North Carolina can boast about its beautiful beaches, wild horses and cities with nightlife. What it can’t boast about is the amount of student debt its residents carry. On average, North Carolina students graduate with $34,610 of student loan debt. And 6.9% of them, in general, owe over six figures of student loan debt.
These numbers might not be so shocking considering North Carolina is home to some of the most prestigious schools, including Duke University. Regardless, North Carolina isn’t blind to the student loan debt crisis. It has several state-specific loan forgiveness programs in place to help its residents manage student loan debt.
Below are the North Carolina student loan forgiveness programs to look out for.
5 student loan forgiveness programs in North Carolina
The loan forgiveness programs in North Carolina are for those in public service. This includes doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, lawyers and teachers. Be sure to look into the eligibility criteria for each forgiveness program to see if you qualify.
1. North Carolina State Loan Repayment Program
The North Carolina Office of Rural Health administers the North Carolina State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). This program helps mental health providers who offer primary and psychiatric care in rural and underserved areas.
The locations where you could serve vary and are based on need. The locations include but aren’t limited to:
- Federal Community Health Centers (also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs)
- State-Sponsored Rural Health Centers
- County Health Departments
- State Mental Health Hospitals
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Centers
- Community Mental Health Facilities
The North Carolina SLRP requires two years of service. There’s also a possibility for additional student loan forgiveness. You can only get this if you’re offered an additional one-year contract. The amount awarded is based on the amount of relevant educational loans, hours worked per week and working at an integrated care site. You can receive up to $50,000 of loan forgiveness.
2. North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation program
If you are a lawyer working in North Carolina and have earned your accredited degree in the past 10 years, you could be eligible for the North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation (NC LEAF) loan repayment program. NC LEAF is in place to encourage law school graduates to enter and remain in public service. Lawyers must meet the following requirements to be considered:
- Work full time in a North Carolina qualifying public service job
- Be in good standing with the North Carolina Bar
- Must first use other sources of loan forgiveness available; this includes Loan Repayment Assistance Programs offered by employers
- Annual gross income from all sources may not exceed $55,000 for a single person or $95,000 jointly
- Must have at least $10,000 of student loan debt
- Must receive monthly bills from a law school loan provider
If you meet these requirements, you can receive up to $400 of monthly help to repay your student loans. The total amount of forgiveness can’t exceed $4800 annually.
3. Forgivable Education Loans for Service
The Forgivable Education Loans for Services (FELS) program offers student loan forgiveness for North Carolina resident students pursuing their degree. This loan is administered by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority. Your degree can be in any of the following fields:
There are restrictions for which area of concentration you choose in these fields. In addition, the program is open only to certain fields for undergraduate and graduate school. Review the list of approved educational programs to see if your degree qualifies.
FELS recipients must be enrolled for at least six credit hours each semester to qualify for funding for undergraduate or graduate programs. You must also be willing to work in a North Carolina designated critical shortage profession.
Along with being in the approved program and agreeing to work, you must also maintain a certain minimum cumulative GPA, and your loans must be in good standing. You can’t pair this loan repayment program with any other state or federal loan forgiveness program.
You can qualify for a maximum of $20,000 for your undergraduate degree; $20,000 for a master’s degree and up to $56,000 for a doctoral degree. Generally, a loan for one academic year is forgiven in return for one year of full-time employment. Loans accrue interest at the rate of 8% per year from the date of the loan disbursement. If you don’t complete the required service after graduation, you must repay the loan in cash.
4. North Carolina Loan Repayment Program
The North Carolina Office of Rural Health offers another loan forgiveness program — the North Carolina Loan Repayment Program (NC LRP). This opportunity is for qualifying health-care providers. You must be willing to provide primary care services an eligible facility. This facility must be serving those with high need and designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). It must also be certified as a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) site or be working toward this certification.
You’ll agree to a four-year service commitment at one of these facilities. During this time, you must provide at least 32 hours per week of onsite clinical practice. This is considered full-time status. If you want to work less, you can receive prorated forgiveness for part-time work of at least 20 hours per week.
Physicians and dentists can receive up to $100,000 of loan repayment. Nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, physician assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners and dental hygienists can receive up to $60,000 of loan forgiveness.
5. Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
If you’re a lawyer, you may also want to look into the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) options available. The University of North Carolina offers an LRAP for public service practicing lawyers. Another common program in many states is the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program. You’ll need to investigate which programs are currently open.
To find all the LRAP programs that are open in North Carolina, go to the American Bar Association state LRAP contacts page to connect with your representative.
With any of the programs above, it’s a good idea to reach out to your state contact for specific questions. If you find that you don’t qualify for these North Carolina student loan forgiveness programs, you should look into the federal loan forgiveness.
Federal student loan forgiveness options for North Carolina
Federal student loan forgiveness programs are offered by the U.S. Department of Education. If you have federal student loans, you could be eligible. The federal student loan forgiveness programs include:
- Income-driven repayment plan loan forgiveness
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness
- Perkins Loan cancellation program
Each of these loan forgiveness programs has specific eligibility requirements. They can be some of the best options for completely wiping out your student loan debt.
State loan forgiveness programs typically can’t be utilized while you’re enrolled in a federal loan forgiveness program. You can enroll in and complete a state loan forgiveness program, then enroll in a federal loan forgiveness program if you still have student loan debt.
What if you don’t qualify for these loan forgiveness programs?
Private student loans aren’t eligible for either state or federal loan forgiveness programs. If you have private loans, you have two options:
- Refinance your private student loans at a lower rate: You can refinance your private student loans while pursuing a forgiveness program with your federal student loans, if you have both types. When refinancing your private student loans, shop around and compare both interest rates and loan terms. Check out our guide to refinancing your student loans to get started with the process.
- Seek a student loan lawyer: If your private student loans aren’t in good standing, you may be getting calls from debt collectors. The statute of limitations for a lender to sue you for unpaid debt is three years in North Carolina. Ideally, you didn’t miss any payments. However, if you’re going through financial hardship, consider looking into this option with a student loan lawyer.
If you’re still a student, you should investigate scholarships and grants. North Carolina has numerous opportunities to help fund your education in school. It even offers fellowships for teachers who want to return to school and pursue administration. You can find the full list of current programs on the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority website.
As you weigh your student loan repayment options, it’s important to come up with a plan, as there are many repayment strategies to consider for your own situation. If you’d like to hire a professional on our team to help you evaluate your student loans, schedule a consultation today.