Updated: Apr 3
Colorado is a state of beauty. Home to some of the Rocky Mountain's most famous peaks, not to mention beautiful cities like Denver and skiing metropolises such as Aspen, the state has something to offer every outdoor enthusiast.
Unfortunately, the state is not immune to the ongoing student debt crisis sweeping the nation. Luckily, though, Colorado has implemented a number of state-run student loan forgiveness programs designed to provide some loan repayment assistance to many of those that need it most.
Colorado and student loan debt
According to Student Loan Hero, the average Coloradoan student loan borrower owes an average of $34,497. And while this is lower than the national average of nearly $37,000, it is in no way a small amount of money.
The state also has about 800,000 outstanding student loan borrowers out of a population of 5.7 million. This number of borrowers, multiplied by the average remaining balance, means that Colorado has nearly $30 billion in outstanding student loan debt.
Student loan forgiveness programs in Colorado
Borrowers across Colorado have four different state-sponsored student loan forgiveness programs to pursue. These programs are:
Colorado Health Service Corps
State Dental Loan Repayment Program
Rural Essential Access Provider (REAP) Loan Repayment Program
State Law School LRAPs
1. Colorado Health Service Corps
The Colorado Health Service Corps program is designed to increase access to health care services across the state's health professional shortage areas. The program is open to:
Clinical social workers
Colorado Health Service Corps forgiveness amounts
Eligible participants may qualify for between $45,000 and $120,000 in student loan assistance. The assistance that you receive depends on a number of variables, including whether you work part-time or full-time and what type of services you provide.
Generally, the maximum of $125,000 is reserved for physicians, dentists, PAs, pharmacists, counselors, and some other providers that work full-time.
Other providers or those that don't work full-time can expect to earn the following forgiveness amounts:
$90,000 for PAs, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists, mental health providers, counselors, dental hygienists, and addiction counselors
3/4 time work:
$90,000 for dentists and physicians
$67,500 for PAs, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists, mental health providers, counselors, dental hygienists, and addiction counselors
$60,000 for dentists and physicians
$45,000 for PAs, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists, mental health providers, counselors, dental hygienists, and addiction counselors
You'll also need to complete a three-year service commitment at your qualifying place of work to retain eligibility. Certain medical providers across the state may opt to participate instead in either of the next two programs - the State Dental Loan Repayment Program, or the Rural Essential Access Provider (REAP) program.
2. State Dental Loan Repayment Program
Dentists and dental hygienists working in underserved communities within Colorado may be eligible for the State Dental Loan Repayment Program. Open to those who serve the uninsured, Medicaid, and CHP+ patients, the program does require you to provide direct clinical care to patients and work for two years at the same public, nonprofit, or private dental practice site.
Offering between $6,000 and $50,000 in loan assistance, the actual amount of student loan forgiveness you receive is dependent upon the number of underserved patients you see per month, according to the following schedule.
The program is open to general dentists, pediatric dentists, and dental hygienists across the state of Colorado.
$50,000 - 80+ underserved patients per month
$37,500 - 60-79 patients per month
$25,000 - 20-59 patients per month
$12,000 - 80+ patients per month
$8,000 - 60-79 patients per month
$6,000 - 20-59 patients per month
3. Rural Essential Access Provider (REAP) LRAP
Colorado's REAP program is open to these medical professionals statewide:
Offering between $7,500 and $30,000 in student loan assistance, depending on what type of provider you are and whether you work full-time, REAP requires you to serve a two year term within a designated rural or frontier county. The site also needs to be within a federally designated health professional shortage area.
Other base requirements include:
Accepting Medicare, Medicaid, and CHP+ patients
Offering a sliding scale of fees for those at or below 200% of federal poverty line
Medicaid patients must make up 10% or more of patients served
4. Colorado Law School LRAPs
Finally, two law schools across the state have their own repayment assistance programs for their graduates to take advantage of.
We'll start with the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, which is open to graduates after May 2003 that work in public service and have annual incomes under $75,000.
Qualifying attorneys can earn assistance for up to five years, and the repayment assistance provided has been known to make a difference for those on federal income-driven repayment plans in particular.
The University of Colorado Boulder also offers a program for its law graduates working in public interest positions. Those earning less than $65,000 annually may be eligible to receive $5,500 annually for up to 5 years. This program is flexible, and you can take advantage even if you have not passed the bar, as long as your employer does not mandate it.
Federal student loan forgiveness for Coloradoans
In addition to the Colorado specific programs we just reviewed, Coloradoans also have access to the federal government's array of student loan forgiveness programs offered through the Department of Education.
Programs that may be useful include:
Income-Driven Repayment - Available to federal borrowers that struggle to keep up with their payments, Coloradoans may opt for one of the federal income-driven repayment plans, which cap your monthly payments at 10-20% of your monthly discretionary income. Your discretionary income is calculated by the federal government and takes into account your household size, income, and other factors.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness - Those that work for qualifying non-profits or select governmental agencies may be eligible to have 100% of their qualifying federal student loans forgiven after making 120 monthly payments on one of the income-driven repayment plans.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness - Colorado teachers may be eligible for up to $17,500 in forgiveness if they are highly qualified teachers, have completed five consecutive and complete academic school years, and meet other eligibility requirements.
Perkins Loan Cancellation - Those with outstanding Federal Perkins Loans may be eligible to have them 100% forgiven over a period of five years if they meet certain employment or volunteer service requirements.
Colorado student loan forgiveness tips
Now that we've covered a few of the programs you may consider using to earn forgiveness, we want to give you a few insider tips that we've learned along the way.
1. Tread cautiously
First and most importantly, do not take action until you are positive that what you are doing is the right course of action for you. The clearest example here would be refinancing.
Refinancing to a lower interest rate or different term could save you thousands of dollars over the long run, but how disappointed would you be to find out that you were eligible for some forgiveness and didn't realize it? Refinancing with a private lender puts into motion a permanent transition away from federal debt that cannot be undone, so you'll need to be crystal clear about what your goals and objectives are ahead of time.
2. Weigh pros and cons as necessary
Our second tip is to remember to weigh the pros and cons of each loan repayment assistance program you are considering. Just because you are a dentist, for instance, does not mean that Colorado's State Dental Loan Repayment Program is right for you. Instead, consider that this particular program requires you to serve 80+ underserved patients per month to be eligible for the maximum forgiveness.
We always recommend that our readers and our clients think outside the box, and ask themselves probing questions when necessary.
Get our student loan forgiveness calculator
We're also proud to announce that we have a way to help guide you as you consider the various federal forgiveness options introduced above. Our free student loan calculator can model dozens of different scenarios for you and provide the data insights you'll need to:
Select the most advantageous program for you and your financial needs
Compare the various eligibility requirements across programs
To earn the student loan forgiveness that you deserve
At this time, our calculator can help you choose among IBR, ICR, PAYE, REPAYE, PSLF, private refinancing, and more!
Refinancing your student loans
Unfortunately, not all Coloradoans will qualify for any of the student loan forgiveness programs covered here. All borrowers, federal and private, are eligible to refinance their loans. Refinancing can be a great way for you to:
Lower your monthly payments
Secure a lower interest rate
Alter your repayment term (extend or shorten)
If you're unsure where to get started, Splash Financial is oftentimes a great place. Splash is a student loan marketplace, rather than a lender, meaning that they'll aggregate the best rates for you automatically.
Their rate check service takes less than three minutes and won't impact your credit, so what are you waiting for?
Student loan forgiveness in nearby states
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