Student Debt? Join the Peace Corps. Really.

BreakingModern — Passionate about travel and helping others but worried about your educational debt? The Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and the National Health Service Corp all offer volunteer opportunities that involve travel and can sometimes reduce student loan debt. Here’s how.

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps often tops the bucket list of volunteers that want to serve while seeing the world. This summer, the Peace Corps unveiled a shorter application that lets volunteers choose a program and countries where there are service openings.

Service categories include education, health, community and youth development and agriculture, and the commitment is usually at least two years.

“I don’t think students should — and most hopefully won’t — approach it as an easy way to travel, see the world and get student debt forgiven. It takes a commitment to serve in the Peace Corps, and live and work in what will often be challenging situations. You must be accepted, and you must complete your service in most cases in order to receive the benefits.  They don’t call it the toughest job you’ll ever love for nothing!” ‘s director of consumer education Gerri Detweiler told me via email.

Partial loan cancellation is one of the benefits of joining the Peace Corps. And the time served may count toward the public service loan cancellation program under the Pay as You Earn program.  But Detweiler cautioned that there are very specific qualification requirements.

Since its creation by the Kennedy administration in 1961, three universities have produced more than 2,000 volunteers. Those are the University of California, Berkeley (3,544), the University of Wisconsin at Madison (3,070) and the University of Washington (2,797).

National Health Service Corps

For more than 40 years, National Health Service Corps loan repayment and scholarship programs have helped build healthy communities. Today, almost 9,000 NHSC clinicians provide primary care to more than 10.4 million people who live in rural, urban and frontier communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories. Although many doctors and nurses say that the NHSC made their education possible, the money is secondary.

“More than 55 percent of NHSC clinicians continue to practice in the communities that need them most 10 years after completing their service commitment,” said an NHSC spokesperson via email. Current opportunities across the USA include Hartford, CT, Jesup, GA and Kotzebue, AK.


Students can volunteer for service with various AmeriCorps programs including VISTA, State and National programs.  Since its creation in 1994, AmeriCorps has awarded more than $2.4 billion for education. Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards of $4,725 are awarded for each year of service. The awards can be applied to qualifying student loans or future education expenses and volunteers may be able to postpone student loan payments during their service.

Volunteers: Beware of bogus debt consolidators

Joshua Cohen, the Student Loan Lawyer, cautions against looking for a quick fix for student loan debt from “student loan consolidators.” Cohen provides student loan assistance and helps people understand their situation and all options.

“Have I helped volunteers consolidate?  No, I’ve helped borrowers, volunteer or other, manage their student loans.  The bottom line, unless doing long-term Peace Corps, short term volunteering doesn’t do anything to reduce student loan debt,” said Cohen via email.

The Illinois Attorney General sued two student loan scammers last year.

For Bmod, I’m Terry Gardner.

Cover Art: The Dream (1910) by French post-impressionist painter Henri Rousseau (1855-1910), freely available in the public domain.

Terry Gardner

Author: Terry Gardner

Based in Santa Monica, CA, Terry Gardner is a freelance journalist whose passion for travel, scuba diving and the environment led to a career as a travel journalist. She blogs for various websites, including the Los Angeles Times Travel & Deal blog and Huffington Post. Terry's website is Her Twitter and Facebook handles are terrytravels1.

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