Personal Finance

Here are some ways to pay off student loans, using other people's money

Key Points
  • More employers are looking into offering student debt assistance.
  • Yes, volunteering can bring you debt relief.
3 ways to get other people to pay off your student loans
3 ways to get other people to pay off your student loans

As student debt grows, so do the plans to squelch it.

A new federal program offers up to $75,000 in student loan relief for those who work for three years in the health-care field, battling the opioid epidemic.

Meanwhile, student loan assistance, which started as a niche offering by a handful of companies, is finding its way into the mainstream menu of workplace benefits.

Some of the other ideas are pretty creative: New Jersey, for example, considered establishing a lottery for borrowers burdened by student debt. Other ways of garnering money to eliminate your education debt don't rely on luck, but rather require rolling up your sleeves or knowing historical facts.

Keep in mind, however, that these endeavors aren't free aid. The funds are taxable, even money from an organization in return for volunteer work.

"All money you receive for volunteering or win on a trivia app or lottery is considered income by the IRS," said Mark Kantrowitz, a student loan expert.

Here are some of the ways to get other people to pay off your debt.

1) At your job

Wang Zhao | AFP/Getty Images

"In order to attract and retain talent, employers are looking at offering contributions to people's student loans," said Katie Berliner, account executive at YouDecide, a benefits firm.

Companies that have offered their employees help with their student loans include Aetna, Penguin Random House, Nvidia and Sotheby's.

A spokesman for Fidelity said nearly 60 companies — including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, New York Air Brake and Millennium Trust — are currently (or will soon be) using its student debt employer contribution program. (Fidelity also offers a student debt benefit for its own employees.)

"Do a quick Google search and find the employers who are out there doing this," Berliner said.

Most likely the company you're interviewing with won't offer the benefit, yet that shouldn't stop you from asking about it, Berliner said.

"In the course of the interview, there comes a point where the interviewer says, 'Do you have any questions?'" Berliner said. "It would not be out of line to say: 'I want to get your perspective on whether you think this a valuable benefit.'"

2) Volunteering

Some organizations will help you pay off your student loans if you offer to do volunteer work.

Check out, where you can search to help in fields like disaster relief or politics, and will receive payments to put toward your education debt in return.

Borrowers can enroll with Shared Harvest Fund. Users create a profile and list the social causes they're interested in, such as gender equality or homelessness. You'll work on projects for nonprofits and businesses and receive a monthly stipend of $250 to $1,000.

3) Packing up and moving


To attract younger residents, Maine is offering student debt relief to graduates who live and work in the state.

The details of the program vary based on when you graduated and whether you are from Maine or elsewhere. But generally, people are able to subtract their total student loan payments over the year from their state income tax liability. So if you owe the state $2,000 in state income taxes and you paid $1,800 in student loans, you'll owe Maine just $200.

Newburgh Heights, Ohio, has another offer for student loan borrowers.

If you're a graduate from a four-year accredited college or university and purchase a house in the town valued at $50,000 or more within five years of graduating, the town will pay off half of your student debt, up to $50,000.

There are two payouts, 80 percent at the 10 year-mark and the final 20 percent after the 15 years. Even if you've paid off your student loans by that time, you'll receive the funds for the amount you owed when you first enrolled in the town's program.

4) Apps/online

Givling is an app that lets student loan borrowers play trivia, with the winning team each week earning roughly $5,000 per person. "Some people are not the best trivia players, but they're motivated to get help with their student loans," said Seth Beard, Givling's chief marketing officer.

You can register your student loan account with Gift of College, an education registry, and then share your profile with friends and family, who can contribute funds directly to your debt. Nadine Perry, director of marketing at Gift of College, said: "Wouldn't you rather get Aunt Emma to kick in toward your student loans than give you another ugly sweater for Christmas?"

More from Personal Finance:
Here's how to retire abroad — without any tax surprises
Tax cuts trump the market's recent volatility for most Americans, new study finds
Tax bill will slash by half the number of homeowners claiming the mortgage deduction