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Paying your student loans can take a long time. Here are a few unusual ways to speed up the process.

8 minute read

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If you’re drowning in student loan debt, join the military, spend a year teaching in an urban school, or sell your blood plasma.

Sound different? You’re right. But the average borrower is $30,000 in the hole on graduation day. And 40 percent of them are expected to default in the next few years, according to the Brookings Institute. [1] Your loans don’t need to make you desperate, you just have to get a little creative.

Here are 10 ways you can do that — and one normal way…

1. Pick up a side hustle

One easy way to boost your income is to pick up a job or two on the side. This will help you put as much money into your student loan payments as possible while avoiding interest.

Here are a few easy ways to make extra money outside of your 9-to-5 job:

  • Charge scooters: Get paid to pick up ride-sharing scooters and charge them at home with apps like Bird and Lime.
  • Sell cosmetics: There are a few companies that hire people to sell their cosmetic products. You’d be an affiliate, selling their products in your free time. A few are Avon, Mary Kay, Younique, and Jamberry.
  • Become a bartender: Serve drinks at night, and take advantage of high tips after you leave the office. You can find bartending jobs with ZipRecruiter.
  • Join Handy: Handy is an app where people can hire a “handyman” (or woman) to pick up jobs around the house — things like cleaning, fixing, or mowing the lawn.
  • Become a driver: Make money on your own time while driving people around with Uber or Lyft, if you have the right car and meet requirements.
  • Deliver groceries: All right, this may be similar to the above suggestion — but maybe you’re not a people person. Rather than chauffeuring others around, you can simply drop off groceries to their door as a driver for Instacart.

After increasing your income with a side hustle, put all (yes, ALL) the money you made down on your student loan payments. Making just the minimum payment will leave you paying a lot more in interest.

2. Use your spare change

Have you ever kept a jar to collect your leftover change? There are apps that allow you to do the same, but digitally. The Qoins app collects spare change from your bank account and applies it to the debt of your choice. In this case, your student loans.

Qoins monitors your checking account for regular charges and rounds them up to the nearest dollar. When you’ve made enough charges that add up to $5.00 worth of change, the app transfers it from the “funding” account, and stores it in your Qoins account. At the end of the month, Qoins uses the accumulated change to pay your lender.

Because it’s automated this is a great debt repayment tool for forgetful types. Neglecting to make the minimum payments on your student loans puts you at risk for default, which can wreak havoc on your credit score.

Student loans are considered delinquent after missing payment for 90 days. [2] And some private lenders will report you to the credit bureaus after the first offense.

Having that extra payment set to automatically withdrawal really helps for those among this camp. Qoins will notify you of the withdrawal every month, in case you’re short of cash. But overall, it’s a “set it, forget it” way to pay down debt. There is one caveat: You have to pay a $1.99 monthly service fee to use the app.

3. Join the military to pay off your debt

This one’s a bit backward. Most people join the military, then go to school after they’ve served with the GI bill — which pays for a chunk of your college in exchange for enlisting. But that doesn’t mean it won’t work the other way around.

There are a few repayment programs for the different branches of the military, including the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and a repayment plan specifically for health professionals.

The Army student loan repayment program will pay 33 ⅓  percent or $1,500 (whichever is greater) toward the unpaid principal balance, according to The Simple Dollar. [3] This amount is for each year you’re enlisted in active duty.

The Navy loan repayment program requires you to serve for at least three years in your first enlistment. If you’re eligible, they’ll pay the same amount as the Army. And you can receive up to $65,000 in loan forgiveness.

The Air Force College Loan Repayment Program would pay up to $10,000 of your student loan balance.

If you enlist as an active duty health professional, you could be eligible to receive $40,000 a year for up to three years toward your student loan debt.

Joining the military may help you save to pay down even more debt as well. You won’t need to pay any bills while you’re deployed, so in theory, you could use your salary to pay whatever the military doesn’t. And it may sound like this isn’t a fast way to pay your debts, but consider that the average student debt holder takes more than 20 years to pay back their student loans. [4]

4. Cash out on your college’s collapse

ITT Technical Institute was a for-profit college that closed in 2016. That meant all of the students who were enrolled were out of a degree.

Most of those students were eligible for student loan forgiveness under the closed school discharge. [5] So if your school shut down while you were attending, or shortly after you withdrew, you actually might be eligible for forgiveness.

To obtain student loan forgiveness under the Closed School Discharge you should contact your loan servicer about the application process for getting your loan discharged.

