Almost half of the college graduates in Florida have student loan debt, according to The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). On average, students in the state are leaving school with more than $24,000 in student debt as of the 2019-20 school year.
While student loan debt in Florida is the eighth-lowest in the nation, there are still millions of Floridians trying to manage their student loans. And luckily for some, the Sunshine State offers some student loan forgiveness options.
How Does Florida Student Loan Forgiveness Work?
The two Florida-specific programs—for nurses and lawyers—both forgive a portion of student loan debt for qualified borrowers. To be eligible, you must full-time work at specific employers for a set amount of time. Although neither program will totally forgive your debt, both offer assistance for multiple years.
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Student Loan Forgiveness Programs in Florida
If you’re a lawyer or nurse, you might qualify for one of these student loan forgiveness programs in Florida.
1. Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program (NSLFP)
The Florida NSLFP offers up to $4,000 a year per enrollee for up to four years. That means borrowers can expect up to $16,000 in forgiveness, if eligible.
To qualify for this program, you need to:
- Be a licensed LPN, RN or ARNP in Florida
- Have student loans that were used for a degree in nursing
- Work full time at a designated employment site
Deadline: NSLFP has rolling enrollment dates and deadlines throughout the year. For instance, the first deadline each year has an application window from Feb. 1 to March 1. The application deadline is March 1 and the enrollment date is April 1. The next application window starts on May 1.
You can find more information about the program through the Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance.
2. Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)
The Florida Bar Foundation runs the LRAP, providing up to $5,000 per person, per year in the form of a loan. Recipients are required to use the funds to pay down student debt—then the loan is forgiven.
You’re considered eligible for this program if you’re a lawyer who:
- Is legally authorized to practice law in Florida
- Works for an eligible civil legal aid organization
- Spends over half your time providing legal services and assistance to clients on behalf of that organization
As long as the work meets the required standards, you’re considered an eligible participant. However, executive directors, interim executive directors and staff members who handle more administrative work are not eligible. Public service attorneys are also not eligible.
Since the program comes in the form of a loan, you’ll need to stay eligible throughout the duration of the term. For example, if you leave your job (whether you’re terminated or quit) during the loan period, you could be required to repay the LRAP loan instead of having it forgiven.
Deadline: For lawyers looking for assistance for the 2023 year, the application window opens in October of the year prior.
You can find more information about the program through the Florida Bar Foundation.
Consider These Other Loan Forgiveness Options
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is one of the most recognizable student loan forgiveness opportunities offered. It’s only available through the Department of Education for federal student loan borrowers who are currently enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan and work full-time for a qualified government employer or nonprofit.
You’ll need to make 120 qualifying monthly payments to be eligible. After this, your remaining balance is forgiven.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Teachers who work full-time for at least five consecutive years at an eligible low-income school or agency might be eligible for teacher loan forgiveness through the Department of Education. You’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree and state certification—and not have any certification or licenses waived.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Eligible healthcare workers could get upwards of $50,000 in loan forgiveness through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program. To qualify, you must have worked full-time for at least two years at an NHSC-approved substance use disorder (SUD) facility.
Keep in mind that NHSC offers a few different loan forgiveness programs for different workers. So if you’re not eligible for one, you might qualify for other healthcare worker forgiveness.
There are four federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plans available:
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
With these plans, repayment is based on a percentage of your discretionary income—anywhere from 10% to 20%—and your household size. After 20 or 25 years, depending on your plan, the remaining balance of your federal student debt is forgiven.
You’ll need to update your IDR plan annually to reflect any changes to your income or family size (even if there hasn’t been any change). You can also do this before your annual certification so your loan servicer can recalculate your payment amount.
Not all loans are eligible for an IDR plan, so you’ll need to make sure your loans qualify before enrolling.