Updated on 10.10.14

Student Loan Forgiveness Series: Volunteering

Dealing with student loan debt can seem unbearable and overwhelming. As mentioned in the article, 15 Ways To Deal with Student Loan Debt, the average college graduate owes a whopping $40,000 after graduation, but almost 19% owes $50,000 and above and 5.6% owes over $100,000. That’s not the best way to start your financial future.

Maybe in college you worked hard to save money, diligently keeping your student loan debt in mind. Maybe you made some huge financial mistakes during college and ended up taking out much more than you imagined. Whatever road you took to have this student loan debt, now is the time to start planning your exit route.

One idea often thrown around when talking about student loan debt is the option of Student Loan Forgiveness. Student Loan Forgiveness is simply what it sounds like – a portion of your student loan debt gets forgiven, and you no longer owe that set amount of money. Pretty sweet, right?

Many people don’t explore this “too good to be true” option since they don’t know about it, they don’t understand it, or they don’t think they’d qualify for such an amazing benefit. That is exactly why I decided to write this Student Loan Forgiveness Series, exploring different ways you can eliminate your student loan debt. First up, volunteering.

Pro and Cons of Volunteering for Student Loan Forgiveness

Before I jump into the actual opportunities, first we need to consider the positive and negative factors of opting to volunteer to help ease or eliminate your student loan debt:

Positives

  • You can have the opportunity to earn money toward your student loans and, possibly, another small form of income.
  • Gain a lot of networking opportunities and the chance to meet new people.
  • If you’re having trouble finding a job, volunteering can be a great alternative to continuing to pay your loans and get work experience.
  • Learn valuable skills that can help with future job opportunities.
  • Volunteer experience can be a great, unique item to add to your resume to catch a future employer’s eye.
  • Of course, most obviously, volunteering allows you to help people and give back to the world.
  • Each opportunity comes with its own special set of perks, experiences, and benefits.

Negatives

  • Many opportunities require a lot of time, some even full time. This can prevent you from earning a full-time salary, which could possibly be the more efficient route to pay your loans.
  • In most cases, once you sign up, you are committed to completing your service. If you’re unable to complete your service for whatever reason, you may be penalized.
  • Many volunteer opportunities require a lot of passion, time, commitment, hard work, and perseverance. If your heart is really not in it, and you’re simply looking to have your loans repaid, it may be a difficult experience for you.

Volunteer Opportunities Offering Help With Student Loan Debt

With that said and done, if you still think volunteering for loan forgiveness is right for you, it’s time to explore opportunities. Here are some examples of programs that offer assistance with your student loans for volunteering:

SponsorChange.org

SponsorChange matches skill-based volunteers with nonprofits, while volunteers get assistance paying their student loan debts by sponsors who are willing to donate money. These nonprofits are eager to get the assistance of college-educated volunteers to help with their cause.

Right now, opportunities are limited to certain cities, but it is expected to expand soon. First, create a profile so SponsorChange can match you with a nonprofit that is currently seeking someone with your skill set, experience, education, or passion for their specific cause.

According to the website, each completed project comes with $1,000 toward your student loan debt, which you will get directly deposited to your account.

Besides strangers, your sponsors can also include your family, friends, and coworkers, so encourage them to sign up as well. You can also encourage nonprofits to sign up, especially if you’re already volunteering with one. Nonprofits are required to be a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization or Pending with a well-detailed service project and a defined scope.

Qualifying Loans include:

Stafford loans
Grad PLUS loans
Perkins loans
Consolidation loans
Institutional loans
Private student loans

For more information, visit their website.

Zerobound

Zerobound is somewhat similar to SponsorChange. The organization connects volunteers with sponsors and organizations that are in need of assistance. Besides doing good and helping the community, volunteers are rewarded by getting any funds raised deposited toward their student loan debt.

As a graduate, you first determine an amount you would like to raise over a specific period of time. Then, recruit donors to give toward your fundraising goals while Zerobound also recruits sponsors. Once your project is complete, the funds you raised are given to your student loan company. You’ll also create a profile with your story and volunteer experience to inspire people to donate to your efforts.

Like SponsorChange, they also allow you to recruit your own “sponsors,” including family, friends, coworkers, and whoever else you spread the news to.

You don’t need to pay taxes on the money you raised from your sponsors, as they are considered gifts. However, you may be subject tax by any company sponsors.

Zerobound takes a 2.9% processing fee and a $0.30 transaction fee on all transactions. Then, there’s a 5% service fee on all funds raised for successful campaigns and an 8% fee if volunteers don’t reach their goal.

Also keep in mind they have eligibility requirements for organizations. Right now, they allow community organizations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

For more information, visit their website.

AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps connects volunteers with nonprofits, public agencies, community groups, faith-based groups, and schools across the country.

According to Finaid.org, if you volunteer with AmeriCorps for 12 months, you can receive a $7,400 stipend plus $4,725 to be used toward your student loans. However, that specific amount, known as the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, varies from year to year and is based on the current U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant amount.

