With the spread of information about the growing student loan debt problem in the United States, programs have sprung up in many unexpected places to help students and graduates pay off their debt. Two of these programs that you should be on the lookout for are assistance programs through your employer and programs through your school.
These programs, most commonly referred to as Loan Repayment Assistance Programs, provide money directly to the individual borrower to help them pay their student loan bills.
Employer Based Programs
Employers often use student loan assistance as a recruitment tool to attract employees, but not all of these programs are well publicized. Many federal agencies offer LRAP. Other government entities and some private employers have offered similar incentives.
If you find yourself in the job market, this is a great question to ask perspective employers. Many employers help their employees pay for school under the theory that they will benefit from that new education. A LRAP payment simply recognizes this benefit, but after the fact.
Funding information and specific rules seem to vary greatly between programs, so this is something to inquire about with your current and future employers. One common factor to be aware of is that the employer may ask that you sign a contract committing to stay for a certain period of time or that you will refund the payments if you depart early.
Many schools, especially professional graduate programs, offer LRAP to their graduates. These programs are often designed to help graduates be able to afford to work public interest jobs. These programs also help attract students to the school. Like most employer based programs, the availability and terms really vary from school to school.
If you are currently making payments on your student loans it is probably worth your time to get in contact with your human resources office at your job or financial aid office at your school. Even if it only ends up being a modest amount of money, a few phone calls and some paperwork could make your life a little easier.
Readers: Have you looked into these programs? Does your school or employer offer any help paying your student loans?