Borrowers in Massachusetts shoulder an average federal and private student loan debt of $31,821. Comparatively, the national average is $36,689, which is 15% higher.
In January 2021, state legislators passed the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, which standardizes loan servicer practices and includes borrower protections. The state also offers several financial aid programs for its students to help them carry less debt after graduation. Currently, Massachusetts provides seven grants, eight scholarships and 17 tuition waivers to eligible students.
Although these aid offerings make higher education more accessible, 1 million borrowers in the Bay State still rely on some federal and state student loans.
Here’s what you need to know about your Massachusetts student loans.
Massachusetts student loans: Borrowers owe average of $31,821 in federal, private debt — and more facts
The commonwealth offers postsecondary campuses of all types, including 15 within the Gov. Foster Furcolo Community Colleges system and six comprehensive, public state universities, including Bridgewater State University, Salem State University and Westfield State University. In addition, Massachusetts also has three specialized public institutions: Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
The state also has public, four-year University of Massachusetts campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell.
Residents attending a Massachusetts public college can take advantage of many aid opportunities to cover college expenses, like the need-based Cash Grant Program and the MASSGrant and MASSGrant Plus programs that cover some school fees and tuition. Plus, Massachusetts community college graduates who are participating in the MassTransfer Tuition Credit Program can have a percentage of their tuition reduced when enrolled at a state university or UMass campus for up to two years following their completion of community college.
If a private college education is preferred, Massachusetts is home to renowned Ivy League school Harvard University. There are many other notable private, nonprofit schools, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Seven Sisters institutions Smith College, Wellesley College and Mount Holyoke College.
Still, whether Massachusetts students attend a public or a private institution, rising college costs can make student loan debt a necessary burden.
Student loan debt in Massachusetts’ largest counties, from Bristol to Worcester
Student loan debt by ZIP code in Massachusetts’ largest city: Boston
Loan repayment programs for Massachusetts residents
Massachusetts borrowers who are looking for loan repayment assistance can turn to a few options.
Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP) for Health Professionals
The MLRP is available to eligible licensed health care professionals serving communities identified as having health care provider shortages. For a two-year, full-time service commitment, recipients can receive up to $50,000 in repayment assistance. Applicants can also serve the equivalent amount of time on a part-time schedule.
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
The NHSC LRP is a national program that’s available to licensed and practicing Massachusetts health care providers. Borrowers must provide service within Medicare, Medicaid or the state Children’s Health Insurance Program. For two-year, full-time contracts, award amounts are up to $50,000, and $25,000 for two-year, part-time contracts.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
The Nurse Corps LRP is another national program through the NHSC. It’s available to Massachusetts registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses and nurse faculty. Upon the completion of a two-year contract, the program provides up to 60% of remaining nursing loan debt. If eligible for an additional third year, participants can receive another 25% in loan repayment.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Student loan forgiveness isn’t just for health care workers. The federal PSLF program is available to government or nonprofit workers with federal direct loans. Borrowers must make 120 qualifying payments under an income-driven repayment plan while working full time for a qualified employer. After the payment requirement is fulfilled, the remaining loan balance is forgiven, tax-free.
Massachusetts federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe more than national average — and more comparisons
How to refinance Massachusetts student loans
Refinancing federal and private student loans is another way Massachusetts borrowers can lessen their student loan debt over time. This approach is particularly advantageous for the 6.9% of borrowers in the state who owe $100,000 or more in student loans.
When refinancing student loans, borrowers could receive a lower interest rate and better repayment terms. A lower interest rate can reduce borrowers’ monthly loan payments and lessen the money spent on interest charges over the loan term. It also consolidates multiple federal and private student loans into one manageable loan — simplifying the repayment experience.
Borrowers can explore the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) refinancing option, called MEFA Refi. This lets borrowers refinance any type of student loan and offers seven-, 10- or 15-year repayment terms, at a low fixed or variable interest rate.
However, before refinancing federal student loans, borrowers must consider the caveats of transitioning them into private loans (specifically, the loss of access to federal benefits like flexible repayment plans based on income, as well as beneficial loan forgiveness programs like PSLF). And although private lenders sometimes offer deferment or forbearance options, they’re often different from the government’s generous deferment and forbearance protections.
- 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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