This amount is not only eligible for existing student loans, but it can also be applied for future college expenses as well. You’re also able to split it up. For example, if you wanted, you could apply half of your award to your current student-loan debt. The other portion can be used for graduate school as long as you’re using it prior to its expiration.

AmeriCorps can also assist with student loans by the possibility of deferring them during your service and even possibly getting the interest paid.

Be sure to apply for this award prior to your service to ensure you qualify.

Other benefits can include training, a living allowance, and health insurance.

Qualifying Loans include:

Stafford loans
Federal Consolidation loans
Perkins loans
William D. Ford Direct loans
Supplemental loans for students
Primary Care loans
Nursing Student loans
Health Education Assistance loans
State agency loans

For more information, visit their website.

Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA)

With AmeriCorp’s Volunteers In Service to America, or VISTA, you’ll be working with private, nonprofit groups that are working towards eliminating illiteracy, poverty, homelessness, and hunger.

You’ll need to make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve with a specific organization in some of “our nation’s poorest urban and rural areas.” According to NationalService.gov, volunteers work on the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations as opposed to directly tutoring children or literally building homes. Some examples include organizing shelter and job opportunities for victims of disasters, expanding programs to help low-income families obtain health insurance, and setting up transitional housing for the homeless hoping to turn their lives around.

Like AmeriCorps, you’ll then be eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award after completion of your service. According to FinAid.org, you’ll receive $4,725 for 1,700 hours of service, but again, that number changes based on the current U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant amount.

During that time, you’ll receive also receive a “modest” living allowance and health benefits.

For more information, visit their website.

Peace Corps

Peace Corps members volunteer in more than 70 developing countries. Opportunities range from teaching conversational English to teaching AIDS prevention: Some of the opportunities include:

  • Education (a variety of teaching opportunities including primary-, secondary-, and university-level teaching and developing libraries or technology resource centers)
  • Youth in Development (developing sporting programs for kids, HIV/AIDS education, gender awareness, and employability skills)
  • Health (teaching nutrition, basic hygiene, water sanitation, and HIV/AIDS education)
  • Community Economic Development (working with business owners and entrepreneurs to develop and market their products or teach basic computer skills to communities and e-commerce)
  • Agriculture (work with small-scale farmers to increase food security and introduce farmers to new techniques)
  • Environment (teach environmental awareness in elementary and secondary schools along with other environmental education opportunities)

Once you complete your service, you may be eligible for partial loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). However, the only student loans eligible for this forgiveness plan are ones that were received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan). Other loans may be eligible for PSLF if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Be sure to speak with a recruiter to understand the specifics prior to enrolling.

To be eligible for this forgiveness program, you’ll still need to make qualifying payments under a specific repayment plan during your service. However, this also includes income-driven repayment plans and, since you won’t be earning much in the Peace Corps, this monthly payment can be very low, even zero.

You may also be eligible for partial cancellation of a Perkins loan depending on your loan lender. According to FinAid.org, that cancellation can be up to 15% of your Perkins loan for each year of service with the Peace Corps.

Other student loan benefits with the Peace Corps can include temporary deferment of Stafford, Perkins, and Consolidation loans during your service.

Other perks include an allowance of $7,425 upon completion of service, full medical and dental coverage, a monthly living and housing allowance, 48 paid vacation days, travel to and from country of service, and language and cross-cultural training.

For more information on the Peace Corps, visit their website.

Things to Keep in Mind for Any Student Loan Forgiveness

Once you think you have the chance to get a portion of your student loans forgiven, it can be quite tempting to instantly sign up. But before you apply and especially before you sign a contact, you need to thoroughly understand how you will receive this loan reimbursement and what you’ll be doing to get this. Here is what you need to know:

  • Understand the terms of service. Many loan-forgiveness opportunities require a certain amount of hours or years of service. Keep in mind that terms and rules change all the time, so always confirm the most up-to-date information.
  • Know the requirements. Some programs require you to still make payments for a specific amount of time or may have income caps on eligibility.
  • Be certain your loans qualify. Certain types of loan are only permitted, as well as when you took them out or how you used these loans.
  • Compare the benefits of these programs. How much will you be forgiven? How much will your salary be? If the loan forgiveness program forces you to take a lower salary than you could have gotten elsewhere or move to an area that has higher rent and cost of living, it might not be the best option for you.
  • Get confirmation prior to service. Learn what you need to do prior to signing up. Some forgiveness programs require you to apply for the forgiveness benefit prior to the service. You also need to check with your loan provider to verify that the stipulations align with their policies. Will they except this payment?
  • Don’t jump right in. This is a big commitment. Do your research, and learn all the ins and outs of the programs and rules and regulations. Many times, if you interrupt service, you may have to pay back any money already paid toward your loans.
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Simple Share Buttons
Simple Share Buttons