A consequence of a tight job market in New Jersey and elsewhere has been that more people have been seeking to gain a competitive employment advantage by going to college, often using student loans to pay for it. A related consequence is that student loan debt in the United States has been increasing to remarkable amounts: by the end of last year, the cumulative amount of student loan balances has topped $800 billion and is still increasing.

A college education is not necessarily a ticket to a good job and a high salary, and what many college students are discovering upon graduation is that not only can a high-paying job still be elusive, but now those student loans are a financial albatross. Which for some who are experiencing difficulty keeping up with the monthly payments can lead to the question, “Is there any way that I can get out from under all this debt?”

We have already covered the topic of student loans and bankruptcy in earlier posts. Suffice it to say that while it is not impossible to have them discharged, it is difficult to qualify for through bankruptcy absent being able to prove that repayment would constitute an “undue hardship.” Bet are there any other, non-bankruptcy ways to eliminate or reduce student loan debt?

There may be, but it will depend on whether you qualify for either federal or New Jersey state loan forgiveness programs. These programs will typically allow some or all of your student loans to be “forgiven” in exchange for your agreement to enter into some form of public service, such as becoming a teacher or a doctor and agreeing to practice in locations where such professionals are relatively scarce.

What is important to remember about these kinds of loan forgiveness programs is that they require some advance planning. You cannot take your Art History degree, for example, and expect to have your loans forgiven through a program intended for attorneys, doctors or nurses. What is more, some of these programs have exacting qualification requirements that could make them unavailable right away even if you have the right major.

If you are experiencing debt that is seemingly unmanageable, talking with an attorney about debt relief options, including bankruptcy, if need be, can be your first step to understanding what your choices are, and how to exercise them.