They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but does that include student loan debt? Currently, the student loan burden in Texas is less than the national average, but that doesn’t mean individual Texans couldn’t use some help becoming debt-free.
Luckily, there are some state-sponsored repayment programs to help make student loans in Texas a little easier to take care of. Read on to see if your situation tees you up for one of these programs, as well as some of the other ways you can tackle student loan debt in Texas.
The state of student loans in Texas
Texas, it seems, is kind to its students when it comes to college costs. In a report from 24/7 Wall Street with data from the Student Loan Report, Texas’s large amount of in-state students (91 percent of the class of 2018), are keeping costs low for Texas student loan borrowers. That’s because in-state tuition is almost $15,000 cheaper in Texas than out-of-state tuition.
As far as national averages, the publication ranks Texas as 35th in the country with an average graduation amount of $14,469. But Texas is also ranked 25th lowest for household income, and less than 30 percent of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree.
Getting help with your Texas student debt
Texas’s low average of student loan debt is a great sign, but its low average income could mean Texas student loan borrowers still might need some help in paying back their loans.
Texas has a good selection of loan repayment assistance programs (or LRAPs) that award funds to help pay off student debt. These programs tend to be career-specific and vary based on the needs of the state.
In Texas, if you’re a nurse, physician, or teacher, you might be able to get some help with an LRAP. Here’s what Texas student loan borrowers currently have available to them.
1. Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Assistance Program
This program was designed to incentivize nurses to teach at underserved schools. Those who receive it can get up to $7,000 per year for their student loan debt.
Although the program ran out of funding in 2016, the program listing page says to check back this month (September 2017) to see if there’s been an update for this year. It also includes contact details for additional information.
2. Physician Education Loan Repayment Program
If you’re a doctor working in the state of Texas, and especially if you’re working in an officially designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), then you might be able to get quite a bit of loan help from the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program.
This program offers up to $160,000 to put towards your student loan repayment, disbursed over four years of service. This is also available to physicians working in a facility of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The application deadline for this program was last month (August 2017), but new applications are reviewed quarterly. To be eligible, you must be licensed to practice in Texas. You must provide care to patients on Medicaid and the Texas Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
3. St. David’s Foundation Public Health Corps Loan Repayment Program
Physicians and health care practitioners of a variety of backgrounds can also try to get Texas student loan help through St. David’s Foundation Public Health Corps Loan Repayment Program.
Eligible health care practitioners include physicians, physician assistants, dentists, and nurse practitioners working in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, geriatrics, and psychiatry. Full-time physicians and dentists can receive up to $30,000 per year, and full-time physician assistants and nurse practitioners can get up to $15,000 per year. Part-time recipients are awarded on a prorated basis.
The program is accepting applications through the end of 2017.
4. Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program
What about lawyers working in Texas? If you’re working full-time for a Texas legal aid program, you can get help with the Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
This program offers its recipients up to $400 per month (an annual maximum of $4,800) for up to 10 years. The next quarterly deadline for this program is on November 23.
5. See if your alma mater has any loan repayment assistance programs
The programs above aren’t the only way to get help with your Texas student loans. You might find that your school offers an LRAP, such as this one from the law school at the University of Texas at Austin.
You can see what your college or university has to offer by either going to their website and searching via your school or department, or by contacting your school directly.
And if you come up short-handed this year, keep checking back. Your school’s offerings can change on a yearly basis.
Statute of limitations in Texas
Another thing to consider if you’re paying off Texas student loans is the statute of limitations. Debt that falls under the statute of limitations expires after a certain amount of years. That doesn’t mean you no longer owe the debt, but it does mean that collections agencies lose their chance to successfully sue you for it.
Unfortunately, federal student loans are currently exempt from the statute of limitations on debt — but private loans are not.
In Texas, the expiration comes four years after defaulting on a debt. That means the clock doesn’t stop ticking until payments have stopped being made, and it restarts as soon as even one payment is made. Four years after that time, Texas residents can use the statute of limitations to defend themselves in a court case for collection of that debt.
That’s not to say you should stop paying your private student loans just to use the statute of limitations to your advantage. Not only will you still technically owe this debt, but defaulting on it can significantly damage your credit score for years to come.
But if you have defaulted and are having trouble getting back on your feet, this is a law that can potentially help you.
Texas programs for current students
So far we’ve talked a lot about what to do if you’ve already acquired student loans in Texas. But what about current and aspiring students searching for scholarships? There is state-sponsored help available to you.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board offers a large number of resources to point you in the right direction. Here are some shortcuts to keep an eye on each year you’re in school.
- Institutional grants and scholarships
- State and federal grants and scholarships
- Tax credits
And don’t forget to check out sites such as Scholarships.com to find even more help paying for your education in Texas.
Keep an eye out for programs that might renew funding in the future
There are a few programs not listed above because, though they’re still listed as current, they don’t have the funding to help for 2017. But that’s not to say they won’t receive funding in the next two years. You should keep an eye on them to see if anything changes.
Check back on these programs in 2018:
- Loan Repayment Program for Mental Health Professionals
- Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program
- Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program
Check back on these programs in August of 2019:
- Border County Doctoral Faculty Education Loan Repayment Program
- Dental Education Loan Repayment Program
You may also be eligible for assistance with your loans if you’ve been affected by Hurricane Harvey. Recent news reports are advising that you contact your student loan servicer to let them know if the hurricane will render you unable to repay your loans for the foreseeable future. The U.S. Department of Education has an entire page of resources to turn to for help.
The future is bright in Texas
So, yes, everything might be bigger in Texas, but you can ensure that your student loan repayment period isn’t. By finding help through programs like these and developing a solid debt repayment strategy of your own, you can pay off your student loans early and free yourself from the decades-long repayment plan you started with.
What’s more, if you think there should be more programs available to help repay student loans in Texas, you can contact your senators and representatives to tell them. Exercise your rights as a constituent and as a Texas student loan borrower, and you can make sure your future in Texas is bright.
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