When I graduated from college with about $40,000 in debt, I decided I would get a job making $40,000 per year, live with my parents in their apartment in Cincinnati, and pay off my loans in two years.
But my plan didn’t exactly come to fruition. It took me a while to make that much money — though my parents did allow me to live with them. And now several years (and states) later, I still have student loan debt on my plate.
If you’re a Buckeye, too — or if you’ve moved to Ohio from another state — and you want to pay off your loans, there are programs that can help you get rid of debt faster than I did.
Here’s everything you need to know about Ohio student loan forgiveness and repayment.
Ohio student loan forgiveness and repayment programs
According to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), student loan debt held by Ohio bachelor’s degree recipients at four-year colleges was the 18th highest in the country. The report also showed that 60% of Ohio graduates have student loans, with an average balance of $30,323.
If you’re struggling with student loan debt, it’s important to learn about student loan forgiveness programs available, including federal options like Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But you may also be eligible for other programs as a resident of Ohio.
1. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
If you work in Ohio as a state or federal public defender or state prosecutor, you may be eligible for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program. If you qualify, you could receive up to $10,000 per year, up to a total of $60,000 in repayment assistance. In return, you must commit to working for at least three years as a public defender or prosecutor.
Below are some specifics on the requirements for this program:
- Attorneys must be licensed to practice law, without interruption.
- Prosecutors and public defenders must work for state or local government and on criminal cases or cases involving juvenile delinquency, including for indigent persons if you’re a public defender.
- Federal defense attorneys can also be eligible if they work on the cases mentioned above, although prosecutors employed by the federal government do not qualify.
- Private practice attorneys aren’t eligible, even if they’re contracted through the state.
- Attorneys who are supervising or training prosecutors or public defenders are eligible.
Only federal student loans, including Federal Family Education Loan Program loans and direct loans, qualify. Loans in default, parent PLUS loans and private loans are not eligible for loan repayment assistance.
2. Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program and the Ohio Dental Hygienist Loan Repayment Program
If you’re a dentist or dental hygienist working in an underserved area, the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program (ODLRP) or the Ohio Dental Hygienist Loan Repayment Program (ODHLRP) can help you pay off your student loans.
Full-time applicants who work at least 40 hours a week for two years will receive up to $25,000 per year to repay student loans. If you continue to serve at your practice site for a third or fourth year, you may receive up to $35,000 per year. Part-time recipients, meaning those who work 20 to 39 hours per week, are eligible for up to half the amount of full-time recipients.
This program is available to general and pediatric dentists and dental hygienists. But there are a few requirements you must follow:
- Practice sites must be located in a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area or a Dental Health Resource Shortage Area
- You must serve Medicaid-eligible patients and accommodate all patients, regardless of their ability to pay
Both federal and private student loans are eligible for this program.
3. Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program
Dentists aren’t the only health practitioners eligible for Ohio loan repayment assistance. Doctors can get similar help through the Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program (OPLRP).
Similar to the program available for dentists, any physician who accepts this loan repayment help must work for two years in an underserved community. The physician must be willing to take patients regardless of their ability to pay, and the physician must also accept Medicare and Medicaid.
Here’s what you can receive if you’re approved to be a part of the program:
- For the first two years, you can receive up to $25,000 to put toward your medical school loans if you work at least 40 hours per week.
- If you maintain eligibility for a third or fourth year, you may get up to $35,000 per year for your medical school debt.
- If you’re considered part-time but work at least 20 hours per week, you’re eligible for half of these amounts.
To qualify, you must offer primary care in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynecology or psychiatry.
4. Loan repayment assistance from your school
Many schools also offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) for graduates of specific majors.
For example, if you graduated from Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, you may be eligible for school-specific aid. The Moritz College of Law’s Repayment Assistance Program was designed to support graduates pursuing careers with the government or nonprofits offering legal services.
Recipients can receive up to $4,000 per year in repayment assistance. To qualify, you must work for a government agency or nonprofit organization and make less than $40,000 per year.
Contact your alma mater to see if you’re eligible for school-specific repayment assistance.
Other options to manage your student loans
Not everyone will qualify for Ohio student loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with your debt, another option to consider is student loan refinancing.
When you refinance, you work with a private lender to take out a loan for the amount of your current debt, including federal and private loans, if you choose. The new loan has different terms than your old ones; you’ll have a new interest rate, minimum monthly payment and loan term length. Moving forward, you’ll have just one loan to manage and one monthly payment to remember.
If you have good credit and a stable income, you could qualify for a lower interest rate, helping you save money. Or, you could reduce your monthly payment by extending your repayment term, giving you more breathing room in your budget. Know that you’ll lose access to federal benefits like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment (IDR) options, however, if you refinance federal loans.
Estimate out how much you could save with a student loan refinancing calculator.
Make the most of Ohio student loan forgiveness
Whether you’re a born-and-raised Ohioan like me or you recently moved there, see if you can get help through Ohio student loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs.
If you don’t see anything you’re eligible for, take it to your representatives. Use GovTrack to find and reach out to your Ohio senators and representatives and share your interest in expanding student loan forgiveness options.
Make sure your debt doesn’t take over your life by taking control of it now. If you need more help, check out our complete guide to student loan forgiveness programs and our guide to paying off student loans faster.
Kat Tretina contributed to this report.