Last summer, the amount of outstanding student loan debt surpassed the amount that Americans owe outstanding on their credit cards. This development has been shedding some light on the student loan industry — and the fact we are to a point in society at which we accept that we will have to go into debt to get a college education.

Whether or not you believe a college education is worth it, or whether you think you can avoid debt altogether in college, the reality is that many students are already saddled with student loan debt. Between my husband and myself, for two graduate degrees, we are pretty close to $75,000 in student loan debt. Consolidation helps by reducing the overall interest rate paid, and we are fortunate enough to be able to make payments with relative ease. However, not everyone is as fortunate as we are. If you are trying to figure out how to repay your student loans, you do have options.

Get Someone Else to Pay off Your Debt

There are ways to have someone else pay off some of your student loan debt. There are a number of organizations that will help you with your student loan debt, in exchange for your time and talents. AmeriCorps is a great option for those who want help paying their bills. You can provide service, and receive some money toward loan repayment. Teach For America is another organization that can help you with your obligations. And, of course, there are generous loan repayment programs available through the military. You might also check with specific states, since some states have their own programs for recruiting rural teachers, and others with certain skill sets.

Receive Lenient Terms for Repayment

If you can demonstrate hardship, you can qualify for lenient terms of repayment. If you have problems repaying your loan due to hardship or unemployment, and you have Stafford loans, you can defer your payment for up to three years. It’s possible also to work out forbearance arrangements with many lenders if you can show economic hardship. During the period of time between the end of my undergraduate experience, and the time I started grad school (you get a deferment for graduate school), we had a baby, and little income. So we took advantage of a forbearance program for economic hardship. It worked out well.

Not too long ago, though, the government introduced a new program to help those in tough economic positions. The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan is designed to adjust your loan payment amount to your income. The plan also includes loan forgiveness if you still have a balance after a specific number of years. You can also receive public service loan forgiveness, which is more generous. There is a handy calculator on the IBR web site that can help you figure out whether or not you are likely to qualify for the program.

Bottom Line

You might be drowning in student loan debts, but you do have options. There are ways to ease the burden a bit. Look for ways to reduce some of your obligation, and look into programs that can help you if you are experiencing economic hardship.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.