How to Get Help Paying Off Texas Student Loans

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They say everything is bigger in Texas, but that doesn’t necessarily include student loan debt. Texas ranked 33rd of 50 states on a 2018 list of average student loan debt by state compiled by the Institute for College Access & Success.

But the average debt load among bachelor’s degree recipients at public and nonprofit colleges in Texas was still $26,824. That means many Texans may benefit from help getting debt-free.

We’ve collected some state-sponsored repayment programs that could help make student loans in Texas more manageable, along with other options for saving money on Texas higher education, past or present.

Here’s what you need to know about student loan debt in Texas, including…

The state of Texas student loans

In Texas, 55% of graduates from four-year public and nonprofit colleges left school with student loan debt in 2017, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. Texas ranked 33rd in the country both in average debt per student and in percentage of graduates with debt.

By comparison, in New Hampshire, 74% of bachelor’s degree holders graduated with student loan debt — the highest in the country. Connecticut graduates had the most loan debt, at $38,510 per student.

Repayment assistance for Texas student debt

While Texas graduates leave school with comparatively low average student loan debt, lower average incomes could mean borrowers struggle to pay back their loans. The median household income in Texas in 2018 was $59,785, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That’s less than the national median household income of $63,179.

Texas offers several loan repayment assistance programs (or LRAPs) that award funds to help pay off student debt. These programs are career-specific and vary based on the needs of the state. Here are several programs to look into.

1. Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Assistance Program

This program was designed to incentivize nurses to teach at underserved colleges. Those who are eligible can receive up to $7,000 per year for up to five years to pay off their student loan debt.

To qualify, you must be a current full-time faculty member of a nursing program, hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, be licensed by the Texas Board of Nursing for the State of Texas and have at least one year of employment as a nursing faculty member under your belt.

Although the program ran out of funding in 2016, we recommend continuing to check back for updates.

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 eligible for significant loan repayment help from the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program.

This program offers up to $160,000 to put towards your student loan payments, disbursed over four years of service. Physicians working in a facility of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are also eligible.

Applications are reviewed quarterly. To be eligible, you must be licensed to practice medicine in Texas. You also must provide care to patients who qualify for 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 are also able to get Texas student loan help through St. David’s Foundation Public Health Corps Loan Repayment Program. The program has been on hold temporarily since January 2018. The website suggests checking back, as new applications will be accepted in the future.

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. Recipients working part-time are awarded on a prorated basis.

4. Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program

If you’re working full-time for a Texas legal aid program, you could qualify for 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.

5. Explore loan repayment assistance programs at your alma mater

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 the program available from the law school at the University of Texas at Austin. The LRAP provides financial assistance to graduating students with educational debt who enter qualifying public service occupations. It provides program participants with funds semi-annually in the form of one or a series of forgivable loans.

The Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program is another option, although the applications for 2019-2020 are now closed. The program awards amounts up to $5,000.

Check 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. If you come up short-handed this year, look again in the future. Your school’s offerings can change on a yearly basis.

Texas programs for current students

If you’re a current or aspiring college student, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board offers several resources on how to get help paying for school. Explore each link for more information on grants, scholarships and tax breaks for education.

National websites such as Scholarships.com can also help you access money for college in Texas.

Programs that may renew funding in the future

There are a few loan repayment assistance programs that have not received state funding for the current year. But keep an eye on them to see if anything changes. They include:

Refinancing Texas student loans

Refinancing student loans may be another option to reduce your loan burden, if you qualify.

When you refinance, a lender replaces your previous student loans with a new loan at a potentially lower interest rate. This can lead to substantial savings if you have high-interest student loans.

But a downside is that refinancing turns federal loans private, which means you will lose access to federal student loan protections including forgiveness programs and flexible repayment plans.

If you choose to refinance, you must qualify based on financial factors such as your credit, income and debt payment history, or find a cosigner who has those things. All in all, refinancing can be an excellent move for some Texas borrowers, especially if you shop around for the best deal.

Making student loans manageable in Texas

By finding help through programs like these and developing a solid repayment strategy of your own, you may be able to pay off your student loans early or get some of your debt forgiven.

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 let them know. Exercise your rights as a constituent and as a Texas student loan borrower and you can make sure student loan debt isn’t a barrier to a bright future.

Yael Bizouati contributed to this report.

Published in Student Loan Repayment

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