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Student loan forgiveness programs in North Carolina

Health professionals, teachers and lawyers could save big in the Tar Heel State.

North Carolina doesn’t have as many forgiveness programs as other states. But if you work in health care, there are several options to choose from — the state has a health professional shortage. There’s also a state repayment assistance program for lawyers and teachers.

North Carolina Loan Repayment Program (LRP)

  • Amount: $60,000 to $100,000, depending on the type of health provider
  • Qualifying loans: All student loans — as long as they haven’t been consolidated with other types of debt

The North Carolina Office of Rural Health (ORH) offers this program to bring healthcare providers to rural areas across the state. You must make at least a four-year commitment to work in an eligible facility to qualify for this tax-free forgiveness program.

How much you qualify for depends on the type of provider you are. Physicians and dentists can qualify for up to $100,000 in forgiveness. Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners and dental hygienists can get up to $60,000.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for this program, you need to meet the following criteria:

Eligible healthcare provider

Types of providers include:

  • Dentists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Nurse midwives
  • Physician assistants
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners
  • Dental hygienists
  • Primary care physicians
Time requirements

You must reach out to the ORH to express interest in the program within six months of getting hired. This includes those who are also applying for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program.

Other requirements

You must meet the following additional criteria to qualify for this program:

  • Unrestricted North Carolina medical license
  • Agree to a four-year service commitment
  • Work at least 32 hours of direct care a week at an onsite clinical practice
  • No other service commitments
  • US citizen or permanent resident

North Carolina State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) for Behavioral Health Therapists

  • Amount: Up to $30,000
  • Qualifying loans: All student loans — as long as they haven’t been consolidated with other types of debt

The North Carolina SLRP is designed to bring mental health professionals to underserved and rural areas of the state. It involves a two-year service commitment to work in a qualified primary care site in these areas. Unlike other forgiveness programs, you won’t have to pay any taxes on the funds you receive.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for this program, you must meet the following criteria:

Eligible providers

You need to be a qualified mental health care provider. This includes:

  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • Licensed professional counselors
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Psychiatric nurse specialists
  • Health service psychologists
Qualified primary care sites

You need to work or plan to work at a qualifying primary care site. This includes:

  • Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs)— such as Community Health Centers and Migrant Health Centers
  • FQHC look-a-likes
  • Rural health clinics
  • Community mental health facilities
  • Critical access hospitals
  • Health department clinics
Qualified areas or countiesYou need to Work in a federally-designated health professional shortage area (HPSA). North Carolina considers 84 counties to be a mental health HPSA as of March 2018. Check to make sure your area is an eligible health professional shortage area before you apply by visiting the North Carolina Health and Human Services website.

North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation (LEAF)

  • Amount: Up to $4,800 per year
  • Qualifying loans: Federal and private law school loans, bar exam loans

The North Carolina LEAF program is designed to help lawyers afford to work in public service by reducing their student debt load. However, it’s meant as a last resort — it recommends you apply for other repayment assistance programs through your law school or employer first.

It’s one of the few programs that allows you to include bar exam loans, as most will only consider debt from while you were in school.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for this program, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Earned a JD from an American Bar Association-accredited school
  • Graduated within the past 10 years
  • Licensed member of the North Carolina State Bar in good standing
  • Full-time, law-related public servant in North Carolina
  • Annual gross income less than $55,000 as an individual or $95,000 as a married couple
  • At least $10,000 in remaining law school debt with monthly loan payments

Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS)

  • Amount: The balance of your North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) student loans
  • Qualifying loans: NCSEAA student loans

Teachers with loans through the NCSEAA can qualify for either loan forgiveness or cash if they take on a qualified job. Borrowers can get one loan forgiven for one year of full-time work or two years of part-time work. Do your research first — you won’t be eligible for this program if you’re applying for other employment-based forgiveness programs.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for FELS, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Work or have a contract to work for at least 12 months at an approved education program for at least 12 months
  • Notify NCSEAA of your interest in the program within 90 days of graduation
  • Submit verification of employment to the NCSEAA within 30 days of starting a job
  • Your employment can’t be used to qualify for another forgiveness program

What if I don’t qualify for any of North Carolina’s forgiveness programs?

North Carolina’s forgiveness programs aren’t for everyone. If you can’t qualify, you might want to consider the following options:

  • Apply for refinancing. Borrowers with a high income and strong credit might be eligible for lower rates and better terms — which could potentially save you in the short and long run.
  • Apply for federal forgiveness. Federal forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) are open to a wider range of professions than North Carolina offers.
  • Switch repayment plans. Changing plans could reduce your monthly expenses, get you out of debt faster or even qualify you for automatic forgiveness after making a certain number of income-based repayments.

I defaulted on my student loans. What’s the statute of limitations on student debt in North Carolina?

The statute of limitations on promissory debt in North Carolina — which includes student loans — is five years. Once the statute of limitations is up, your lender won’t be able to sue you for repayments in the state of North Carolina. However, this only applies to private student loans — federal loans aren’t subject to the same rules.

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Bottom line

North Carolina state student loan forgiveness programs are limited by profession. Healthcare providers have the most options, though lawyers and teachers might also qualify.

On another career path? Check out your other options with our guide to student loan forgiveness programs.

Compare student loan forgiveness programs in other states

Select a state from the list and explore other loan forgiveness programs across the country.

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Frequently asked questions

Will receiving forgiveness affect my income taxes?

It depends on the program. The IRS typically considers any type of debt forgiveness taxable income. However, North Carolina offers several tax-free forgiveness programs, meaning that it won’t affect your taxes. If you’re unsure, reach out to a tax specialist.

Are North Carolina student loans forgiven after 10 years?

Not necessarily. However, you might be eligible for several North Carolina and federal programs after working at an eligible job for 10 years or less.

What happens if I switch jobs before my service requirement is up?

It depends on the forgiveness program. In some cases, you might be required to return part of the funds you received. In others, you’re required to pay off your loans in full as if you had never entered the forgiveness program.

Most North Carolina programs require you to sign an agreement pledging to work at an eligible job for a specific amount of time — avoid enrolling if you aren’t sure you can keep this commitment.

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