Student Loan Forgiveness in Illinois: 4 Programs to Consider
Updated: Oct 23
Illinois is home to some of America's best colleges and universities, and its residents are familiar with student loans debt. With an average student debt balance of $36,531 among borrowers, the Prairie State currently has 1.7 million borrowers.
Borrowers in Illinois are oftentimes in debt for decades and spend years putting off their financial dreams, goals, and aspirations. But eligible borrowers across the state may find relief from one of four state-specific programs.
Keep reading below for an introduction to these state programs, as well as some insights into federal programs offered by the United States Department of Education.
Student loan forgiveness in Illinois
At the time of writing, there are four main student loan forgiveness program for Illinois residents to take advantage of:
These programs are available to residents in certain careers, such as education, law, nursing, and other medical providers.
1. Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program
Providing debt repayment assistance for teachers working in low-income schools and areas, the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program strives to attract and retain talented educators. Think of the program as teacher loan forgiveness for Illinois teachers.
Eligible and participating schools and districts can be found via the United States Department of Education's TLCI Directory.
The program provides up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness (as a grant) for those that meet the following eligibility criteria:
Have qualifying (and outstanding) Federal Stafford Loans
Be a U.S citizen or eligible non-citizen that is a resident of Illinois
Have fulfilled a 5-year teaching obligation in qualifying low-income Illinois elementary or secondary school
Illinois' Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is a great plan to use in conjunction with Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness, depending on how much debt you have. And while you likely cannot participate in both programs at one time, you can utilize them both over the course of your career.
Applying for Illinois Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Get started by downloading and printing the Illinois Teachers LRAP from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. The application has six unique sections over two pages that you'll need to complete.
Section 1: Your personal information, including your name, address, SSN, or employer information
Section 2: An attestation and request for debt repayment assistance
Section 3: A list of the required documentation that you'll need to attach to your application
Sections 4 & 5: General information and definitions you'll need to apply
Section 6: Information to return the completed application
We've found that this application is best completed by starting with the fields that will require your input, and then gathering the required documentation after the fact, but you should start with what makes you the most comfortable.
Once you've completed your application, you'll need to mail it to:
IL Student Assistance Commission
1755 Lake Cook Road
Deerfield, IL 60015-5209
2. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
State and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who agree to complete three years of service are eligible to receive up to $4,000 annually towards outstanding FFELP and Federal Direct Loans.
With a maximum forgiveness balance of $60,000, funding dependent, Illinois' John R. Justice program is one of the most lucrative state student debt forgiveness programs out there.
To receive forgiveness under the program, you'll need to:
Be employed in the state as an attorney licensed to practice law
Work in a role where you spend your time prosecuting criminal/juvenile cases or provide legal representation to "indigent persons"
Have federal debt that is part of the FFEL and/or Direct Loan programs - this includes Stafford, Consolidation, and Federal Perkins Loans
Not be in default on any federally guaranteed educational loan
3. Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program
A program designed for nurse educators across the state, you may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness ($5,000 annually for up to 4 years).
To apply for this award, you must first teach for at least 12 months consecutively at an approved Illinois institution as an educator for practical or professional nurses. Once you've met this requirement, you can apply for $5,000 in forgiveness after each 12 month period.
You also must be a state resident and meet all of the licensing requirements of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The Illinois nurse educator program covers the following student loan types:
The inclusion of private student loans is especially important here, as that is rare for state and Department of Education forgiveness programs.
4. Veterans' Home Medical Providers' Loan Repayment Program
Offering student loan assistance to Illinois residents that work in qualifying veterans' homes, the Veterans' Home Medical Providers' Loan Repayment Program provides $5,000 a year in forgiveness for up to 4 years.
Similar to the nurse educator program, 12 months of service are required to be eligible for each annual submission.
Eligibility includes Illinois residents working in the following professions:
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs)
Registered nurses (RNs)
Certified nurse practitioners (NPs)
As of the time of writing, participating veterans' homes are located in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno, and Quincy.
Applying for the program
Once complete, you'll want to mail the completed form to:
Illinois Student Assistance Commission
1755 Lake Cook Road
Deerfield, IL 60015-5209
Federal loan forgiveness programs for Illinois residents
State residents don't have to depend on these four state programs to obtain student loan forgiveness. You should be aware of the presence of the following federal forgiveness programs as well:
Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Perkins Loan Cancellation
NHSC Loan Repayment Programs
1. Teacher Loan Forgiveness
A student loan forgiveness program specifically designed to help educators, Teacher Loan Forgiveness may be an option for you if you work five complete and consecutive years in a low-income school.
Offering between $5,000-$17,500, depending on the subject that you teach, it may be a great option for teachers to use in tandem with the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program. To qualify for $17,500 in forgiveness, you're going to need to teach:
Other subjects will receive $5,000.
2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness, PSLF for short, is available to Federal Direct Loan borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans. You'll need to meet strict employer eligibility by working for a qualifying nonprofit or the government.
And you'll make 120 qualifying payments before you're eligible for forgiveness.
3. Perkins Loan Cancellation
The third federal forgiveness program available to Illinois residents is Perkins Loan Cancellation.
Unlike PSLF and TLF, Perkins Loan Cancellation is not dependent on your career choice. Instead, it is a program reserved for those with outstanding Perkins Loans, a type of federal loan that was discontinued in 2017.
Qualifying borrowers can have 100% of their Perkins balance forgiven over a period of five years.
4. NHSC Loan Repayment
Eligible healthcare workers in Illinois may qualify to have upwards of $50,000 in debt forgiven through the three National Health Service Corps programs. The three programs vary slightly, but essentially all reward those that complete service requirements with NHSC-approved substance use disorder (SUD) facilities.
Other student loan repayment options for Illinois residents
There are millions of Americans, in Illinois and every other state, that feel like they can't afford their student loan payments as they are.
You're not alone.
Between the federal and state forgiveness programs available to you, there may be one to get you started out. But if, for whatever reason, forgiveness doesn't appear to be in the cards for you, continue to browse all of the options available to you, like private refinancing.
Refinancing your student loan debt can be a great option for those who don't qualify for any forgiveness programs, either because of your career or loan type. For those considering refinancing, keep in mind that you may be able to lower your monthly payment, cut years off your payments, or potentially both.
For Illinois residents considering refinancing, we recommend that you start by checking your rates with LendKey and Splash Financial - two of the most popular refinancing companies out there. Both companies are actually marketplaces that will compare your rates across multiple lenders for you.
The process will take less than three minutes and won't affect your credit score!
We usually advocate that student loan borrowers in any state evaluate the full list of student loan forgiveness programs before they apply for or join a program. In most instances, you'll want to start with the federal programs, since they tend to be more lucrative. But this is not a hard and fast rule either. The key is to do your homework before you act.
Depending on the program, your forgiveness also could be treated as taxable income.
Get our Illinois student loan calculator
Unless you are a teacher, lawyer, or work in healthcare, you're likely going to need to consider a federal forgiveness program or alternate repayment strategy. And that's okay, because we built you a student loan calculator.
This completely free tool will help borrowers across The Prairie State to evaluate their eligibility, projected payments, balances, and debt-free year with the following strategies:
Selecting one of the alternate strategies on this list can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars, years off your repayment, or maybe both!
Student loan forgiveness in nearby states
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