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The average balance for federal and private student loan borrowers in Wisconsin is $30,023, which is 18% less than the U.S. average of $36,689. This ranks Wisconsin 45th in student loan debt among states. Of note, Wisconsin has 800,000 million student loan borrowers, with a total outstanding debt of $24.2 billion.

Wisconsin students have access to several special loan programs for current students and scholarships and grants. However, even with these resources, 64% of students in Wisconsin graduated with college debt in 2019, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. If you have Wisconsin student loans, here’s what you need to know.

Wisconsin student loans: Borrowers owe average of $30,023 in federal, private debt — and more facts

America’s Dairyland features many public and private colleges and universities, including the University of Wisconsin System, which features 13 universities across 26 campuses. The University of Wisconsin offers its Bucky’s Tuition Promise, which covers the full financial need of students that qualify for federal Pell grants.

There are other opportunities to get help paying for college in Wisconsin, including the Talent Incentive Program (TIP) Grant, Wisconsin Grant (for public and private schools) and scholarships aimed at academic excellence. On top of that, Wisconsin has a tuition reciprocity agreement with Minnesota.

However, Wisconsin student loans don’t have many forgiveness options, even though there are special loan programs for teachers and for students of color.

Student loan debt in Wisconsin’s largest counties, from Dane to Waukesha

Student loan debt by ZIP code in Wisconsin’s 2 largest cities: Milwaukee and Madison

Loan repayment programs for Wisconsin residents

There aren’t a lot of Wisconsin student loan forgiveness and repayment programs. As a result, you might need to turn to federal repayment programs to get help repaying some of your Wisconsin student loans.

Health Professions Loan Assistance Program (HPLAP)

For health care professionals in an outpatient setting, the HPLAP offers up to $50,000 in loan forgiveness. However, you must work in a federally designated shortage area to receive this help. Additionally, you must work for at least three years in an eligible community.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

The federal PSLF program provides graduates a chance to receive forgiveness on their remaining loan balances after making 120 qualifying payments while working in a public interest position with a nonprofit or government agency.

Rural Physician Loan Assistance Program

Primary care physicians and psychiatrists can receive up to $50,000 in loan assistance when they agree to practice in designated rural areas. Even if the community isn’t federally recognized as an underserved area, eligible health care professionals can still receive Rural Physician Loan Assistance Program funding based on criteria set forth by the state legislature.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Teachers can access the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program by teaching full time in qualifying low-income schools in Wisconsin. Those who complete five years of teaching in eligible areas can receive up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness.

University of Wisconsin Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program

For certain law school graduates who pursue public interest work, the University of Wisconsin Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program can provide a degree of loan help. In general, these small grants offer an amount equal to between two and six months of loan repayment. The grant is a lump sum that can be applied toward the student loan balance and is available when the graduate accepts a qualifying position with a nonprofit or government agency.

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

How to refinance Wisconsin student loans

More than 5% of Wisconsin student loan borrowers owe $100,000 or more in student loans. For these borrowers, it can make sense to refinance their student loans to save money.

When you refinance your Wisconsin student loans, you get a new loan to pay off all the outstanding student loans. After refinancing, the borrower hopefully has a lower interest rate and only one monthly payment.

However, refinancing is a private process, so if you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to income-driven repayment options, as well as to federal programs like PSLF. Additionally, while some private lenders offer hardship and forbearance programs, they are different from the federal programs and might not offer some of the same protections.

You can choose which loans to refinance, so it’s possible to refinance your private student loans while consolidating your federal student loans to streamline your payments.

Sources

  • 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
  • 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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