Loan Help Center for How To guides on applying for IBR, PAYE and other programs mentioned in this article!