AmeriCorps and Teach for America are two programs designed to help college students pay for their education. The AmeriCorps program is available to help you pay for college, although you can use participate after your graduate and apply the money towards your student loans. The Teach for America Program is designed to help you pay off your student loans.
AmeriCorps is a program where college students work in service or volunteer type jobs for a period of a year instead of attending school During the year they will receive a small stipend that covers living expenses for the area. At the completion of the program you will receive a stipend to use towards your education expenses or to pay towards your student loan. There is a two year education reward limit for each participant.
The work you do in AmeriCorps will vary depending on the program you enroll in. Most of the projects involve working for a service organization such as Habitat for Humanity or for a food initiative program to feed the hungry. There are part time positions available as well as full time positions. You can search for positions by service type and location on the website.
Teach for America
Teach for America is a program designed to help at risk schools attract teachers to its schools. You do not need a degree in education to qualify for this program. When you graduate from college you will need to apply to the program. The program will pace you in a region and position that matches your interest as well as your previous training.
You will be required to meet the certification requirements for the district you are teaching in. Teach for America teachers can use an alternative path to certification. This means you will have to take education classes or training while you are teaching at the school. The costs for these classes may be your responsibility if your district is unable to help you pay for them.
In addition to the pay that you will receive from the school district, you will receive a stipend that you can use towards your student loans or to cover the cost of becoming certified. In 2011 the stipend for two years of service was $10,700. During the time you serve in Teach America your student loans are put on forbearance. You will receive the same pay as a normal teacher, and the benefits the district offers.
If you worked for AmeriCorps while an undergraduate, you may not qualify for the full benefits of Teach For America. Be sure to check your eligibility to see if you qualify for the stipend before you commit to the program. This program may be good if you have decided that you may want to be a teacher in the long-term.
Teaching or working in the public sector may not be the best option for your current situation. If this is the case you may want to consolidate your loans under the Direct Consolidation Loan program and see if you qualify for an income based loan payment option. You may qualify to have a portion of your loan forgiven if you make on time payments for a set period of time. If you are working for a government agency or a charitable organization you may qualify for the publics service worker loan forgiveness program. This program will forgive the remaining balance on your loan after ten years of service.
Another option is to work to pay off your student loans yourself. You can do this by setting up a strict budget and putting your student loan into a debt snowball. This will allow you to focus your money so you can get rid of your student loan payments more quickly. If you are still in school you can take advantage of scholarships or tuition reimbursement programs to help cover the cost of your tuition. This will reduce the amount of debt you accumulate.