Colorado residents nestled in the Rockies don’t just benefit from clean air, exciting winter sports, and beautiful scenery year-round. They also boast some of the lowest student loan debt averages in the nation.
According to The Institute for College Access and Success, Colorado ranks among the 15 states with the least student loan debt. Specifically, 53 percent of its population with a bachelor’s degree hold student loans, with an average student debt load of $26,520 — well under the average of $37,172 in loans carried by the Class of 2016.
But that doesn’t mean some Colorado borrowers couldn’t use a little help. If you need assistance with student loan forgiveness in Colorado, listen up. Here are a few student loan repayment assistance programs you might qualify for.
How to get student loan forgiveness in Colorado
As is the case with most U.S. states, student loan forgiveness in Colorado is tied to the kind of work you do. Health practitioners will get the most help, though there are options for other grads as well.
1. Colorado Health Service Corps
First of all, let’s talk about the Colorado Health Service Corps. This generous program is available to a wide variety of health professionals.
Qualified professionals include not only physicians (both allopathic and osteopathic), but also certified nurse-midwives, clinical pharmacists, dentists, licensed clinical or counseling psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychiatric nurse specialists, and registered dental hygienists.
If you’re one of the health practitioners listed above, you can qualify if you work for three years in a designated health professional shortage area. Here’s what you’ll get in return:
- Physicians and dentists can receive $90,000 in student loan repayment assistance if they work full-time for the three years, or $45,000 if they work part-time.
- Physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, clinical pharmacists, and licensed mental health providers can get $50,000 if they work full-time, or $25,000 for a part-time commitment.
- Dental hygienists can earn $20,000 if they work full-time work, and $10,000 if they work part-time.
If you meet these criteria, check back on the listing for this program in March to apply.
2. Rural Essential Access Provider (REAP) Loan Repayment Program
The qualified list of medical practitioners for the Rural Essential Access Provider (REAP) Loan Repayment Program is the same as the one above, except for dentists. (But if you’re a dentist working in a rural area, you can still get help with the next program on the list.)
Check this up-to-date list of REAP approved sites to see if your workplace is eligible. Here’s what you can get for working for two years at one of these facilities:
- $30,000 for full-time physicians, and $15,000 for part-time physicians.
- $15,000 for full-time physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, clinical pharmacists, and licensed mental health providers, and $7,500 for part-timers.
If you think you qualify, you can apply year-round via this portal.
3. State Dental Loan Repayment Program
All right, dentists, here’s some information on student loan forgiveness in Colorado just for you. Whether you’re a general dentist, pediatric dentist, or a dental hygienist, you can get help from the State Dental Loan Repayment Program.
You don’t have to have a specific type of practice to qualify. Dentists working in public, nonprofit, or private practices are eligible. You simply must commit to serve uninsured patients or patients with Medicaid or CHP+ at the same site for two years.
The total amount of student loan repayment assistance you receive depends on how many underserved patients you see per month on average:
- Dentists can get $50,000 in student loan repayment assistance if they see 80 or more underserved patients per month, $37,500 if they see 60 to 79, or $25,000 if they see 20 to 59.
- Dental hygienists can receive $12,000 toward their student loans if they see 80 or more underserved patients per month, $8,000 if they see 60 to 79, or $6,000 if they see 20 to 59.
Applications are accepted from March through September and are available via the same application used for the Colorado Health Service Corps.
4. Law school student loan repayment assistance programs
Health practitioners aren’t the only ones who can get student loan forgiveness in Colorado. Some public interest lawyers can get help from their alma maters.
Law graduates of the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver are eligible for student loan repayment assistance if they graduated after May 2003, work in public service, and earn less than $75,000 per year. Applications open up in December and are due by January 26, 2018.
Qualified lawyers can earn this award for up to five years, receiving 15 to 75 percent of their monthly student loan payments on the Income-Based Repayment(IBR) or PAYE repayment plans.
Graduates of Colorado Law at the University of Colorado Boulder are eligible for student loan repayment assistance if they earn less than $63,000 per year and have public interest employment. They don’t need to have passed the bar if their employer does not require it.
If you qualify, you can get up to $6,500 per year toward your student loans for no more than five years. The application was due on October 6, but interested lawyers can check back next year.
Statute of limitations on student loan debt in Colorado
Regardless of your employment, if you’ve been in default on private student loans for six years or longer, your loans could be “time-barred.”
Time-barred student loan debt doesn’t disappear, but debt collectors can no longer successfully sue you for debt repayment. This rule is known as the statute of limitations on debt.
However, federal student loans are exempt from this law. And if you make a payment on a past-due debt, the clock immediately restarts on the statute of limitations.
If all else fails, federal programs can help
So what happens if you aren’t a lawyer or health practitioner, and aren’t in default, but you still need student loan forgiveness in Colorado? You might be able to use federal student loan repayment programs to help, such as with income-driven repayment plans that cap your monthly payments at a manageable level.
You can also lobby your local senators and representatives to create student loan repayment programs for your income or line of work. Although that might not change your situation today, it’s your chance to exercise your rights as a voter and help student loan borrowers like you to have a voice.
Even with help on student loan repayment, paying off these loans can be a long game. Keep an eye out for programs like these that can help and maintain a student loan payoff plan you can follow. Believe it or not, there can be a day when these loans are nothing but a memory.
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