Student Loan Repayment and Forgiveness for College Professors

 April 18, 2020
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To pursue a career in academia usually means having to earn multiple degrees. Unfortunately, for many, that also means taking on significant student loan debt.

On average, student loan borrowers who completed a master of arts degree between 2015 to 2016, borrowed an average of nearly $73,000 in student loans. And for a doctorate degree in health sciences, for example, you could have owed more than $202,000 when you graduated, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

However, there are several options for making student loan debt more manageable — including programs that award student loan forgiveness specifically for professors. If you teach at the college level, here’s what you need to know about the student loan forgiveness programs and other repayment options that might be available to you.

Student loan forgiveness for college professors

If you’re a doctoral graduate who’s working toward tenure while repaying student loans, that debt can affect your options for employment and add to your stress. Essentially, rather than making professional choices based on your career goals, you may decide instead to focus on your income potential to help pay back your loans. If this sounds like you, consider the following programs that might help you erase that debt entirely:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

One option for student loan forgiveness for professors is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This program, started in 2007, makes it possible for borrowers working in public service fields to have their loans entirely forgiven once they’ve put in 120 qualifying payments, usually over 10 years. If you’re considering PSLF, take the following steps:

Find out if your college qualifies for PSLF

Your eligibility for PSLF mostly depends on the institution at which you are teaching or researching. You will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Work for a government organization. Professors at public state colleges or city colleges might satisfy this requirement for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
  • Work for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which is what most private, not-for-profit colleges are.

In other words, if the college you work for is a public college or not-for-profit private school, your employment may qualify you for PSLF. This also means it’s not just college professors who can apply for PSLF; if you’re an administrator or a staffer at a nonprofit college, you might be eligible too.

If you’re thinking of applying for PSLF, your first step should be to certify your employer’s eligibility using this form. Once it’s processed, you’ll get a letter indicating whether your employer qualifies for PSLF.

Work 30 hours or more for qualified employers

To qualify for PSLF student loan forgiveness, as a professor you’ll also need to work at least 30 hours a week. If you’re an adjunct faculty member, you should know that you don’t need to work all 30 hours at one job. In fact, if you teach classes at more than one college, you can combine your hours to satisfy the 30-hour requirement, as long as each job is for a qualified employer.

Once you’ve been accepted into a PSLF plan, to maximize its benefits, consider adjusting your loan repayments from the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan to an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that may help you keep monthly payments more affordable, as well as extending the overall repayment schedule.

In other words, an IDR plan might allow you pay less of the total amount of loan you owe now, and after 120 payments overall you’d be eligible to have the remaining balance forgiven entirely.

You may also be eligible to have your loans forgiven if you started teaching grade school and transitioned to postsecondary instruction. To learn more, see the options in our guide to student loan forgiveness for teachers.

Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP)

If you teach at an accredited health professions school or medical school, you may also be eligible to have at least a portion of your student loans forgiven through the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP).

The program is offered by the federal Health Resources & Service Administration (HRSA), and it offers assistance to nurses, physicians, doctors and other health professionals who choose to teach and also typically have massive student debt.

FLRP grants up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance, and offers additional assistance to help offset the additional tax burden that’s typically triggered when a student loan is forgiven.

According to HRSA, to qualify for FLRP you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Show you have a disadvantaged background, based on either environmental or economic factors (or both).
  • Hold a qualifying health professions degree.
  • Commit to working as a faculty member at an FLRP-approved health professions institution for a minimum of two years.

Other ways college professors can manage student debt

If student loan forgiveness doesn’t seem like a realistic option for you, consider looking into other options for managing student loans. Here are a few to consider:

Refinancing student loans

As a college professor, you might be a good candidate to refinance your student loans to lower rates. You could choose a shorter loan term, enabling you to pay off debt faster with larger payments now. Or you could stretch out repayment over a longer period to lower payments and keep them affordable.

Even if you choose a longer repayment period under a refinancing plan, you may still be able to pay less over the life of the loan if you can decrease your interest rate with the refinance. Your ability to refinance will depend on a number of factors, including your creditworthiness and income.

You should be aware that refinancing federal student loans has some drawbacks. You’ll lose access to privileges unique to federal programs, like income-driven repayment plans or the ability to defer payments. Your loans will also lose PSLF eligibility.

However, if you’re focused on repaying debt, refinancing can go a long way. Estimate how much you could save with this student loan refinancing calculator.

Income-driven repayment plans

As explained earlier, an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan can help decrease your monthly loan costs to better match your income and cost of living. Loan payments are based on 10% to 20% of your discretionary income, depending on the IDR plan you pick. These plans can also let you stretch out the repayment period to 20 or 25 years.

Certain IDR plans also offer student loan forgiveness after you make payments for 20 to 25 years. Taking advantage of IDR plans can also be a smart way to manage payments if you’re working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you’re considering taking advantage of an IBR plan, remember that you’ll have to reapply each year by recertifying your income. See your options and how to enroll in these programs with our guide to income-driven repayment plans.

Make extra payments on student loans

Refinancing or switching to a different repayment plan can keep your debt manageable. But college professors can save the most money overall just by making extra payments toward student loans.

That’s how college professor Amanda Page repaid over $47,000 in student loans. Page set her mind to get out of debt and made this her main financial goal. She employed a few key strategies to pay off student debt on a professor’s salary:

  • Read personal finance books and researched effective methods to manage debt.
  • Took on side gigs and extra work to increase her income.
  • Lowered living expenses by getting a roommate and budgeting.
  • Limited spending on non-necessities.
  • Paid extra on high-interest student loans first.

With more money coming in and less going out, Page had additional funds to put towards her student debt. She paid off most of her large balance in just a year.

Compare student loan forgiveness for professors with other repayment options

As a college professor, you will probably face some lean years when work is tough, the pay is low and your student loan payments are hard to manage. Student loan forgiveness for professors can be one effective way of managing high student debt.

However, student loan forgiveness for college professors might not be possible or advantageous for every person in this profession.

Research your full range of options for repaying student debt. This will help you choose your most beneficial course of action and make adjustments as needed.

Steve Santiago contributed to this report.

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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 4, 2022.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out directly to our team.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Apr 22, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.


5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.99% – 8.24% APR (2.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (1.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.


7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 5/17/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.05% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Fixed Rate Loan Terms: 5 years/60 monthly payments, 8 years/96 monthly payments, 12 years/144 monthly payments or 15 years/180 monthly payments. Annual Percentage Rate is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed rates range from 3.29% to 5.43% APR. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed APR: Fixed rates will not change during the term. This rate is expressed as an APR. Since there are no fees associated with this loan offer, the APR is the same percentage as the actual interest rate of the loan. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.