Residents of the state of Alaska who graduate with student debt may be pleasantly surprised to find that the average student loan debt for people in the state is $25,349, which is $2,000 less than the national average.
While that amount may be lower than the national average, it can still feel like a significant burden.
If you live in Alaska and currently hold student debt, there are Alaska student loan forgiveness programs that may alleviate some of that burden. That’s specifically true for those working as health professionals.
You can see all state student loan forgiveness programs here.
National Health Service Corps Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Plan (LRP) offers up to $50,000 in initial loan forgiveness, or in this case, repayment, to student loan borrowers in eligible health professions. Applicants must be willing to commit to two years at an NHSC facility that is in an underserved area. Initial awards are based on the applicant’s service status (full-time or half-time) as well as the site’s Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) score.
To be eligible for the NHSC LRP award, you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national who is licensed to practice in an accepted health discipline (medical, dental, mental/behavioral health) and for or as a provider within the Medicaid, Medicare, or state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Additionally, this repayment program award is only applicable to student debt that leads to a degree in one of the qualifying medical fields.
How to Apply
The application is a multi-step, online process that typically takes about three weeks to complete. All applicants must pass an initial eligibility screening and be able to provide all required documentation, which includes proof of U.S. citizenship or national status and loan verification information.
To apply for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program, applicants must first create an account on the HRSA.gov website. Applications for this loan program are only accepted during the application cycle, which typically begins in January or February and closes within four to six weeks following the opening date. The HRSA anticipates that the next application cycle will open in January or February of 2019. However, those interested in applying for the LRP program can sign up for an email alert that will notify them when the application cycle officially opens.
SHARP-I: Support for Service Program
Alaskans also have access to student loan repayment through the SHARP-I program, it is funded by both the federal HRSA grant as well as non-federal sources such as the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. This program is designed for primary health care providers in the medical, behavioral health, and dental professions. Awardees can receive loan repayment for up to $47,000 as long as they meet the program requirements and agree to serve a two-year contract in an HPSA facility.
Alaska once also offered the SHARP-II program, though this program is currently no longer active. However, the state is currently working on a SHARP-III program that will be funded by private contributions and participating employers. This program is expected to move past some of the structures maintained by the federally funded programs, specifically with regards to loan repayment type and practitioner type. SHARP-III is expected to launch within the next year and a half. Interested borrowers who meet eligibility requirements should check with the Alaska Department of Health regularly for more information.
Similar to the NHSC program, SHARP-I applicants must be a U.S. citizen or naturalized citizen and commit to a two-year term work in an HPSA facility in the medical, dental, or behavioral health field. Eligible facilities must accept Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP funding. In addition, applicants must have full licensure in their practice or healthcare occupation by the effective SHARP start date.
Though applicants are encouraged to apply for various loan repayment opportunities, awardees cannot receive concordant awards. Therefore, any applicant currently taking advantage of another loan repayment program, like the NHSC, will not be eligible.
How to Apply
To apply for this loan repayment opportunity, the SHARP-I application, as well as all required documents, must be completed and sent back to [email protected]. Faxed documents or hard copies are no longer accepted unless there is an extenuating circumstance.
Those filling out the practitioner application will be required to provide information about their education, licensure, current employer (if applicable), loan and lender information and any past employer information.
Typically, applications are available and submitted during specified cycles, though it is anticipated that off-cycle applications will be accepted sometime between now and the end of 2018, possibly as soon as November. To find out more about the application process, including information about deadlines and requirements, potential applicants should frequently check the SHARP website or send an email to [email protected].
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Service (IHS) program provides eligible awardees with up to $40,000 to repay eligible health education loans in exchange for a two-year service commitment to a facility that serves Alaska Native and American Indian communities. Applications can be submitted online on the Indian Health Services website.
Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs
In addition to the NHSC and SHARP programs, individuals with federal student loans such as a Direct Loan or a Plus Loan, or other private educational loans may be able to take advantage of loan forgiveness through other programs. These programs include:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Despite some controversy regarding public service loan forgiveness, the federal financial aid program is still currently offered by the Department of Education. This program provides student loan debt forgiveness for those who are employed by a government or not-for-profit organization. This opportunity is also open to those who serve as a full-time Peace Corps or AmeriCorps volunteer.
To find out about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, visit the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website.
Forgiveness through the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Program
Though not considered a traditional loan forgiveness program, this program offers federal loan borrowers the opportunity to obtain loan forgiveness after making a monthly payment for 20 to 25 years.
Payments are based on your discretionary income (10% to 15%). Once the repayment term ends, the loan is forgiven. However, keep in mind that the remaining debt may be considered taxable income. Additional information regarding these programs can be found on the Federal Student Aid website.