Student loan debt is a very real burden for millions of Americans who are often saddled with student loan payments well into their 40s. Fortunately, many city and state programs can help with student loan repayment assistance or student loan forgiveness if you meet certain eligibility requirements. Some programs require relocation, but if that isn’t an option, former students may also be able to take advantage of federal student loan forgiveness programs.
Total student loan debt in the United States is more than $1.7 trillion, with the vast majority (over 93%) in federal student loans and the remainder in private student loans. That means a lot of people are saddled with student loan debt and looking into student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs.
Read on to learn more about student loan forgiveness programs that different cities and states offer to new or existing residents who have a professional degree and outstanding student loans. In addition, we’ll take a look at some federal programs that anyone with student loans might be able to take advantage of, regardless of where they live.
Cities and states that pay off student loans
Most states have student loan assistance programs, many of which have fairly strict eligibility requirements. But it’s always worth looking around to see what might be available in different cities or states that align with your professional and potential relocation goals.
“Taking a few minutes to research student loan forgiveness programs can save you tens of thousands of dollars! It’s absolutely worthwhile to apply for these programs,” advises Todd Stearn, founder, and CEO of The Money Manual.
Here are 10 locations where you can find student loan forgiveness programs or repayment assistance for new or existing residents and college graduates.
U.S. citizens, born or naturalized, in certain healthcare professions who are licensed to practice in the state of California can take advantage of the California State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). Reward amounts can reach up to $100,000 (more in some cases), depending on your time commitment.
Professions included in the student loan repayment assistance program include doctors, nurses, physician assistants, dental professionals, pharmacists, and various licensed therapists, counselors, and social workers.
Among other requirements, healthcare professionals must make a minimum two-year service commitment. It must be either full-time status of 40 hours a week or part-time at 20 hours per week in federally designated California Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). After two years of service, you may be able to extend your commitment to earn more student loan assistance.
2. Hamilton, Ohio
You may not know that you can get a scholarship after you’ve already graduated from college. But that’s exactly what the Hamilton Community Foundation in Hamilton, Ohio offers, although they refer to them as “reverse scholarships.” Successful applicants may receive up to $15,000 in student loan assistance with the Talent Attraction Program (TAP) scholarship.
TAP applicants must have graduated within the last seven years, preferably from a STEAM program (science, technology, engineering, arts, or mathematics), and must have plans to move to designated neighborhoods in the city of Hamilton. (Existing residents are excluded from applying.) In addition, former students must work in either Hamilton itself or in Butler County or work in a fully remote position.
In tandem with the federal teacher’s loan forgiveness program, the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program offers eligible teachers a matching award of up to $5,000 to qualified teachers. Among other qualifications, you must have completed a five-year commitment teaching at a low-income elementary or secondary school in Illinois and qualify for the federal program as well.
Kansas has a couple of programs to help former students with repayment assistance for their outstanding student loans. For healthcare providers in medical, dental, or mental health professions, licensed workers can take part in the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program if they agree to work in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area for a minimum of two years. Student loan borrowers can receive up to $25,000 per year in the first two years and can apply for one-year extensions after that.
Another option is to move to one of Kansas’ 95 designated Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ). Then you may be eligible for up to $15,000 in student loan repayment assistance over five years for relocating.
To meet eligibility requirements, applicants must have an active student loan balance in their name, a newly established permanent residence in one of the participating counties, and an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or post-graduate degree prior to moving to a ROZ county.
If you’re a graduate who lives and works in Maine, the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit can give you a credit of up to $2,500 per year on your taxes, with a lifetime maximum up to $25,000. The credit is only good for graduates after 2007. And while eligibility requirements can vary by year, in general you’ll need to have been living and working there during the tax year and have earned a degree from an accredited Maine school.
Maryland’s SmartBuy Program allows you to purchase a home in Maryland and simultaneously get help to pay off your student debt. To be eligible, you must have student loan debt with a minimum balance of $1,000. The SmartBuy Program may provide up to 15% of the home purchase price for the borrower to pay off their outstanding student loans with a maximum payoff amount of $50,000.
In order to qualify, you must meet all eligibility requirements (e.g., credit score) in the Maryland mortgage program. In addition, the full student debt of at least one borrower must be paid off completely at the time of purchase. If there are two borrowers, potentially all student loans could be paid off. However, no partial payment assistance is allowed under this program — it’s either the entire remaining student loan balance or nothing.
The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program (MSLRP) is one of the most generous programs of its kind for medical, dental, and mental health professionals seeking loan repayment assistance. Participants can earn as much as $300,000 in student loan assistance over a period of 10 years.
The minimum service obligation is two years of working full-time in healthcare services in a Health Professional Shortage Area at not-for-profit health clinics. Funding for MSLRP payment assistance comes from a combination of federal, state, and local contributions.