If your forgiveness application is approved, not only will you not have to make any further payments but you will receive a refund of payments made voluntarily or through forced collection.

There are some big gotchas to avoid or you will lose the benefit of the student loan forgiveness if you are eligible.

You may lose your eligibility if you:

  • Transfer credits to a different school.
  • Graduated and received a degree.
  • You accept a “teach-out” plan to allow you to finish your degree at another school.

5. Volunteer away your debt

If you’ve got thousands in student loan debt and you’re not sure what you want to do with your life yet, defer a couple of years and work for free.

The AmeriCorps is a network of community service programs where members work to help advance critical communities. People who sign up for AmeriCorps qualify for loan forbearance. This means you can postpone payments on both the interest and principal of your student loans, and after one year of service, receive the $5,645 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to put toward your loans.

Kelsey Burritt graduated from the University of Rochester with an English and creative writing degree. She had no idea what she wanted to do with her degree, but she knew she wanted to make a difference…and pay off some of her debt.

Kelsey’s year in AmeriCorps, [6] which she spent working at an elementary school in Rochester, helped her pay off her debt, and fulfill her postgraduate dream of changing the world in some way.

6. Donate your eggs/sperm

This may just be the weirdest way to get on top of your loans, but helping infertile couples conceive pays off.

Donating eggs can pay on average $5,000 to $10,000 per procedure, according to MarketWatch. [7] And it’s convenient that donation clinics accept mostly people with college degrees. Donating sperm pays a little less: $100 to $125 per donation, but the process is easier than donating eggs. And men can donate weekly and make around $1,000 a month.

Both egg and sperm donation require a lengthy process to be accepted, and not everyone is. Here are a few things to keep in mind before cashing out on your reproductive system:

  • It’s potentially dangerous
  • You have to be a near-perfect candidate to be accepted
  • If your egg/sperm is used to conceive, the child may be able to contact you at some point.

7. Trade your plasma for cash

Everyone knows that giving blood is a great way to give back. They also know that giving blood can be extremely profitable. A blood plasma donor can earn almost $50 per donation. You can earn even more if you have certain rarer blood types, since there’s such a demand for them.

There’s often a waiting time of at least eight weeks with the Red Cross, but once you’re in you can become a regular donor and a regular earner.

8. Get a job with an employer offering student loan perks

Student loan debt has become such a hot topic of discussion that some companies now offer help as a perk of the job. The way it works is they’ll service your debt in exchange for working with them. It acts very much in the same way as a pension plan or private health insurance.

The student loan repayment system will help graduates to pay off their debts by offering an employer-matching contributing system. [8] This means that you could rid yourself of that large figure on your balance sheet in roughly half the time.

Take note that only a limited number of companies are offering this as a perk. Plus, you might have to trade in some other perks in order to get it.

9. Diversify your income

A diversified portfolio of income streams used to be considered a luxury. It no longer is and has become a necessity when so many put college on their credit cards. Smart graduates have decided to set up startups and come up with other income streams to get some extra money to pay their debts.

Student loan debt can soon disappear if you have multiple income streams. If you have a passive income stream you can even pay off your student loans without thinking about it.

10. Is it possible to escape your student loans?

The US is a country that has come down heavily on people trying to get out of paying back student loans. [9] It’s now the only loan that can be passed to your family when you die. It also can’t be discharged by declaring bankruptcy. In short, there’s no real way to get out of paying your student loan debt.

Some students have even taken to running away from the US and starting a new life in another country. [10] Technically, this is a way of avoiding the repayments, but those who left must keep in mind they can never return to the country they were born in.

Is it worth it?

If you have no intention of ever returning to the US it’s a good idea, but making such a decision at a young age isn’t wise. You should seriously consider whether your debt situation is truly that bad before you make such a rash move.

Tips for paying off your student loans

All of these weird ways could potentially help you pay off your student loans quickly, but these are circumstantial. Here’s the sure-fire way to pay off your student loans if you aren’t daring enough to enlist in the military.

  1. Set a target payoff date to motivate yourself
  2. Check into refinancing or a private loan to get a lower interest rate
  3. Swear off forbearances so interest doesn’t add up
  4. Prepare to sacrifice — find a roommate, start a side hustle, and cut back on luxuries to put down more toward your debt
  5. Keep track of each payment in a spreadsheet and calculate how much is left

For more tips to pay off your student loans, visit Debt.com’s guide How to Get Out of Student Loan Debt.

Cameren Boatner contributed to this report.

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About the Author

Jess Miller

Jess Miller

Miller is the former assistant editor of Debt.com.

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