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While there are many things to love about Oregon, the average balance for federal and private student loan borrowers — $34,076 — isn’t one of them. But while that number may seem high — Oregon ranks 16th for average student loan debt balance by state — the average U.S. balance is even higher at $36,689. This means that Oregon borrowers have 7% less student loan debt compared to the national average.

There are 600,000 borrowers in Oregon, and many of them may need financial relief. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) offers a wide variety of state financial aid opportunities for Oregon students. Among these is the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which is the state’s largest need-based grant program.

This is what you should know about student loans in Oregon.

Student loans in Oregon: Borrowers owe average of $34,076 in federal, private debt — and more facts

The OSAC breaks down the details of Oregon’s many financial aid programs, including key deadlines and eligibility requirements. The following programs are worth looking into if you want to avoid accumulating large amounts of student loan debt while attending college in Oregon.

  • Oregon Opportunity Grant: The largest state-funded, need-based grant program can provide assistance for students attending public community colleges and universities and participating private institutions.
  • OSAC scholarships: Students can apply for more than 500 private scholarships that go toward college or career training.
  • Oregon Promise: This grant offers aid to recent high school graduates and GED recipients to attend community college in the state.
  • Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance Grant: Eligible service members of the state’s Army National Guard or Air National Guard can receive tuition assistance at public universities and community colleges, as well as some private institutions.
  • Chafee Grant: This grant assists current or former foster care youth with postsecondary education and training expenses.
  • Child Care Grant: This is a grant for parents enrolled in postsecondary education to obtain assistance with child care that will allow them to complete their academic programs.
  • Barber and Hairdresser Grant: This program provides support to students with high financial need who are attending licensed barbering, hair design, cosmetology or manicure schools.
  • Deceased or Disabled Public Safety Officer Grant: This is a grant for eligible dependents of Oregon public safety officers killed or disabled in the line of duty.

Student loan debt in Oregon’s largest counties, from Clackamas to Washington

Student loan debt by ZIP code in Oregon’s largest city: Portland

Loan repayment programs for Oregon residents

If you’ve already accumulated student loan debt and would like some help tackling it, you can look into student loan repayment programs designed to help Oregon residents pay down their debt.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program

Qualified health care providers who work full time for two years in a health professional shortage area can receive up to $50,000 for educational loan repayments through the NHSC Loan Repayment Program. Licensed primary care medical, dental or mental and behavioral health providers who are currently employed at or have agreed to work at an NHSC-approved site may be eligible.

Oregon Health Care Provider Loan Repayment

Health care providers who commit to a three-year, full-time service obligation at a qualified practice site can qualify for a tax-free award that equates to 50% of their qualifying graduate-level educational loan debt balance (undergraduate-level debt is allowed for expanded practice dental hygienists) through the Oregon Health Care Provider Loan Repayment program. However, this amount is capped at $35,000 per obligation year.

Applicants can also agree to a three-year, part-time service commitment and receive a tax-free award of 25% of their qualifying balance at up to $25,000 per obligation year.

Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)

The Oregon Partnership SLRP is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and is then matched by the recipient’s practice site. To be an eligible recipient, you’ll need to be a primary care provider and you must work in a health professional shortage area full time for at least two years, or part time for at least four years. Awards are maxed at $100,000 lifetime.

Oregon State Bar (OSB) Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

Oregon attorneys practicing as public defenders or deputy district attorneys, or working with civil legal aid organizations or other private nonprofits providing legal representation for low-income individuals, may qualify for the OSB LRAP.

To qualify, applicants must make $65,000 or less annually and have more than $35,000 in student loan debt. The program offers forgivable loans of up to $7,500 a year for a maximum of three consecutive years.

Oregon federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons

How to refinance student loans in Oregon

A little more than 7% of borrowers in Oregon owe $100,000 or more in student loans. When managing that much student debt, refinancing may be a helpful tool worth considering.

When a borrower refinances a student loan — whether private or federal — they take out a new private loan to replace the old ones. Ideally, the new loan has a lower interest rate.

If a borrower is refinancing multiple loans into a single loan, they can gain the ease and convenience of managing just one loan and monthly payment.

But while there are benefits to refinancing student loans, there are also downsides that borrowers may want to consider. When you refinance to a private loan, you lose access to federal protections, since private student loan lenders don’t generally offer income-driven repayment options, loan forgiveness, and deferment and forbearance protections. Some private lenders may offer various forbearance or deferment options, but those benefits may be different from what is available federally.

Sources

  • 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
  • mappingstudentdebt.org

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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