Hawaii Student Loans: Debt Stats, Repayment Programs and Refinancing Loans

Hawaii Student Loans: Debt Stats, Repayment Programs and Refinancing Loans

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Hawaii borrowers have an average federal and private student loan balance of $33,244, which is 9% lower than the national average of $36,689.

Aloha State residents who want to pursue a college education at a lower cost have incentives like Hawai’i Promise, which funds financial aid gaps toward enrollment at local community colleges.

Although the state helps students afford higher education through these need-based programs, many students must borrow federal and private Hawaii student loans to pay for the remainder of their education.

Hawaii student loans: Borrowers owe average of $33,244 in federal, private debt — and more facts

Low-income undergraduate students who haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree might be eligible for the Hawai’i Promise Scholarship. As a “last-dollar” scholarship, students must first submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The scholarship funds kick in to fill the gap between received federal aid and the cost of attendance at a University of Hawai’i (UH) community college. Award recipients can apply to any of seven UH community colleges in the system, two of which are in Honolulu.

The UH System also includes three university campuses that offer students a four-year degree. These campuses include:

  • University of Hawai’i at Hilo
  • University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
  • University of Hawai’i – West O’ahu

In addition to its public college and university system, the state is home to many private institutions, like Hawai’i Pacific University and Chaminade University. Although a public institution costs residents less money than a private school, students attending either school type often need to rely on federal and private student loans for extra aid.

Student loan debt in Hawaii’s largest county: Honolulu

Student loan debt by ZIP code in Hawaii’s largest city: Honolulu

Loan repayment programs for Hawaii residents

Participating in student loan forgiveness and repayment programs helps borrowers manage their debt after graduating. Hawaii residents have access to a few programs to reduce their student loan debt.

Hawaii John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

The Hawaii John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program is a federally funded program available to public defenders and prosecutors working in the state. Participants must have qualifying loans in good standing, earn less than $90,000 annually and commit to a minimum three-year service agreement.

Hawaii State Loan Repayment Program (HSLRP)

The HSLRP is a federal cost-sharing program partially funded and administered by Hawaii. It’s available to primary and behavioral care providers who agree to serve at health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) in the state. Applicants must be fully licensed in Hawaii and commit to a minimum two-year contract to receive loan repayment assistance.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Under the PSLF program, participants who work full time at a government or nonprofit employer can receive loan forgiveness, regardless of their occupation. Hawaii borrowers pursuing PSLF must have direct loans, enroll in an income-driven repayment plan and make 120 qualifying payments. The remaining direct loan balance due is forgiven.

Hawaii federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons

How to refinance Hawaii student loans

In Hawaii, 7.9% of borrowers have a federal student loan balance that’s $100,000 or higher. A repayment strategy that might be advantageous for six-figure borrowers is student loan refinancing.

Through a student loan refinance, Hawaii residents can combine their federal and private student loans. The original loans are paid in full by the refinancing lender, and a new loan of the total balance is created under one private loan. When shopping for a student loan refinance, borrowers should compare multiple lenders to find their lowest rates and best terms.

Although refinancing federal loans is an option, there are caveats to this approach. Borrowers will no longer be eligible for valuable loan forgiveness programs or have access to income-driven repayment programs. And while some private lenders offer deferment and forbearance on a case-by-case basis, the requirements for these options vary between lenders.

Before refinancing, borrowers should consider whether they’ll need federal loan benefits in the future and how a refinance affects their monthly loan payments and long-term costs.


  • 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
  • mappingstudentdebt.org

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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