In a state of natural wonders galore, Utah also brings in the lowest student loan debt in the nation. A study by the Institute for College Access and Success on the Class of 2016 ranked Utah 50th in the nation for student debt, with Utah students graduating with an average of $19,975 in loans.
Compare that to the top states on the list — New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — where students graduated with $36,367 and $35,759 in loans, respectively.
But just because they have relatively lower debt doesn’t mean Utah students couldn’t use some help. After all, 43 percent of Utah’s Class of 2016 graduated with student loans. That means finding student loan forgiveness in Utah can still help a great many who qualify. And although most of the aid is earmarked for health care workers, there are other opportunities as well. Here are some of your options if you’re a resident of the Beehive State.
How to get student loan forgiveness in Utah
Unfortunately, there isn’t a plethora of student loan forgiveness programs for Utah residents. (At least directly from the state, that is.) Still, there are federal student loan forgiveness programs that Utah borrowers might qualify for. Below are details on all.
Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program (RPLRP)
If you’re a physician working in rural Utah (anywhere with a county population of less than 50,000), you might qualify for the Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program (RPLRP).
This program offers physicians up to $30,000 per year. Half of the amount comes from Utah’s Department of Health, and the other half from the hospital the physician works for. Physicians must sign up for a two-year contract, after which they can re-apply for additional years, one year at a time. Approval would depend on fund availability.
Health Care Workforce Financial Assistance Program
Physicians aren’t the only ones who can get help repaying their student loan debt. The Health Care Workforce Financial Assistance Program helps with student loan forgiveness in Utah by providing assistance to physicians, mid-level practitioners, nurses, mental health professionals, and dentists.
What’s more, this program applies not just to rural communities, but urban areas as well.
The amount someone can get through this program varies. According to Robbin Williams of the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, it depends on the discipline you work in and the need for that discipline where you work.
To apply, your workplace would first need to fill out an application, and then you’d fill out one as well, linking you together. If you were to change employment, then you’d need to do it all again — without a guarantee that you’ll be approved.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Licensed primary care providers for medical, dental, and mental health and behavioral services can qualify for up to $50,000 for a two-year commitment to a high-need population. Those working part-time can get a payout of up to $25,000 for a two-year commitment.
That money, which is intended to go straight to your student loans, can be extended year by year if you’re approved.
The application for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program is currently closed but will reopen in early 2018, so now’s a good time to start preparing your financial information. You can sign up for email notifications about the next application here.
Dr. Lakeisha Richardson is a board-certified OB-GYN with more than 10 years in private practice and has a lot of experience with the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program. In her three years with the program, she’s already had $70,000 of her $200,000 in student loans forgiven and will be reapplying this January.
However, she notes there’s a lot of information you’ll need to pull together to apply, including documents from your medical school, so it can be time-consuming at first. In her words, “if you wait until close to the deadline, it can seem close to overwhelming.”
Her advice is to gather your paperwork now, including transcripts and student loan details such as your loan amounts and interest rates. That way you can be ready far ahead of the application deadline.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
Nurses don’t miss out when it comes to student loan repayment programs, otherwise known as LRAPs. They have their own help from the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.
This program offers repayment for the equivalent of up to 60 percent of your student loans, in exchange for two years of service at a critical shortage facility or an accredited school of nursing. Nurses can continue their repayment help for a third year, for which they’ll get 25 percent of their remaining balance repaid.
Like the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, applications are now closed. However, you can sign up here to get an email notification when they open back up in the new year.
Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge
Perkins loans may have expired, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get help if you still have them. Perkins loans holders might be eligible for student loan forgiveness if they’re also in the Peace Corps or Armed Services. The same is true of Perkins loans holders who are teachers, nurses or medical technicians, law enforcement or corrections officers, child or family services workers, Head Start workers, or professional providers of early intervention services.
For each year of work in these industries, a portion of the loans is forgiven. The percentage of forgiveness for Perkins loans varies based on the work you do. To apply for Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge, you’ll need to contact your alma mater or your student loan servicer.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Although the future of Public Service Loan Forgiveness is uncertain, this is still an option you can try for student loan forgiveness in Utah.
To qualify, you must work at least 30 hours per week for the government or a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit and make 120 qualifying payments. Qualifying means the payments have to be for a Direct Loan (which you can consolidate if you have other types of federal loans). They must also be made while you’re working for qualifying employment, paying the full amount due on your bill, no more than 15 days late.
If you’ve already made the required qualifying number of payments, you can click here to find out how to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Cancellation
Teachers throughout the nation get their own student loan repayment help through Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
Teachers can become eligible if they teach full-time for five consecutive years in schools that serve low-income families. In return, they can receive up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness. Bump that number to $17,500 if for math, science, or special education teachers. Qualified teachers can apply here.
There’s also Teacher Cancellation for Perkins Loans, the details of which are explained above in the section on Perkins Loans.
Statute of limitations on debt in Utah
Even if you can’t get student loan forgiveness, Utah residents might find that their debt falls under the statute of limitations on debt.
Under the statute of limitations, debt collectors can no longer successfully sue you for loans in default after a certain period, when the obligation becomes “time-barred.”
In Utah, this period is six years for all written contracts, through the statute only applies to private student loans, not federal ones.
Keep searching for student loan help in Utah
Regardless of whether you can qualify for student loan forgiveness in Utah right now, it’s important to keep checking back each year for new programs.
Some borrowers can apply techniques that pay off their debt in record time, but for most people, this process takes many years. In those years, new programs could come up anytime to benefit you that didn’t exist before.
And if you want to talk to your local lawmakers about proposals for new student loan assistance programs, reach out to them. It’s your right as a constituent to communicate your needs. You can find a listing of your Utah senators here and your Utah representatives here. You never know what kind of ideas you might be able to spur along.
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