Federal and private student loan borrowers owe an average of $31,118 in Arkansas, which is 15% less than the national average of $36,689.
Yet, students looking to borrow less in student loans by reducing their educational expenses could score a win in Arkansas, as the state offers free tuition (with a catch) to eligible students in some career fields.
Here are details you should know about Arkansas student loans.
Arkansas student loans: Borrowers owe average of $31,118 in federal, private debt — and more facts
Arkansas has developed several programs to help students in the state, centralizing information through Fund My Future. Here are some opportunities to research if you want to minimize your student debt while attending school in Arkansas.
- Arkansas Future Grant: Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students or those studying in regional high-demand areas can get their tuition covered for certificate and associate degree programs at public schools in the state.
- Woodruff Scholarship: The Arkansas Student Loan Authority offers several $1,000 scholarships to incoming and current students each year, one of which would be renewable for up to four years.
- Arkansas Health Education Grant: This grant provides financial assistance to students who want to attend out-of-state schools in medical fields, such as chiropractic medicine, dentistry and optometry — and even those who wish to attend veterinary school.
- Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship: This is awarded to high school seniors with outstanding academic achievement. It can cover up to $10,000 a year in tuition, fees, and room and board.
- Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship: Up to $4,000 is available to help fund the cost of undergraduates pursuing in-depth research projects alongside faculty.
Arkansas has more than 40 postsecondary institutions, including 22 two-year colleges, 10 public universities and 12 private universities. Remember to inquire at the particular school you’re interested in to see what school-specific grants or scholarships might be available.
Student loan debt in Arkansas’ largest county: Pulaski
Loan repayment programs for Arkansas residents
If you already have Arkansas student loans, here are repayment options designed for state residents.
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program
The federal NHSC Loan Repayment Program is designed for licensed primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers who are working in areas with reduced health care access. The maximum award amount is $50,000 for two years of full-time service. Members are able to reapply to continue their service after their initial commitment.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
Registered nurses and nurse practitioners could qualify for the federal Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program to help repay up to 85% of nursing school debt. Awardees must work for two years in facilities with a critical nursing shortage or as nurse faculty in an eligible school. Upon qualifying, you’ll receive funds to cover 60% of your total outstanding education loans, with the opportunity to potentially extend your contract and cover the next 25%.
State Teacher Education Program (STEP)
STEP is administered by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to help eligible teachers repay their federal student loans. To be eligible, you must live in Arkansas and hold a teacher’s licence in the state. Plus, you have to be teaching full time in a public school. The award is for up to $3,000 annually for each year a teacher works in an area of the state with a critical teacher shortage, or teaches a subject for which there’s a teacher shortage. Minority teachers could receive an additional $1,000 annually for working in shortage areas.
Students to Service (S2S) Loan Repayment Program
The federal S2S Loan Repayment Program helps medical students during their final year if the students will commit to providing primary health care services in eligible areas where there’s a shortage of health care providers. If you qualify, you’ll receive up to $30,000 annually for four years toward your loan repayment. You could also receive complete repayment of qualifying loans after your original service term if you qualify for one-year continuation contracts.
Arkansas federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons
How to refinance Arkansas student loans
For many borrowers, particularly the 6.2% of Arkansas student loan borrowers who owe $100,000 or more in student loans, refinancing could be advantageous. Refinancing could help you save money in interest that can be applied to your loan principal to reduce your debt faster.
Student loan refinancing involves a new loan offered by a private lender that repays your original federal or private student loans. If you have stronger credit at the time you refinance, you could get a better interest rate, potentially saving you a lot of money.
Not just that, but refinancing can simplify your loan repayment by consolidating multiple loans into one payment each month. You can opt to refinance your student loans through an online lender, bank or credit union. In Arkansas, you could also refinance your student loans with the Arkansas Student Loan Authority, which offers fixed rates and a cosigner release option.
Keep in mind: When you refinance federal student loans, you’ll lose any government protections for student loan borrowers, such as income-driven repayment, forbearance or loan forgiveness options. While some private lenders might offer similar programs, they aren’t the same as the federal options — especially when it comes to deferment or forbearance. And any federal student loan legislation wouldn’t apply to your new private loans.
- 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.
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