Do you have a Texas-sized student loan burden? Although Texas is one of the more affordable places to pay off student debt, according to Student Loan Hero’s Debt Affordability Index, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Luckily, you have access to student loan forgiveness in Texas. If you want to get out from under your crushing student loan debt, here’s where to start.
Student loan forgiveness: Texas
Texas offers a number of student loan forgiveness and repayment programs. Many of them are aimed at helping healthcare professionals and educators, but there are also some opportunities for other professions.
Also, realize that some programs have been suspended, but funding might be reinstated at a later date. You can find out more about the various programs by visiting the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) website.
1. Physician Education Loan Repayment Program
You can get up to $160,000 over a four-year period to help you pay off debt incurred while becoming a doctor — if you agree to practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or meet a minimum requirement for providing services to those enrolled in the Texas Women’s Health Program or Medicaid. Applications are accepted quarterly, and service periods are renewed each year. To receive the full amount, you need to become certified in one of the following specialties, either before or during your service period:
- Family medicine
- Internal medicine
- Obstetrics and gynecology
- Agree to complete four consecutive service periods in an HPSA or qualifying correctional facility
- Provide care to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program recipients
- Not be currently fulfilling service periods for other scholarships or loan repayment programs
Program status: Active. The next quarterly application deadline is February 28, 2018.
2. Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program
Awards vary according to a point system based on the number of math and science courses you have completed, along with which Texas school you are employed at. The program has $2,757,000 available to provide for loan repayment, which is given to eligible teachers based on their applications.
- Hold U.S. citizenship
- Have completed a program (undergraduate or graduate) in math or science
- Have finished a degree with a 3.5 cumulative GPA
- Certified to teach science or math in a public school in Texas
- Have a contract to teach full-time in a classroom at a Title I school
- Cannot be receiving any other teacher loan forgiveness
Program status: Applications are no longer being accepted for the 2017-18 academic year. Check for applications to open for the 2018-19 academic year in early to mid-2018.
3. Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program (lawyers)
Unlike the other programs, which are all administered through the THECB, this Texas student loan forgiveness program is offered through the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. It’s funded by the State Bar of Texas. Attorneys can apply on a quarterly basis if they work helping low-income citizens. Money is awarded on an as-needed basis, based on your situation and whether you’re participating in other aid programs.
- Work in a Texas legal aid program
- Be a lawyer recognized by the State Bar of Texas
- Earn a relatively low income (the foundation says the average salary of recipients is less than $50,000 a year)
Program status: Active. The deadline for 2018 applications hasn’t been posted yet.
4. St. David’s Foundation Public Health Corps Loan Repayment Program
Physicians and dentists can obtain up to $30,000 a year for four years, and physician assistants and nurse practitioners can secure up to $15,000 annually from this student loan forgiveness program in Texas. The St. David’s Foundation provides money to the THECB to disburse to healthcare providers that meet their stipulations.
- Have U.S. citizenship, be a permanent legal resident, or have some other authorization to work in the U.S.
- Provide four years of service at a participating site
- Retain the proper license or certification from a recognized governing body
Program status: On hold. The state organization will no longer administer the program. Grants have been paid for 2017, but applications are expected through another agency in 2018.
5. Loan Repayment Program for Mental Health Professionals
Aggregate awards ranging from $40,000 to $160,000 are available over the course of five years, depending on your mental health job. Money is given based on how many years you remain in the program. You can get 10 percent of the total in the first year, receiving a greater percentage each successive year until you reach the maximum.
Here are the types of mental health professionals eligible and the amounts offered for each:
- Psychiatrists: up to $160,000
- Psychologists: up to $80,000
- Licensed clinical social workers (doctoral degree): up to $80,000
- Licensed professional counselors (doctoral degree): up to $80,000
- Advanced practice nurses (board-certified in mental health or psychiatric nursing): Up to $60,000
- Licensed professional counselors and clinical social workers (without doctoral degree): Up to $40,000
- Work in a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area
- Have no more than 25 percent of total employment hours conducted through telemedicine
- Serve those enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program and/or Medicaid
- Agree to provide five consecutive years of service
Program status: Applications are closed for fiscal year 2017, but could reopen for fiscal year 2018, depending on available funding.
6. Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Assistance Program
If you have a nursing degree and teach as a faculty member in an approved Texas nursing program, you could receive as much as $7,000 for up to five years. You will need to provide your lender information, though, because this program pays down your loans directly.
- Completed master’s or doctoral nursing degree
- Licensed by the Texas Board of Nursing
- Employed as a full-time faculty in an eligible nursing program for at least one year
- Must not be in default with your student loans
Program status: Unknown. A status update for the 2017-18 academic year hasn’t yet been posted.
7. Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance
If you’re willing to teach a specialty identified as a shortage area, you might be able to access up to $5,000 a year. Recipients are limited to $20,000 and can’t tap into these funds for more than five years. You can find a list of shortage areas at the Texas Education Agency website.
- Teach at a public school in Texas (preschool, primary, or secondary).
- Have certification in a field identified as having a shortage.
- Be willing to teach full-time at a school that has been identified as experiencing a teacher shortage.
Program status: On hold for new applications until September 2019. For those who are already in the program, it’s possible to file for continuing assistance.
8. Loan Repayment Program for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
If you work for a school district, you could be eligible for up to $6,000 a year, while if you’re part of the doctoral faculty at a college or university communicative disorders program, you can qualify for up to $9,000. Both awards run up to five years.
- Graduated from a communicative disorders program
- Employed as a speech-language pathologist or audiologist in a public school district in Texas or at an institution of higher learning as doctoral faculty
- Hold the proper licenses and/or certificates from appropriate governing bodies
Program status: Currently on hold due to lack of state funds, but it may reopen if other sources of funding are found. (The Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association subsidized the award in 2104-15, for example.)
9. Border County Doctoral Faculty Education Loan Repayment Program
You can receive up to $5,000 a year for up to 10 years with this program if you have a doctoral degree and you agree to teach full-time at a college or university in a Texas county that borders Mexico.
- Received your doctoral degree at an accredited institution on or after September 1, 1994
- Employed full-time as a doctoral faculty member with instructional duties
- Worked full-time in this capacity for one full academic year
Program status: Currently on hold and not accepting applications until September 2019 at the earliest.
10. Dental Education Loan Repayment
If you are a dentist and you agree to practice in a Dental Care Health Professional Shortage Area (DHPSA), you can receive up to $10,000 a year to help with your student loans. You can find a list of federally designated DHPSAs in Texas by using the Health Resources & Services Administration website.
- Practice pediatric or general dentistry
- Serve patients regardless of ability to pay
- Accept Medicaid assignment as full payment
- Maintain a license from the Board of Dental Examiners in Texas
- Have no disciplinary actions from the Board
Program status: Currently on hold and not accepting applications until September 2019 at the earliest.
11. Loan repayment assistance through your school
Some Texas colleges and universities offer their own loan forgiveness programs. Call your alma mater to find out if these programs are available. For example, the University of Texas at Austin offers a loan assistance program for its law school graduates.
12. Don’t forget to check for federal loan forgiveness
No matter where you live — including Texas — you can access federal loan forgiveness programs. The federal government offers programs aimed to help teachers, healthcare professionals, veterans, and public servants pay off their student loans.
Double-check provisions, though. Depending on your situation and the loan forgiveness program, you might not be able to get help from both state and federal funding sources at the same time. Carefully compare programs to figure out which course of action is likely to benefit you the most.
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