Student loan options for US military members, veterans

There are several student loan and repayment options for active duty personnel and veterans. (iStock)

The average student loan debt in 2019 was $1.6 trillion and it continues to grow. But, if you’re currently serving, or have served in the military, there is help available to you for financing your college education and repaying student loans. These loan options can come from the federal government and nonprofit organizations.

Keep in mind that military student loan options are not only available to activity duty personnel and their families, but veterans are eligible, as well as future military personnel. All branches of the military can benefit including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and Space Force.

The different types of military student loans and repayment options have various requirements, so be sure and chose the one that’s right for you and your service category. They range from military student loan forgiveness programs to programs that allow you to delay paying back the student loan.

  • Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) – If you’re a new recruit to the military you can benefit from this program that offers to pay up to $65,000 worth of your student loans.  While each branch of the military has its own specific benefits, the program is open to all eligible enlistees who have never served before.HOW TO ESTIMATE YOUR STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS  
  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Interest Tate Cap – Under this program, any student loan interest that accumulated before you entered the military is capped at 6 percent during active duty. This can significantly help with paying down those higher interest loans because both federal and private student loan lenders are obligated to not charge you more than 6 percent interest.  
  • Military Service Deferment – During active duty and immediately following active duty, you can postpone your payments on federal and some private loans. This is usually offered during a war or similar military operations or national emergency.  You can defer your monthly payment during active duty and for up to 180 days after you leave service.  
  • Deferments After Active Duty – This option allows you to postpone repaying your student loans while you prepare to go back to school after serving in the military. It’s also available for federal and some private loans.  
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – Under this program you could qualify to have the remaining balance of your Federal Direct Loans forgiven. This applies if you’re employed full-time in the military and after you’ve made at least 120 monthly payments. You must be working full-time at a qualifying government or nonprofit public service organization.    
  • National Defense Student Loan Discharge – The Department of Defense may repay all or a portion of your student loans in certain circumstances. You would likely be considered eligible after serving a year of being deployed to a hostile fire area that puts you in imminent danger.    
  • Veterans GI Bill – This program can help pay for your college, graduate school, and training programs. It’s strictly for veterans of the military and will cover some or all the costs for school.WHAT'S THE AVERAGE DEBT OF A GRADUATE STUDENT IN THE US?  
  • Post-9/11 GI Bills – Full tuition and fees can be covered for you and your family members if you’re a veteran or current military personnel who served after 9/10/01.  
  • Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge – If you’re permanently disabled, under this program, you are not obligated to pay back some or all your student loans. The Department of Veterans Affairs said after identifying you as a qualified participant, they will send you a notice to inform you that your loans will be discharged in 60 days.

There’s also a push by attorneys general to forgive all the student debt accumulated by disabled veterans, as many don’t know about and don’t utilize the program.

To help lower student loan debt in general, experts advise borrowers to shop around for the best rates and compare private student loan and federal student loan rates.