I’ll never forget when I sat down after graduation from college to make a plan to pay off my student loans. I started out with about $40,000 in debt and decided I was going to 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.
Of course, my so-called plan had no bearing on reality. How would I get this magical $40,000 per year job right out of college? And who said my parents would let me live with them rent-free, even for just two years?
Ah, youth. As you probably figured out, my plan didn’t come to fruition. It took me quite a while, in fact, to even come close to making 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 intend to make a real plan to pay off your loans, there are programs out there to help. Here’s your ultimate guide to loan repayment assistance and student loan forgiveness in Ohio.
The state of Ohio student loans
Confession time: Even though I lived in Ohio, I went to college in Kentucky. And that decision cost me nearly double in tuition. But I was young, had my sights set on a particular type of college, and blindly followed the path to student loan debt.
I mean, everyone has student loan debt, right?
That’s what I thought when I was in school — and the stats aren’t too far off now. Recent data on student loan debt by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) places Ohio as the eighth-highest state regarding the percentage of people with student loan debt. And it ranks 10th in the average amount of student loan debt per person.
Specifically, 66 percent of Ohioans have student loan debt, with the average amount being $30,239.
More than $30,000 straight out of college is no small chunk of change. That’s why you need to know about how to find loan repayment assistance and student loan forgiveness in Ohio.
Student loan forgiveness and repayment in Ohio
Compared to some other states, there aren’t a lot of programs offering loan repayment assistance or student loan forgiveness in Ohio. But there are a few that can help — particularly if you’re a lawyer, dentist, or physician.
Here’s a look at what people in those fields can do about their Ohio student loans.
1. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
Let’s start off with a program for lawyers. Multiple states offer the John. R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program, Ohio included. This program is available to state and federal public defenders or state prosecutors.
But to get it, you must also agree that you’ll remain as such for a minimum of three years. And you must not be in default on your federal student loans.
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.
If you receive funds from this program to help pay your Ohio student loans, you can get up to $10,000 per year, but no more than $60,000 in total, according to Equal Justice Works. Unfortunately, if you have private loans or Parent PLUS loans, you’re not eligible.
2. Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program
If you’re a dentist or dental hygienist working in an underserved area, the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program (ODLRP) can help you pay off your student loans.
This program is outlined by the Ohio Department of Health and is available to either a general or pediatric dentists and dental hygienists. But there are a few stipulations you must follow:
- You must practice between 20 and 40 hours a week and provide services at the agreed-upon sites.
- You must serve Medicaid-eligible patients, whether or not they can pay.
- If it’s in your contract, you can teach on-site for a limited amount of time.
In exchange for this, participants of ODLRP will receive help with all or some of their federal or private loans taken out for dental school or dental hygiene college. That can include not just tuition, but also other costs, such as room and board, books, and lab expenses. The Ohio director of health determines the amount of the award.
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).
Just as the one for dentists, this program is meant to help underserved communities. Any physician who accepts this loan repayment help does so with the promise to work for at least two years in such a community. Similarly, the physician must be willing to see patients whether or not they can pay, and they must also accept Medicare and Medicaid.
Here’s what you can get 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 continue on for another year or two, you can get up to $35,000 for your medical school debt.
- If you’re 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 psychology.
4. Loan repayment assistance from your school
Many schools also offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) for graduates of specific majors. If none of the aforementioned programs can help you, contact your alma mater (or look on their website) to see if your major might make you eligible for an LRAP.
5. Grants and scholarships for Ohio students
Besides the above options for Ohio student loan forgiveness, there are a variety of grants and scholarships to discuss for incoming students. They won’t help you if you’ve already graduated, but if you’re an incoming student, take a look.
The Department of Education’s website, OhioHigherEd, lists the current grants and scholarships as follows:
- Choose Ohio First (for STEMM students)
- Opportunities for Veterans (for active service members and veterans, and sometimes family members)
- Ohio College Opportunity Grant (for those with a great deal of financial need)
- Nurse Education Assistance Program (for students in approved Ohio nursing programs)
- Ohio War Orphans Scholarship (for children of deceased or severely disabled Ohio veterans who served in combat)
- Ohio Safety Officers College Memorial Fund (for Ohio children and spouses of safety officers who lost their lives in the U.S. in the line of duty, as well as those of service members who died during specific operations)
- Forever Buckeyes (in-state tuition for Ohio high school graduates who go out of state but transfer back to an Ohio school and establish residency in the state)
- Geological Survey Grant Program (for students doing geological research in Ohio)
And finally, they feature a specific scholarship search tool for Ohio.
Statute of limitations on Ohio student loans
So what happens if you’re already in default on your Ohio student loans and have little ability to rehabilitate them? Depending on when you made your last payment, the statute of limitations might be on your side.
When debt surpasses the statute of limitations, it becomes what’s called “time-barred” debt. Although you technically still owe that money, repayment of it is no longer enforceable by law.
In other words, a debt collector can sue you for it, but if you show up to court and prove your debt is time-barred, they won’t win the case. But they can continue to try to collect.
The statute of limitations varies by state and is broken down by different types of debt. Student loan debt would fall into the “written contracts” category, which becomes time-barred in Ohio after eight years, according to the Ohio Revised Code § 2306.06.
Here’s the bad news: Federal loans are exempt from this law. Therefore, only private student loans can become time-barred.
And one more thing: Anytime you make a payment on your debt, the statute of limitations starts over. That means even if you just had one month to go, one payment would completely restart the clock.
Make the most of Ohio student loan forgiveness
Whether you’re a born and raised Ohioan like me or recently moved there for work, see if you can get help with loan repayment assistance and student loan forgiveness in Ohio. And 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 Ohio representatives. Coming from or living in a proudly political state, you’d be remiss not to if you’re feeling left in the dust concerning Ohio student loan forgiveness.
Either way, you can 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.
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