Are you in the military? Have you thought about joining the military? If so, you may be excited to know that the military provides one of the best methods through which you can have your student loan debt forgiven. The majority of these programs are available at the federal level, although some states also have unique opportunities through their state guard program. In addition to easing the burden of paying back your student loans, you will also earn a decent salary by working for the military and gain valuable leadership skills. If you are considering loan forgiveness programs through the military, you may want to consider the following:

Service members Civil Relief Act Interest Cap: This program was created to help keep the interest rate on student loans from skyrocketing while a service member is away on active duty. In fact, if you obtained loans before your military service began, the company managing your loans is not permitted to charge you more than 6% interest during your active duty period. This applies to both private loans for school and federal student loans which were obtained prior to the start date of your active duty.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: This program is open to any worker who is employed by a federal, state, or local government. If you are in the military, you will qualify for this program if you don’t meet the criteria for other loan forgiveness programs. This program requires that students pay back the first 120 payments (which turns out to be ten years) of their loan. After that time, you can complete an application, and send the application to your loan lender to request forgiveness of the remaining balance.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans: While this method will eventually enable you to have your loans forgiven, it is one of the longest routes to take for military members. If you select an income-driven repayment program and make the minimum payments, you will likely qualify for low monthly payments with the option of having the balance of your loan forgiven after 20 to 25 years. This program is only available for certain types of federal loans and it is not an option for private loans.

Military Service Deferment: This benefit permits military members to postpone loan payments while they are on active duty and immediately following their tour. All federal loans are eligible for this program, but only some private loans can be included. In order to apply, you will need a copy of your military orders, a written note from your commanding officer, and a request form.

Federal Direct Loan 0% Interest: If you are a member of the military who is completing a tour in an area that is considered hostile, you get a break on your student loan rate. In fact, you can receive 0% interest for a maximum of 60 months. This benefit only applies to the Federal Direct Loans Program. In order to apply, you will need to provide proof that you are deployed in an area that is considered to be hostile. This can be done through military orders or a statement from an official in the military. You will also need to provide a leave and earnings statement which reflects the fact that you are receiving increased pay due to being in imminent danger or hostile areas.

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HEROES ACT: This act may not seem like much, but it can help you save some cash. If you are deployed on active duty, the Department of Education waives some documentation rules that are tied to your student loans. For example, if you are repaying your loans using an income-based repayment plan and you receive a much higher salary for hostile pay, you can request to have your current payments maintained for the same amount if your service does not allow you to immediately update this information. This is only an option for loans that are serviced through the federal government. In addition, the applicant must be serving in a war, national emergency, or a similar military operation while on active duty. You will need to provide a copy of your military orders which will enable your lender to provide you with a waiver.

Department of Defense Loan Repayment: This is one of the best options for having your military loans repaid. The exact amount varies depending on which branch of the military you are in. For example, some agencies permit their employees to receive up to $10,000 per year, and a total lifetime maximum of $60,000 in loan repayment. In order to receive this money, the borrower typically has to agree to some type of service commitment.

Another example, in the Army Forces Student Loan Repayment program, each individual who enlists in the Army is eligible to have up to $65,000 of their student loans forgiven by the Army. In order to be eligible for the Army’s Loan Repayment Program, the applicant is required to enlist in the Army with at least a high school diploma, score at least a 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, hold a loan that is guaranteed under the Higher Education ACT, agree to serve in a critical military occupational specialty, have a written contract, and decline Montgomery GI Bill enrollment. The military occupational specialties that are considered critical change several times a year. Thus, if you are considering applying to this program, you may want to obtain a list of the current critical specialties from an Army recruiter before deciding if you are interested in pursuing this route.

Like the Army program, the Navy Loan Repayment Program will also repay up to $65,000 in college loans for an individual Navy member. The Air Force however, has slightly different repayment amounts. Through the Air Force College Loan Repayment Program you can receive up to $10,000. After starting active duty, you can earn 33.33% or $1,500 per year of service to defray the cost of your student loan balance.

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