Getting a college education has become necessary for many career paths, but the cost is higher than ever and can be far beyond many families' means without taking out substantial loans. If you are struggling to repay your student loans, forgiveness is available in a variety of circumstances. Learn how your student loan debt can be reduced, even eliminated, through various government programs.

Check your eligibility for student loan forgiveness based on a disability if you have become 100 percent disabled since you last attended college. The federal government requires that you have been diagnosed as completely disabled. To qualify for this form of forgiveness, your doctor must be willing to sign a statement that you are not expected to recover from your disability or be gainfully employed again.

Volunteer for AmeriCorps. This form of student loan forgiveness requires graduated individuals to volunteer for a year of service in AmeriCorps. For 12 months of service, individuals receive a modest living allowance and, as of 2011, more than $5,000 for student loan forgiveness or education expenses upon completion of service.

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Volunteer for VISTA. VISTA, or Volunteers in Service to America, provides hunger relief, education service and general assistance to needy Americans. VISTA is administered by AmeriCorps and offers similar benefits.

Volunteer for the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is an organization of U.S. volunteers working in undeveloped nations. Volunteers with Perkins loans can receive forgiveness of 15 percent of their student loans for the first two years of service and forgiveness of 20 percent of their student loans for the third and fourth years. Additionally, returned volunteers can apply for a Coverdell Fellows Program for graduate school study; the program offers a variety of benefits.

Join the military. Volunteering for a branch of the U.S. military, including the Army National Guard, can provide you with access to one of the military's student loan forgiveness programs. Benefits vary depending on which branch of the service you join, how long you serve, whether your service is full-time or part-time and a number of other factors.

Study medicine or law. Legal and medical graduates are eligible for significant student loan forgiveness in exchange for volunteering their professional services. Graduates should inquire at the college they attended as to what student loan forgiveness programs are available to them. Additionally, medical students should contact the National Health Service Corps for volunteer opportunities in exchange for student loan forgiveness.

Teach in disadvantaged areas. Teachers may have up to 80 percent of their student loans forgiven in exchange for paid teaching in disadvantaged areas. The Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers provides student loan forgiveness that increases with every year of service.

Contact your state student financial aid agency to discuss your options if you were a victim of fraud. If the school you attended failed to provide adequate instruction by qualified teachers or failed to follow through with commitments to students, such as job placement services and loan counseling, you may be eligible for 100 percent student loan forgiveness.

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