With many students in Arkansas and around the nation graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, they are often looking for ways to repay it. Having significant amounts of student loan debt can make it difficult to achieve other goals in life, such as making a large purchase like a home.
There are certain programs, called student loan forgiveness, that can help people with their student loan repayment. These programs can be used for federal student loan debt, and they can either eliminate the debt or pay for some of it. If a program pays the debt, then private student loans might be covered as well.
There are different eligibility requirements for state-specific student loan forgiveness programs that might require people to commit to working in certain industries or jobs for a period of time.
Student Loan Forgiveness Programs in Arkansas
The following are some state-based Arkansas student loan forgiveness programs, as well as federal programs available to Arkansas residents.
- The State Teach Education Program
- Arkansas Teach Opportunity Program
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
- Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
The State Teach Education Program (STEP)
The State Teach Education Program, or STEP, is for eligible teachers who have federal loan debt. This teacher loan forgiveness program is managed by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and the policies that determine how this program is administered are set by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The loan repayment is available in amounts of up to $3,000 per year. An additional $1,000 is available each year for minority teachers.
To be eligible for this Arkansas student loan forgiveness program, applicants should be licensed teachers at a public school located in an area of the state designated as having a critical teacher shortage, or in a subject area that’s designated as having a critical shortage of teachers. There are other requirements as well—for example, the applicant has to be an Arkansas resident and should have a valid Arkansas teacher’s license.
How to Apply
Interested teachers should apply for STEP via the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The deadline is June 1 each year. STEP recipients must reapply every year and meet all requirements for eligibility each year.
Arkansas Teach Opportunity Program (TOP)
The Arkansas Teach Opportunity Program (TOP) is a tuition reimbursement grant available to both Arkansas teachers and administrators. This is different from STEP because rather than repaying educational loans, it reimburses teachers and administrators for out-of-pocket education expenses. The awards are available for up to $3,000 for each academic year. Reimbursement is for up to six college credit hours completed.
Eligibility requirements include being an Arkansas resident for 12 months before the application deadline, having a current license active with the Arkansas Department of Education, and being employed in Arkansas as a teacher or administrator.
How to Apply
To apply for TOP, applicants should go through the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The application deadline is June 1 of every academic year.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program or PSLF isn’t exclusive to residents of Arkansas, but it is one of the most popular federal loan forgiveness programs. The loan programs that are eligible for this program are federal Stafford or Direct Loans, PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans that are not in default. The loan amount that gets forgiven will not be taxable.
To be eligible for PSLF, applicants should have made at least 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan. You have to work in a public service job with a government organization or nonprofit, or you can be in the AmeriCorps or Peace Corps.
How to Apply
To apply for this program, you need to complete the Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You then submit that to FedLoan Servicing, and they will review your information and determine if your employment qualifies you for the program.
Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is available to people in Arkansas and throughout the U.S. It’s offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This loan repayment program pays up to $25,000 each year toward qualified education loans.
To be eligible for this loan repayment program, applicants should be veterinarians who work in a National Institute of Food and Agriculture-designated veterinary shortage situation for three years.
How to Apply
Veterinarians who think they will qualify for this program can visit the USDA website to find the application guide, the application review process, and the documents that an applicant will need. There is an application period that opens each fiscal year.