If you’re one of the 44 million Americans with student loan debt, you probably dream of getting help repaying your loans. But, did you know that where you live and what kind of work you do could entitle you to loan forgiveness? It may sound too good to be true, but there are legitimate repayment assistance programs out there that can make your debt more manageable.
If you live in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible for one of its two state student loan forgiveness programs. There's one for healthcare professional and once for attorneys.
1. Repayment assistance for healthcare professionals
If you work in healthcare, you could be eligible for the Pennsylvania Primary Health Care Loan Repayment Program (LRP). The Pennsylvania Department of Health offers this program to recruit and retain primary care practitioners in the state.
How the program works
To qualify for the LRP, you must be willing to work for at least two years at an approved outpatient primary care facility.
The awards are made based on availability of funding, so there’s no guarantee you’ll receive the full amount. The maximum grant awards vary based on your occupation:
The facility you work for must be in an underserved area or serve low-income populations as designated by the LRP. You can view a list of LRP-approved sites on the Department of Health website.
Which loans are eligible
Both federal and private student loans are eligible for the LRP. If you refinanced or consolidated your loans, you may still be eligible if each of your loans would have qualified before you refinanced.
Loans that you cosigned for someone else or took out for a child are not eligible.
Other forms of related education debt, such as personal loans or credit card debt, do not qualify for the LRP grant.
How to apply
To apply, you must gather the following documentation:
Loan account statement detailing the name of the borrower, the remaining balance, and the current interest rate.
Disbursement report detailing the name of borrow, type of loan, loan origination date, and loan amount.
Once you have that information together, you can complete the LRP application online. Note: Funds are only disbursed once per year. The application window for 2018 was January 18 through February 21. To apply for 2019, set a calendar reminder to check back in early January.
2. Repayment assistance for lawyers
According to Above the Law, the average law school graduate walks away with $112,776 in student loans. With such a high debt load, it can be difficult to focus on other goals, like saving for retirement or buying a home.
Luckily, Pennsylvania offers some law school graduates relief. To encourage lawyers to work in public service, the state gives borrowers loans which they can use to repay a portion of their debt. The amount of assistance you can receive is dependent on program funding and the number of attorneys that apply that year.
How the program works
To qualify for the program, you must be licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and practice as an employee of an Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA)-funded organization. IOLTA-funded organizations typically serve low-income communities in which residents traditionally have difficult finding legal aid.
To qualify, your salary cannot exceed $66,000. However, if your annual student loan debt payments are equal to or greater than 10% of your annual income, you may still be eligible regardless of your income.
The repayment assistance program issues 12-month loans, which you use to pay off your student loans. If you complete the service term, the loans are forgiven and don’t need to be repaid.
Which loans are eligible
Federal and private loans are eligible for repayment assistance. Other forms of debt, such as personal loans, do not qualify. You can receive up to ten years of repayment assistance.
How to apply
To apply, you must create an account with WebGrants. Once you have an account, you’ll be able to fill out the application online. The site will prompt you to enter your personal information, including your name, address, student loan debt amount, and employer details.
Note: Loan assistance is administered once a year. The application window for 2018 was September 18 through mid-October. To apply for 2019, set a calendar reminder to check back in early September of 2019.
What to do if you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness
If you don’t qualify for one of the Pennsylvania repayment assistance programs, don’t give up hope. There are three other ways to make your debt more manageable.
1. Research federal programs and grants
There are federal programs and grants available that might discharge some or all of your current student loans. For example, if you work for a non-profit organization or a government agency, you could qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
To find other programs that might be relevant for your career, check out our Ultimate List of Grants to Pay Off Your Student Loans.
2. Sign up for an income-driven repayment plan
If you have federal loans, you may be eligible for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Under an IDR plan, your loan servicer extends your repayment term and caps your payment at a percentage of your discretionary income. Some borrowers will apply for a payment as low as $0.
3. Refinance your loans
If you need to lower your monthly payment or if you want to reduce your interest rate, consider refinancing your student loans. With refinancing, you work with a private lender to take out a new loan for the amount of your old ones. The new loan has different terms, such as interest rate and minimum monthly payment. Many people who refinance are able to lower their payments by up to $250 a month.
If you're interested in investigating refinancing, a good first step is to get a quote online and find out how much you can save.