Minnesota has six state-run student loan repayment assistance programs or student loan forgiveness options for residents in certain professions or living in specific geographical areas.
- The Health Professional Education Loan Forgiveness Program
- The Minnesota State Loan Repayment Program
- The Large Animal Veterinarian Loan Forgiveness Program interagency agreement
- The Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program
- The Agricultural Education Loan Forgiveness Program
- The Aviation Degree Loan Forgiveness Program
Requirements for eligibility, service agreements, and student debt awards vary by program, so be sure to check the Minnesota.gov website for details on each of the student loan assistance programs.
Minnesota has some federally funded student loan assistance programs as well, like the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program, which is for public defenders and prosecutors. They also have the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, which is similar to the Minnesota State Loan Repayment Program but funded by the federal government instead.
9. Niagara Falls, New York
In exchange for living in a targeted downtown area of the City of Niagara Falls for a minimum of two years, former students with two- or four-year degrees or current graduate students can get reimbursed for student loan payments. Reimbursement amounts are good for up to $3,492 a year, or $6,984 during the full two-year term of the agreement.
Among other requirements, applicants must prove they are in good standing with the student loan lender and the mortgage servicer or landlord. This program can help to stimulate the local economy and pay off your student loans faster. Plus, you’ll live within walking distance of Niagara Falls State Park and the magnificent Niagara Gorge.
10. North Dakota
Three veterinarians per year can receive up to $80,000 (depending on the length of service commitment) in student loan assistance from the North Dakota State Veterinary Loan Repayment Program for working in rural or underserved areas. Newly graduated vets are strongly encouraged to apply, but any veterinarian with a license to practice in North Dakota and outstanding student loans is also welcome to apply.
If you are selected, you will need to sign a contract with the North Dakota Department of Health. It stipulates the amount of time you must serve in a community or communities and the total amount of the award.
Federal forgiveness programs
For college graduates with federal student loan debt (the majority of borrowers), who don’t live in a state with an applicable student loan forgiveness program or student debt repayment help, federal programs might be able to help you get your debt forgiven.
Teacher loan forgiveness
If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive years at a low-income school or educational service facility (among other qualifications), you may be eligible for up to $17,500 under the federal Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
Public service loan forgiveness (PSLF)
Borrowers of federal loans who pursue careers in public service can apply to have the remaining balance of their student debt be forgiven after 120 qualifying payments. To be eligible, you must remain employed, full-time, by a qualified employer and be under some form of income-driven repayment plan. Public service employers include U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal governments or not-for-profit organizations.
Income-driven repayment plans
Aside from public service loan forgiveness, if you’re paying your federal student loans under an income-driven repayment plan, your remaining balance (if you still have one) will be forgiven after 20 or 25 years, depending on the specific plan.
Employer contributions to student loan debt
No matter where you live or your chosen profession, employers of all kinds are legally able to provide $5,250 per year in tax-free funds to help student loan borrowers repay their loans. This can be a nice added benefit for young professionals looking for jobs who are carrying student debt.
“For businesses, it can be tough to find the employees you need to help you grow. Offering repayment assistance as a benefit can be your competitive advantage when a talented person is deciding to work for you or someone else,” Stearn points out.
Student loan refinancing
Another option to help pay off your student loan debt faster is to refinance your student loans. These lenders can help.
- There are many state and federal student loan repayment assistance and student loan forgiveness programs.
- A lot of student debt programs require service commitments specifically for certain professions, like public service, healthcare, and teaching.
- You may need to relocate and/or reside in rural or underserved areas to be eligible for loan forgiveness or help repaying your student loans.
- If your state doesn’t offer programs for help with student debt, you may be able to take advantage of federal forgiveness programs.
- Some employers may help you repay your student loan debt as part of your benefits package.
View Article Sources
- Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones – Kansas Commerce
- California State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) – California Dept. of Health Care Access & Information
- Maine’s Student Loan Repayment Program – Live + Work in Maine
- Maryland SmartBuy Program – Maryland Dept. of Housing & Community Development
- Michigan State Loan Repayment Program Overview – Michigan Dept. of Health & Human Services
- Minnesota’s Student Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Assistance Programs – Minnesota House of Representatives
- Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program – Illinois Student Assistance Commission
- Veterinarian Loan Repayment Programs – North Dakota Dept. of Agriculture
- City of Niagara Falls Downtown Housing Incentive – City of Niagara Falls
- Student Loan Forgiveness – Federal Student Aid
- 55 Companies That Help Employees Pay Student Loan Debt – SuperMoney
- 2023 Student Loan Industry Study – SuperMoney
- Biden Student Loan Forgiveness: What You Should Know – SuperMoney
- No Private Student Loan Forgiveness Options? Here are 5 Alternatives – SuperMoney