Student debt. It’s a subject on everyone’s lips that is troubling the minds of a lot of young Americans. In 2013 40 million Americans shouldered the burden of student loans, amounting to $1.2 trillion of debt. And it’s only getting worse: college tuition has increased by over 900 percent since 1978, and alarmingly, student debt has quadrupled in the last ten years.
I recently graduated from a four-year liberal arts university, and the majority of my peers left with a large bill, ranging from $10,000 to nearly $200,000. It’s a burden that weighs heavily, both financially and mentally. After all, student loans can have all sorts of consequences (besides high consumption of ramen noodles). These include a trashed credit score, making you less employable, and delaying the start date of owning a house or having a family.
Much of the advice given on student debt is about how not to accrue it (don’t go to college!), or how to live frugally to scrape together your monthly payment. This is sound advice, but for the recently graduated student who didn’t study to be a nurse, doctor, teacher, or lawyer (there are many debt forgiveness programs out there for such professions – start on page 13 of this guide for your options) this advice is a little less helpful.
It’s getting rid of it off that matters, and make no mistake, that is a top priority for millennials. In a Credit.com survey, millennials aged 18-24 said being debt-free was their ultimate financial goal. Not retirement, or buying a house; just freedom from debt.
This is a list for students with a significant amounts of debt, who want it gone, and will do almost anything to make being debt-free a reality. This is for the college student who studied philosophy for four years, then realized afterwards that they ought to have been thinking about how to make money for groceries while pondering the morality of economic systems.
- Move to Kansas: Yes, I’m suggesting you up and move to one of Kansas’s “rural opportunity zones”, also known as a rural, economically depressed area. In a bid to reverse the loss of their own young people, 77 counties in Kansas are offering the carrot of absorbing some of your debts if you’ll simply live in (and hopefully revitalize) these communities. And one need not be from Kansas to apply; in fact, they want young people from out of state! The state will take on up to $15,000, as well as exempt you from the state income tax for five years.
- Farm in New York: Do you have a green thumb or a love of animals? Well, you’re in luck! New York State is essentially recruiting farmers to counteract the aging farming population. Commit to five years farming and the state will absorb up to $10,000 of your debt annually, for up to five years. $50,000 gone, in half a decade. Just like in Kansas, this is for everyone, not just New Yorkers. Details can be found here.
- Work for a Prep School: This is one of the only options not funded by a state or federal government program. Many northeastern prep schools hire recent liberal arts graduates to teach (no teaching degree required!), and offer room and board as well as help with paying off loans to make the job more attractive. For just one example, DC Prep offers loan forgiveness as one of its benefits. Not every prep school offers such assistance, but many do. Apply for open positions, and ask during your interview what the school’s policy is on aiding student debt; you may be surprised by the answer.
- Get an AmeriCorps Job or PeaceCorps job: This is a great opportunity for students to work in a field they are interested in, make a (small) salary, and receive $5,500 off their loans annually. A good friend of mine just started an AmeriCorps sponsored marketing job in New Hampshire, and will wave goodbye to $5,500 of her loans at the end of this year.
- Join the Army: Joining the Army is one of the fastest ways to get rid of student debt. They will shoulder anywhere from $40,000 to $65,000 of your debt, sometimes in less than four years of service (and that’s on top of your salary). Here’s a breakdown of what is available by type of service, from the Navy to the Air Force to being Medical Personnel.
- Be a Public Servant Working for the government as a public servant can have a lot of perks, such as $10,000 of debt forgiven a year, up to $60,000. The Federal Government’s Public Service Program will forgive all student loans after ten years of service. This is the long game, but if you have over $100,000 in debt, it’s one worth considering, especially since public service jobs can be in almost any field.