Arizonans are among the most indebted federal and private student loan borrowers in the U.S., with an average debt of $34,712 — 5% less than the $36,689 national average. This puts the state 12th for highest average student loan debt, which is considerable given that average annual wages in Arizona are $50,930.
State grants, like the Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (AzLEAP), help make higher education more accessible for students with financial need. Those who don’t qualify for the grant or still have a funding gap might be among the 900,000 state residents who turn to private and Arizona student loans to pay for their education.
Arizona student loans: Borrowers owe average of $34,712 in federal, private debt — and more facts
Students attending college in the Grand Canyon State can lessen their student debt burden by attending one of its many public colleges and universities. There are 21 community college campuses and three four-year public universities to choose from, including:
- Arizona State University (ASU)
- Northern Arizona University
- University of Arizona
ASU offers five campuses across the state, including in downtown Phoenix and in Tempe. Arizona also has a number of private institutions, including Arizona Christian University and Arizona Culinary Institute.
Residents who attend a regionally or nationally accredited college in the state and who’ve demonstrated financial need can apply for the AzLEAP grant. This grant offers up to $2,500 per academic year, though generally awards average $1,000 an academic year.
Regardless of which postsecondary school Arizonans choose, students might still need to lean on student loans for at least a portion of educational costs during their academic careers.
Student loan debt in Arizona’s largest counties, from Maricopa to Pinal
Student loan debt by ZIP code in Arizona’s 3 largest cities: Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa
Loan repayment programs for Arizona residents
After graduating from college, eligible Arizona residents might have a chance to reduce their student loan debt through one of the state’s loan repayment programs.
Arizona Department of Health Services Loan Repayment Programs
The Arizona Department of Health Services offers two loan assistance programs for health care providers:
- Primary Care Provider Loan Repayment Program (PCPLRP). Borrowers must work with a public or private nonprofit employer serving in an identified health professional shortage area (HPSA) within Arizona.
- Rural Private Primary Care Provider Loan Repayment Program (RPPCPLRP). Health providers must be employed with a rural private primary care practice in an HPSA or a described underserved area in the state.
Both programs require applicants to be fully licensed to practice a qualified discipline in the state. Borrowers are required to contract full time (minimum 40 hours per week) or half time (minimum 20 hours per week) for at least two years. Award amounts vary, depending on provider type, full-time or half-time status, service year and fund availability.
Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program
The Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program was created to incentivize students to pursue a career in public education. It offers a maximum loan forgiveness award of $7,000 per academic year for up to three years to students who’ve been Arizona residents for at least the previous 12 months.
In exchange, eligible students must agree to work in an Arizona public school for the number of years an award was received, plus an additional year. So, for example, if a student received the loan for the maximum three years, they would need to work for four years.
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
The NURSE Corps LRP was designed to attract and retain registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice nurses (such as clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners) in Arizona. For at least two years of contracted service at an HPSA or accredited eligible nursing school, recipients can have 60% of their qualifying nursing student loans repaid (30% each service year).
If recipients choose to serve a third year, they’ll receive another 25% of their remaining eligible loan balance paid through the program.
Arizona federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons
How to refinance Arizona student loans
More than 7% of Arizona borrowers (nearly 64,000 borrowers in the state) owe $100,000 or more in student loans. For those with high student loan balances — and at high interest rates — student loan refinancing might help.
High student loan rates can make debt repayment exponentially costly. A student loan refinance can help simplify loan repayment, while also potentially lowering the amount borrowers need to repay overall.
During this process, borrowers can shop around for a student loan refinance to find competitive interest rates from various lenders. Once a lender is chosen, they’ll repay the borrowers’ original student loans. Borrowers are then left to repay the new refinanced loan with, ideally, a lower interest rate and new terms.
Borrowers can use a private student loan refinance to consolidate existing federal and private student loans. A caveat, however, exists when refinancing federal loans. In doing so, borrowers effectively lose government benefits, such as income-driven repayment options and access to loan forgiveness programs, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
And although some private lenders offer deferment or forbearance options, they’re not nearly as robust as federal protections that are a lifeline in financial hardship.
- U.S. Department of Education data as of June 30, 2020
- Anonymized My LendingTree June 2020 credit reports
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax as of June 2020
Because the latter data is from 2015, researchers estimated the increase in student loan debt per borrower in the state using statewide data from anonymized credit reports.
Interested in refinancing student loans?
Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!