Arkansas borrowers are no strangers to student loan debt. According to The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), more than half of the state’s graduates leave school with student loan debt at an average of $27,319 per borrower. Although Arkansas residents may enjoy living in a state known for its lower cost of living, paying off student loan debt is often stressful and can put a damper on future plans.
Luckily, state-specific and federal student loan programs can ease some, or all, of the debt burden for qualified Arkansas borrowers. Here are the student loan forgiveness programs currently available in Arkansas, including federal loan forgiveness options.
Student loan forgiveness in Arkansas
The state of Arkansas offers several state-specific student loan forgiveness programs and loan repayment programs. Like many forgiveness programs, Arkansas programs are typically geared toward student loan borrowers living and working in the state in careers that serve the community or where there are worker shortages.
Arkansas loan forgiveness programs are for borrowers who received federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education. Private student loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness through federal and state loan forgiveness programs.
Below is a list of student loan forgiveness and repayment programs currently available for eligible Arkansas borrowers.
State Teacher Education Program
The State Teacher Education Program (STEP) is a loan repayment program offering repayment to current Arkansas educators who teach specific subjects or work in a geographic shortage area in the Arkansas public school system. The program is only open to borrowers who graduated after April 1, 2004, and work in a qualifying school district.
The program awards qualified borrowers up to $4,000 annually for three years maximum. Teachers must reapply each year to receive assistance.
Core academic subjects that fall under the STEP program include:
- Art (K-12)
- Computer Science (4-12)
- Foreign Language (K-12)
- Music (K-12)
- Secondary Mathematics (7-12)
- Secondary Science (7-12)
- Secondary Social Studies (7-12)
- Special Education (K-12)
You can find more information about STEP by visiting the Arkansas Department of Education.
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program
The NHSC Loan Repayment program offers loan repayment assistance to eligible licensed healthcare providers serving in communities with limited access to healthcare. The program is open to medical, dental, mental health and behavioral health professionals.
You must also meet the following qualifications to apply:
- Be licensed to practice in an NHSC-eligible discipline
- Be employed at an NHSC-approved site
- Have qualifying outstanding federal education loans
Program awards are based on the service area’s Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) score and whether you work full-time or half-time. Eligible applicants may receive up to $50,000 for two years of qualifying service. You might even qualify for more assistance after completing the first two years of service.
You can learn more about the NHSC Loan Repayment Program through the National Health Service Corps.
Students to Service Loan Repayment Program
Another loan repayment program available through the NHSC is the Students to Service Loan Repayment Program. The program provides loan repayment for qualifying medical students in their last year of school. To receive assistance, you must work in a Health Professional Shortage area.
Eligible applicants can receive up to $120,000 in loan repayment for a three-year commitment of full-time service (or half-time for at least six years) after completing their primary care residency.
Eligible disciplines that may qualify for loan repayment include:
- Doctor of Dental Surgery
- Doctor of Dental Medicine
- Physician (MD/DO)
- Family Medicine
- Obstetrics/ Gynecology
- General Internal Medicine
- General Psychiatry
Check out NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program for more details on the program.
Faculty Loan Repayment Program
The Bureau of Clinician Recruitment and Service (BCRS) offers loan repayment for qualified Health Professions Faculty through the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP). Faculty must come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The program provides up to $40,000 to pay off loans and offset tax burdens. In exchange, you must serve as a faculty member at an accredited health professions college or university for two years. Employing educational institutions can also match funds received.
Visit the Health Resources and Services Administration for more information on the Faculty Loan Repayment Program.
Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program
If you have unpaid loans and provide substance abuse disorder services in an underserved area, you might qualify for loan assistance through the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program.
The program provides loan repayment of up to $75,000 in exchange for a three-year service commitment at an NHSC-approved substance abuse disorder site.
Learn more about the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program through the HRSA.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
Eligible nurses in Arkansas can also receive loan repayment assistance through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program. Qualifying registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses can receive 60% of their total outstanding federal loan balance accumulated while pursuing a nursing degree in exchange for a two-year service commitment in an approved critical shortage area. You might also qualify for an additional 25% loan repayment of your original loan amount by adding a third year of service.
To qualify, you must:
- Be a licensed registered nurse or nurse faculty
- Have completed your education training
- Be employed full-time at an eligible critical shortage facility
For more information, visit the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.
Federal student loan forgiveness programs for Arkansas residents
If you don’t qualify for a state-sponsored loan forgiveness program, the federal government also offers forgiveness through several programs. You must have outstanding federal student loans to qualify.
Loan forgiveness programs available through the U.S. Department of Education include:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
- Income-driven repayment loan forgiveness
- Perkins Loan Cancellation
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Each program carries its own requirements, stipulations and application process. Receiving government loan forgiveness may require five to 25 years of qualifying loan payments. Some programs, like PSLF and Teacher Loan Forgiveness, have specific employment requirements.
Income-driven repayment plan (IDR) loan forgiveness doesn’t require you to work for a particular employer or specific career field. Instead, it’s available for any federal borrower on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Unfortunately, IDR loan forgiveness also carries considerable tax implications once your loan balance is forgiven.
If you qualify for state and federal loan forgiveness, compare both options to determine the best chance to pay off your loan debt with a shorter time commitment.
Pursuing student loan forgiveness in Arkansas
With so many repayment plans and other paths to pay off student loan debt, it’s hard to know which one to choose. The best option often depends on eligibility and your total debt balance. Student loan debt forgiveness is generally a good option if you qualify. If you have private student loans, refinancing through a private lender can lower your interest rate, lower your monthly payments and pay off your balance faster.
If you’re unsure where to start, consider booking a session with a Student Loan Planner consultant. We’ve helped thousands of borrowers like you create customized loan payoff plans based on specific needs. We come alongside you to analyze your situation and to help determine the best course of action.