In Oklahoma, borrowers have an average federal and private student loan balance of $29,890. Although this reality might be jarring, the state ranks as having the fifth-lowest student debt balance in the nation. The average federal and private student loan balance in the U.S. is $36,689 — 23% higher than in Oklahoma.
To help its lower-income residents afford higher education, Oklahoma offers college tuition assistance programs. As early as high school, the Oklahoma’s Promise program allows eligible students the opportunity of a college tuition scholarship, while undergraduate students can apply for aid through the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG).
But despite these helpful scholarships and grants, some students pursuing a college education find that they still need federal and private Oklahoma student loans to fill cost gaps.
Oklahoma student loans: Borrowers owe average of $29,890 in federal, private student loan debt — and more facts
College-bound students can reduce their long-term student debt by attending one of many public institutions in Oklahoma. The state offers two-year colleges and comprehensive, four-year universities, which include:
- Oklahoma State University
- University of Central Oklahoma
- University of Oklahoma
The state also has 10 private, four-year institutions. A few notable schools for prospective students are:
- Oral Roberts University
- The University of Tulsa
To help with college’s rising costs, Oklahoma residents can apply for Oklahoma’s Promise as early as eighth grade. The program is available to students whose family’s adjusted gross income is $55,000 or less, and its recipients must also meet academic and conduct requirements to receive assistance.
Undergraduates who need ongoing support during their college years can apply for OTAG. The program offers recipients enrolled in a public school in the state up to $1,000 in tuition assistance ($1,300 if enrolled in one of its private institutions) or 75% of the enrollment costs — whichever is lower. Award recipients must have graduated from an Oklahoma high school and meet residency and enrollment requirements.
Oklahoma students who are either ineligible for need-based aid programs or are still short on college funds can consider federal and private student loans. Although this type of aid isn’t ideal, it can bridge the financial gap needed to pursue higher education.
Student loan debt in Oklahoma’s largest counties, from Oklahoma to Tulsa
Student loan debt by ZIP code in Oklahoma’s 2 largest cities: Oklahoma City and Tulsa
Loan repayment programs for Oklahoma residents
While the Oklahoma Student Loan Authority helps many borrowers manage student loan repayment, one way to accelerate loan repayment is through federal and state repayment assistance programs.
John R. Justice (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program
The Oklahoma District Attorneys Council administers the federal JRJ Student Loan Repayment Program. Eligible prosecutors and public defendants in the state who have federal loans — Stafford (direct), Perkins, graduate PLUS or direct consolidation — can apply for loan repayment assistance. The state received $34,312 in program funding for the 2019-21 award years.
Oklahoma Dental Loan Repayment Program (ODLRP)
Dentists participating in the ODRLP can receive repayment assistance starting at $25,000 a year. In exchange for the award, recipients must commit to serve in a designated dental health professional shortage area in the state. Alternatively, recipients may also fulfill their service commitment by teaching at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry if a position is available. Service terms are from two to five years.
Physician Assistant Loan Repayment Program
The Oklahoma Physician Manpower Training Commission administers the Physician Assistant Loan Repayment Program. It offers a maximum award of $60,000 (disbursed over three years) in loan repayment assistance for licensed primary care physician assistants. Recipients must agree to practice in an approved community within the state. Additional requirements apply.
Physician Loan Repayment Program
Licensed primary care physicians in Oklahoma can receive up to $200,000 over a four-year service contract. The state’s Physician Loan Repayment Program requires recipients to serve in an approved local community or a rural or shortage area. Additional requirements apply.
Oklahoma federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons
How to refinance Oklahoma student loans
Borrowers who don’t qualify for student loan forgiveness have another alternative to pay off student loans. Student loan refinancing can reduce interest rates and save borrowers money in the long term. In particular, this repayment option could be helpful for the 5.7% of Oklahoma student loan borrowers who have $100,000 or more in student debt.
Refinancing is an option for existing federal and private student loans. During a student loan refinance, a private lender pays off the original loan and replaces it with a new loan account. Ideally, the new refinance loan is at a lower interest rate and terms that align with borrowers’ needs.
Borrowers can mix and match which loans to include in the refinancing process. However, it’s important to carefully consider refinancing federal loans. Federal loans give borrowers added benefits, like extended deferment and forbearance, fixed interest rates and access to student loan forgiveness and flexible repayment plans — these protections are lost after a student loan refinance.
Before moving forward with a particular lender, Oklahoma borrowers should consider whether they’ll need to rely on federal loan benefits in the future. It’s also wise to compare multiple student loan refinancing offers to find the lowest interest rate.
- 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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