Tired of watching your student loan balance fall at a snail’s pace? Maybe it’s time for a change of scenery — literally.
As much as we dread them, many of us couldn’t have paid for college without the help of student loans. But many borrowers say their student debt has stopped them from achieving some of life’s biggest milestones, like owning a home or starting a family.
The good news is that an increasing number of cities and states are offering student loan repayment assistance programs to borrowers who move there, purchase a property there or work in certain sectors.
The cherry on top? Even if you receive state assistance to pay off your loans, you’re still eligible for some federal programs, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness if you work at a non-profit organization, government agency or at another qualifying institution.
Before you pack your bags, you should know that many of these programs are only available for people who have federal student loans and that your accounts must be current (aka your loans can’t be in a default state). If that describes you, here’s a list of places where you can get a chunk of your debt taken care of:
The Golden State, home of celebrities and Avocado Capital of the World, is offering to pay up to $50,000 in student loans for dentists, doctors, physician assistants and nurses. To be eligible for the California State Loan Repayment Program, you must be working in the public sector or at a non-profit in an area where there’s a shortage of health care professionals. You must also commit to working at least two years full-time or four years part-time to receive assistance.
Delaware may be a tiny state but it is offering big bucks to health care professionals looking to move and work there. Awards range from $30,000 to $100,000 — with those who have advanced degrees in medicine and dentistry like medicine eligible for the highest amount. To qualify for this program, you must be working in a medically underserved area for two years full-time or four years part-time.
The Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce boasts several loan repayment assistance programs with awards ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 a year, for a maximum of four years. This program is available to physicians, physician assistants, dentists and registered nurses who work at least 40 hours per week in a rural area that has a population of 50,000 or less. Some of the cities you can choose from are Polk, Lincoln and Monroe — which is just one hour away from Atlanta and is a hotspot for concerts and festivals.
4. Hamilton, Ohio
The city of Hamilton is known for its abundance of Victorian homes, sculptures and outdoor activities, and now, it’s also the first city in Ohio to offer what is called a reverse scholarship program. If you graduated from a science, technology, engineering, arts or mathematics degree program in the last seven years, you can apply to the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Talent Attraction Program Scholarship. Each year, the foundation picks 10 lucky winners and offers them up to $300 a month to go toward the repayment of their student debt. Besides being a recent graduate, you must be an outsider willing to move to the city and have a job offer either in Hamilton or Butler County to be eligible for this award.
Are you in the market for a home but student loans are holding you back? Then, move to Illinois! The state recently announced it’ll be investing $25 million to help first-time homebuyers with student debt purchase a property through its SmartBuy program. This initiative features a $5,000 deferred-payment loan that you use for a down payment, plus up to $40,000 or 15% of the property’s value (whichever is less) to go toward paying down your student loans. To qualify, your household income can’t exceed $109,200.
Calling all environmentalists and small-town lovers! Iowa, the state where more than 50% of electricity is wind-generated, is helping teachers, health care workers, lawyers and veterinarians pay off their student loans. The state’s student loan repayment assistance programs are reserved for those who work full-time in rural areas, where there’s a high need for professionals working in any of the eligible fields. Depending on your degree, you can get up to $40,000 worth of federal student loans paid off.
If you have student loans, appreciate the quiet life and are interested in farming and agriculture, then you should consider making Kansas your next home. The Sunflower State has student loan repayment assistance programs available in 19 of its 95 Rural Opportunity Zones. Unlike many other student loan repayment assistance programs, the ones available in Kansas don’t require you to major in a specific discipline to qualify, you just need to be a new resident moving in. You can get up to $15,000 to pay off your loans over the course of five years. Currently, there are roughly 150 employers participating in this program. Kansas’ Rural Opportunity Zones include Wallace, Rush, Franklin and Pawnee (no relation to the Pawnee of Parks and Recreation).
Maine has given us many great things. Lobsters, wild blueberries and Patrick Dempsey are just a few of them. But if you have a STEM degree and racked up some debt to get it, the state has another great offer: the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit. If you graduated after 2008 and live and work in Maine, the state will reimburse your minimum student loan payments as a credit on your state income taxes. There are additional rules and limitations, depending on the year you graduated, so make sure you check the eligibility requirements. In addition to this benefit, the Finance Authority of Maine has a student debt relief program that will pay half of your outstanding student loan balance up to a maximum of $60,000 if you have a STEM degree and work for a Maine employer.
Just like Illinois, Maryland offers student loan repayment assistance to borrowers who purchase a property in the state through its SmartBuy 3.0 program. To qualify, you must purchase a home from an approved lender and have a student loan balance of at least $1,000. The program is also limited to those with a maximum household income of $92,500 or $154,420, depending on the property’s location and your household size. With this program, you can get up to $30,000 to pay your student loans or 15% of the property’s value (whichever is less). The state also offers $50,000 in student loan repayment assistance for health care professionals working in medically underserved areas or areas where there’s a shortage of medical personnel. To receive this award, you must commit to working two years full-time.
Michigan offers one of the most generous student loan repayment programs on our list, capped at $200,000 for dentists, doctors and mental health care providers. To get this award, you must work full-time for a minimum of two years at a not-for-profit health clinic in an area where there’s a shortage of health care professionals. You can qualify for loan assistance for a maximum of eight years. Not a doctor or a dentist? Check out St. Clair or Huron County. Both of these counties are offering reverse scholarships, ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, toward the repayment of student loans for those who move there and have a science, technology, engineering, arts or mathematics degree. Since its inception, both counties have awarded 16 scholarships.
The Lone Star State has one of the lowest costs of living in the country, plus it is one of the nine states that don’t require residents to pay state income tax. And, if you happen to be a teacher, lawyer, or health care provider, it offers another financial benefit: help with your student debt. Here are some of the repayment assistance programs you can find in the state: the Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Assistance Program, the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program. Depending on the industry and program you apply for, you can get between $4,800 and $180,000 in assistance.
Other tips to pay off your loans faster or reduce your monthly bill
As previously mentioned, most student loan repayment assistance programs are available for those who have federal student loans. If you have private student loans and want to pay off your debt faster or lower your monthly payment, you can look into refinancing.
Refinancing your private student loans could help you secure a lower interest rate, which in turn can allow you to pay off your student loans faster. You can also choose a longer repayment plan if your goal is to lower your monthly payments. However, to get the best terms and rates, you must have excellent credit and a stable source of income.
If you have federal student loans and can’t move or don’t qualify for any of these programs, you could apply for an income-driven repayment plan. With an income-driven repayment plan, your monthly bill is adjusted to a percentage of your income and the amount will never exceed what you would pay under a standard repayment plan. After paying for 20 or 25 years, any remaining debt is forgiven.
Know of a city or state program that’s not listed here? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org