There are 2.7 million student loan borrowers in New York, with debt totaling $99.8 billion. Despite the state’s Excelsior Scholarship, which provides tuition-free college for qualified, middle-class New Yorkers, borrowers in New York carry an average balance of $35,638 — though that’s 3% lower than the average borrower in the U.S. ($36,689).
In April, the state’s Department of Financial Services sought to offer relief for 300,000 borrowers with private student loans. It reached an agreement with New York’s private student loan industry to provide temporary relief similar to protections under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, including hardship-based forbearance.
New York borrowers also have had enhanced protections since 2019 through the state’s Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, which enforces industry standards, such as requiring servicers to apply payments in a way that benefits student borrowers.
New York borrowers owe average of $35,638 in federal, private student loan debt — and more facts
The amount of student loan debt that New York students can expect highly depends on the type of institution they attend. The state has two public college systems:
- State University of New York (SUNY)
- City University of New York (CUNY)
Students can choose to attend one of 64 SUNY campuses, such as the University at Albany, or 25 CUNY campuses, such as the College of Staten Island.
Beginning in 2017, New York’s Excelsior Scholarship offered tuition-free education to students completing two- or four-year degrees at SUNY or CUNY campuses. Students must meet program requirements, including income limits, state residency and course credit minimums, to be eligible. Due to the coronavirus crisis, awards might be reduced or prioritized for existing scholarship participants.
Students not interested in attending a SUNY or CUNY campus can explore the hundreds of private or for-profit colleges around the state. Some notable colleges in these groups include:
- Colgate University
- Cornell University
- New York Film Academy
The state offers many grants and scholarship programs to help students with higher education costs. After exhausting these options, New Yorkers can consider federal or private student loans.
Student loan debt in New York’s largest counties, from Albany to Westchester
Student loan debt by ZIP code in New York’s 3 largest cities: New York, Buffalo, Rochester
Loan repayment programs for New York residents
New York offers numerous loan forgiveness and repayment programs to help qualified residents dramatically reduce their student debt.
Child Welfare Worker Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program
The Child Welfare Worker Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program offers awards up to $10,000 a year for up to five years — for a maximum award total of $50,000. Borrowers must be employed at a licensed child welfare agency in New York, and have been a state resident for at least 12 consecutive months before applying. Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.
District Attorney and Indigent Legal Services Attorney Loan Forgiveness Program
District attorneys, assistant district attorneys or indigent legal services attorneys who’ve worked in the state may be eligible for a maximum program award of $20,400. Attorneys who are New York residents must have served full time for four to nine years. The $3,400 District Attorney and Indigent Legal Services Attorney Loan Forgiveness Program award is paid annually, based on qualified service years.
Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program
Recent New York graduates whose federal loans are on income-driven repayment plans might be eligible for forgiveness through the Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program. It offers up to 24 months of federal loan payment relief. Applicants must meet multiple eligibility criteria to qualify, including income, school and employer requirements. Payments are made directly to applicants’ loan servicers.
Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program
Full-time, licensed New York social workers can receive up to $6,500 in student loan forgiveness for each service year — for a maximum award of $26,000 — through the Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program. Social workers must serve at least 35 hours a week in fields such as home care, mental health or substance abuse. Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.
Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program
The Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program offers up to $8,000 for each year of service, with a maximum award of $40,000. Recipients must meet service qualifications, have been a New York resident for 12 consecutive months and have earned a master’s degree in nursing or a doctoral degree as nursing or adjunct clinical faculty. Parent PLUS and Perkins loans aren’t eligible.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
Certified New York teachers can receive up to $5,000 a year in loan forgiveness — for a total of $20,000 over four years — through the state’s Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Aside from being a New York resident for a minimum of 12 months, applicants must work full time as an elementary or secondary teacher in a subject shortage area or a district that’s considered “hard to staff.” Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.
Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program
Recent New York graduates who want to pursue a farming career in the state can receive a $10,000 annual disbursement toward student loans. To qualify for the Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program, applicants must operate a farm in New York for at least five years and meet other eligibility requirements. The total lifetime award for this program is $50,000.
New Yorker borrowers can also consider federal student loan forgiveness options if they don’t qualify for state repayment programs.
New York federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe more than national average — and more comparisons
How to refinance student loans in New York
More than 8% of borrowers in New York owe $100,000 or more in student loans. Refinancing student loans can be a helpful way for them to reduce interest charges and overall student debt.
Student loan borrowers in New York can choose to refinance both federal and private loans into a refinanced loan through a private lender.
Refinancing can be advantageous for New Yorkers with a strong credit score. However, it also means losing out on federal repayment options, federal loan forgiveness programs and protections. So make sure to explore all available options.
- 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.