If you’re a New Jersey student loan borrower, you might have a tough road ahead of you, especially if you borrowed directly from the state, via the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA).
A New York Times report revealed that HESAA loans come with higher-than-average interest rates, a lack of borrowing caps that could help consumers borrow within reason, and nearly impossible-to-get-out-of terms (even upon sickness or death).
The report quoted bankruptcy lawyer Daniel Frischberg as comparing HESAA’s practices to “state-sanctioned loan sharking” that sets borrowers up to fail. In reaction, state lawmakers held hearings and passed legislation to address some of these issues, including repealing a law that caused attorneys to lose their licenses if they defaulted on their student loans. But even with these strides, critics say that not enough has been done.
There is some good news here, though. Although the state is still working through challenges with its student loan program, New Jersey also offers some repayment assistance programs to help.
If you’re one of the 44.2 million Americans in student loan debt and you happen to live in the Garden State, here’s how you can get help paying off your student loans.
The state of student loan debt in New Jersey
Besides having potential room for improvement on student loans, the state also ranks highly on the cost of in-state tuition. Here are some details on New Jersey student loan debt from the Student Loan Report and 24/7 Wall Street:
- The average debt at graduation is more than $19,000.
- The cost of in-state tuition is among the highest in the nation, beaten by only three other states, also in the Northeast.
- New Jersey has the highest number of students leaving the state for college — in fall of 2016, 27,000 college-bound students went to school out of state.
On the other hand, some New Jersey schools are battling high tuition with programs such as Rutgers’ RU-N to the TOP, which provides free tuition for low-income families.
Resources to help with New Jersey student loans
As for what you can do if you’re one of the many New Jerseyans battling student loans, there are current New Jersey student loan repayment assistance programs you might be able to qualify for.
Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program
This program was created to address a shortage of faculty members at nursing schools in the state. Since becoming an educator in nursing requires a graduate degree, this program incentivizes that with tuition pay-back in exchange for five years of full-time work at a nursing school after graduation.
However, the graduate program you attend must be one of the approved programs, such as a master’s degree in nursing (MSN), a doctor of nursing science (DNS), a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), or a Ph.D. in nursing or “another related field of study.” You also need to have maintained a 3.0 GPA in your program.
Once you graduate, you can qualify for the Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program if you obtain full-time faculty employment at a nursing school in New Jersey within one year of completing your graduate degree. Payments from this program will be sent to your student loan servicer and max out as follows:
- $5,000 for your first year
- $7,000 for your second year
- $10,000 for your third year
- $13,000 for your fourth year
- $15,000 for your fifth year
- No more than $50,000 is allowed for the entire loan redemption
You can find more information about this program through HESAA. Call them with questions at (609) 584-4480, and apply using HESAA’s form.
Primary Care Physician and Dentist Loan Redemption Program
If you’re a physician, physician assistant, certified nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, or dentist working in an underserved community in New Jersey, this program can help you repay your student loans.
Primary Care Physician and Dentist Loan Redemption Program recipients can get student loan redemptions of up to $120,000. The redemption is in exchange for two to four years of service as a primary care provider in areas experiencing a critical shortage of such professionals. To be eligible, you must begin your service in one of these areas within two years of completing your training or residency.
You’re required to work full-time for the first two years. You can then receive an extension by serving either another two years of full-time work, or four years of part-time work.
You can apply using this form from the program. More information is available via HESAA or the program’s website. As of the fall of this year, applicants are being waitlisted due to a high volume of interest in the program.
Your school or your employer
Don’t just look to the state for assistance repaying your student loans — your alma mater and your employer might have programs to help as well.
For example, many law schools offer their own student loan repayment assistance programs. Eligibility for these programs, like the ones above, will depend on where you choose to work. Check out the assistance offered by Rutgers Law School and Seton Hall University School of Law to see what these programs look like. Then check with your school to see if they have anything like it.
As for your workplace, many employers are starting to help their staff with student loan repayment. In January of last year, New Jersey Business reported that boutique law firm Trenk DiPasquale would begin assisting its employees in repaying their student loans as part of the firm’s employee benefits package.
If your employer isn’t yet offering a program like this, consider presenting the idea to your human resources department — not just for you, but also as a recruitment tool for millennials.
Statute of limitations on debt in New Jersey
So what happens if you’re deep in New Jersey student loan debt — and deep in New Jersey student loan default? The statute of limitations on debt in New Jersey could be on your side.
This means that debt in default has a time limit after which it becomes “time-barred.” Once that happens, collectors can still sue you for the debt, but you can use this statute as a defense and potentially win your case.
However, if you make a payment on a debt in default, the clock immediately restarts. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make an effort to repay your debt — just that doing so clears out any time that has passed in leading up to the statute of limitations so far.
Currently, there’s only a statute of limitation on private student loans. Federal student loans are exempt from this law. As of right now, the statute of limitations on debt in New Jersey is six years.
Don’t stop your search here for New Jersey student loan help
If you don’t work in medicine, or your employer or school don’t offer student loan repayment assistance, don’t lose hope. Although there might not be New Jersey-sponsored programs to help you with your loans, there are other ways to get help.
For example, there are federal student loan forgiveness programs that help teachers, non-profit workers, government employees, and others to obtain forgiveness for their loans. And if you’re struggling to repay and don’t qualify for these programs, you can lower your monthly payments with an income-driven repayment plan and apply for forgiveness after the required number of consecutive payments.
Just keep in mind that most forgiven student loan debt, no matter which of the programs listed in this article you use, are subject to income tax. Prepare yourself so you’re not shocked by a tax bill if your debt is forgiven.
Finally, if you’d like to see your state offer more than it does now, consider reaching out to your elected representatives. You can find out who your senators and representatives are and how to contact them, via GovTrack. It might not seem like a big deal, but the more New Jersey residents who urge change, the more likely real improvements can come to student loan borrowers such as yourself.
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