Is student loan debt a terrible financial burden in your life?
Good news: Certain states in search of bright, young minds are riding to the rescue with offers of student loan forgiveness that could reduce what you owe or help wipe it out completely!
Get student loan help in exchange for living and working in a state
Communities across the country that are suffering from ‘brain drain’ — where all the talented locals move away for better job prospects — want to pay your educational bills in exchange for you taking up residency and working in certain fields.
Here’s a look at who offers what…
Opportunity Maine Tax Credit
Maine offers what’s called the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit designed to bring young college grads to the state to live and work.
In exchange for moving to the Pine Tree State to begin your career, the state will apply whatever you pay in student loans to reduce your state income tax liability.
This program is open to graduates from any U.S. college who graduated after 2008, though the specifics of the benefit you’ll receive vary by exact date of graduation.
STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and math) are in the highest demand and will merit more favorable terms.
For example, the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit is refundable if you’re a STEM graduate. That means STEM candidates are able to get a “refund” from the state if they pay more in student loans each year than they owe in state taxes.
Full details of the Maine offering are available here.
Of course, there’s one big caveat here: If you’re likely to take a big drop in salary because of a move to a state that offers a program like this, it may not be worth it for you. You’ve got to weigh the variables carefully before jumping.
Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones
Maine isn’t the only place with a statewide-initiative aimed to draw young college graduates and help them out with their student loan burden.
Kansas is another example of a state that has a similar offer in 77 of its counties that qualify as Rural Opportunity Zones.
In return for living and working in one of these communities, the Sunflower State will absorb up to $15,000 of your student loan debt and exempt you from state income tax for five years.
Full details of the Kansas offering are available here.
Check out this industry-specific student loan forgiveness option
The two programs mentioned above are state-specific. But maybe the states mentioned above aren’t exactly what you had in mind for a place to live and work.
In that case, it is possible to find industry-specific programs that can help pay off your student loan debt and allow you the flexibility to live in a lot more potential places.
Sarah Hansen, 29, is one young woman who has firsthand experience with this kind of program. In 2015, Hansen graduated from Emory University with a Master’s in Nursing degree and some $93,000 in student loan debt to show for it — but it could have been a lot worse.
That particular scholarship reduced her potential student loan debt from about $200,000 down to the aforementioned $93,000 when she graduated.
In exchange, she agreed to work in a low-resource/low-income area for two years. That happened to be West Virginia for her.
After completing that initial two-year commitment, Hansen was then able to apply for a loan repayment program, also through NHSC.
“Though this scholarship and loan repayment program, I will be able to completely pay off my [remaining] student loan debt of about $93,000 in two-and-a-half years,” Hansen says.
Today she’s living in West Virginia and working as a Nurse Practitioner.
As for the decision to leave her native Georgia and move north to the Mountain State, it turns out it was an easy one for Hansen.
“I had done a rural healthcare rotation up here while I was a student at Emory and had a wonderful experience at the clinic in which I now work. I also absolutely fell in love with my little town of Fayetteville and the amazing outdoor activities it offers, from climbing to whitewater to hiking,” she says.
“For me, West Virginia offers a beautiful place in the mountains where I can have a balanced life of adventure and low-cost of living, as well as a sense of fulfillment in my career.”
Miscellaneous city programs
In addition to state or industry programs, several cities also offer their own incentives to help you pay down your student loan debt.
- Hamilton, Ohio – Receive $5,000 to help pay student loans over a period of 25 months when you move to the area and find work. Recent STEAM graduates (science, technology, engineering, arts or math)are encouraged to apply.
- Grant County, Ind. – This one isn’t exactly student loan forgiveness, but college grads can get $5,000 toward buying a home through the Grant for Grads program when you work in the county. There’s money available for renters, too.
- St. Clair County, Mich. – Recent STEAM graduates who grew up in this Great Lakes community can receive up to $15,000 to come back home and work in the county. Further details are available here.
Maybe it’s not your cup of tea to live in a rural Midwestern setting, or in Maine or West Virginia. But it’s no picnic to be overwhelmed with student loan debt, either!
If none of these options applies (or appeals) to you, here’s a look at some broader programs that offer loan forgiveness.