Does the Military Pay Off Student Loans? An In-Depth Look

It is common knowledge that millions of Americans have student loan debt. Over 43 million Americans have amassed more than $1.3 trillion in debt for student loans. Paying off loan debt is anything but easy. While getting an education is vital to making a living, many Americans struggle with paying off student debt.

The US military offers programs to help service members repay their student loans. While the military doesn’t erase all debts, their financial assistance means a lot to families who aren’t well off. Moreover, the US military provides plenty of opportunities to young people who want to pursue their dreams.

Does the Military Pay Off Student Loans?

gray and brown camouflage nutshell helmet on table

Military service members and veterans may be eligible to apply for loan repayment programs that may lead to partial and, sometimes, complete forgiveness of their student loans. The debt you’re forgiven relies on how much money you owe, the type of student loans you’ve taken out, and whether you’re in the military full-time or part-time.

You don’t have to be an Active Duty US military member to enjoy military student loan forgiveness. Select programs targeted at veterans provide partial forgiveness after a decade of public service employment. Some programs even offer full forgiveness after total and permanent disability discharge due to their service.

Eligibility Criteria for Military Student Loan Forgiveness

How can you qualify for a student loan repayment program? Both active duty members and veterans may submit their applications to programs for student loan payments. Some student loan repayment programs are exclusively available to select US military branches. Simultaneously, select student loan repayment assistance is available to qualifying military occupational specialties only. Most of these programs strictly apply to federal student loans. Private student loans normally don’t qualify for these programs.

Comprehensive Review of Military Student Loan Programs

Military Student Loan Programs

There are various college loan repayment programs military members can apply for. Here are some of the programs you should take note of:

College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)

The College Loan Repayment Program incentivizes college graduates to join military service. This program offers loan reimbursement depending on how many years they served in the Armed Forces. Individuals who join this program must have no prior military service and should not be an officer when participating. The maximum loan assistance for this program is $30,000.

Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program

Air Force members that are enrolled in a law program are eligible for the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program. This program gives assistance worth $65,000. Once you’re a member of this program, you can receive monetary help for up to three years.

Army Active Duty Student Loan Repayment

Under the Army Active Duty Student Loan Repayment Program, active-duty Army military members can obtain up to $65,000 in loan assistance. You should enlist in the army for at least three years to apply for this program. Plus, you should have gotten at least a score of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).

This program can assist up to 33.3% per year. The Army Student Loan Repayment program applies to federal student loans only.

Coast Guard Loan Repayment Program

This loan repayment program is exclusive to Coast Guard members. You should commit at least three years to be eligible for this particular program. Once admitted, you can receive up to $60,000 in loan assistance from the Coast Guard.

Health Professions Loan Repayment Program

This particular loan repayment program offers qualified members up to $120,000 in college loan repayment. This program is exclusive for doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals on Active Duty or in the Army Reserve. This program gives a maximum of $40,000 loan assistance for three years.

National Defense Student Loan Discharge

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge gives up to 100% forgiveness of your outstanding principal balance. This program is exclusively available to individuals who’ve put their lives on the line for the nation. You must have served at least a full year in a dangerous area and have an existing Perkins loan to be eligible for this program.

National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program

This student loan repayment assistance program can shoulder a maximum of $50,000 in college education expenses. You can apply for this program if you’ve enlisted in the National Guard for at least six years.

Navy Student Loan Repayment Program

Individuals from the US Navy may apply for the Navy Student Loan Repayment program. This repayment program provides qualified personnel with up to $65,000 in student loan repayment assistance. You should enlist for at least three years to qualify for this grant.

Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program

People in the Army Reserve with previous military experience can receive up to a maximum of $50,000 in student loan payments. Your military record should show that you’ve been on active duty to qualify for this program.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is exclusive to public service employees. This program provides full student loan repayment assistance for qualified people. However, you should have made a minimum of 120 payments while serving full-time duty in the military or another qualifying non-profit entity to apply for this program. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is available to personnel outside of the military.

Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

The Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge can possibly clear all of your student loan debt if you suffered a disability during your active duty service. To qualify for this particular incentive, the Department of Veterans Affairs must document a service-related medical issue and officially deem you permanently disabled. This specific program covers most loans.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Interest Rate Cap

Technically speaking, this isn’t a college loan repayment program. This is a federal law. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, commonly known as SCRA, makes it more manageable for active duty members to pay off their outstanding debt.

The SCRA stipulates that active-duty members can enjoy a reduced interest rate of 6% for loans taken out before they go into active service. While this doesn’t count as military loan forgiveness, this law can lower the monthly payment active duty members have to pay. Hence, it can help them manage their expenses accordingly.

If you need to verify a military member’s active status for any legal purpose, feel free to reach out to Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service (SCRACVS).

The Reality of Military Service and Student Loan Repayment

While these programs may help people with outstanding student debt, you should note that not all military members are qualified for these programs. You should meet the program’s requirements to qualify for student loan forgiveness or repayment. Moreover, your loans won’t be forgiven if they’re private student loans.

Many veterans struggle with getting approval for their student loan repayment assistance. For example, Mike Smiley spent 14 years as a Navy doctor and has incurred $50,000 in student loan debt. Smiley said that FedLoan wouldn’t accept his DD214 and rejected a Navy letter confirming his years of service. It took a couple of months for his application to be approved.

Meanwhile, Jodie Parks, who served in the Air Force, had difficulty getting her documentation signed. It took her months to get all the required signatures and documents to apply for loan forgiveness. These veterans prove that getting military loan forgiveness is no walk in the park.

Student Loan Payoff vs. Student Loan Forbearance or Forgiveness: Understanding the Differences

Before applying for any of the programs above, you should understand what you’re getting into. Depending on the program you’re applying for, you may be required to pay interest on the loan during the period of deferment or forbearance.

Loan forgiveness means a portion of your debt will be eliminated or canceled. Meanwhile, a student loan payoff implies you will receive a payment allocated to student loan repayment. You might have to shoulder interest payments if you receive a student loan payoff.

Future Prospects of Military Student Loan Repayment Programs

The Biden administration is working towards making student loan debts more manageable not only for military members but for millions of Americans in debt. The intention is to cut monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans. Moreover, he intends to control the price hike in college education to make pursuing higher education more accessible to more Americans.

Given the recent updates, the future of military student loan repayment programs looks bright. It appears that these programs will continue to receive support from the government, encouraging more people to enlist in the military.


military provides student loan benefits

Joining the military provides plenty of benefits, and among the most attractive ones is student loan forgiveness. Signing up for the military can make your college loan debt more manageable. However, it would be best if you comprehended the stipulations of these programs before applying.

If you want to learn more about the various benefits that military members receive, explore Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service further.


How many years does it take to pay off student loans?

It usually takes ten years to pay off student loans. However, many Americans spend up to 20 years paying off this debt.

Does the Air Force forgive student loans?

Yes, the Air Force offers programs for Active Duty personnel and reserve members. The qualifications and benefits for these programs differ.

Attorney Roy Kaufmann serves as the Director of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service, located in Washington, D.C. As a recognized authority on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Mr. Kaufmann has published hundreds of articles and hosted many webinars. His teachings help law firms and businesses to remain compliant with the SCRA rules and regulations so as to avoid costly fines.