Ohio student loan forgiveness options come in many forms. Depending on your profession and location, you could qualify for partial or full loan forgiveness through a number of state-specific programs.
Here’s a rundown of 10 potential avenues for student loan forgiveness in Ohio and nationwide, as well as some other ways to manage your college debt:
A Student Loan Hero analysis found that the average Ohioan with student debt owes $32,972 — which is a little less than the national average of $36,689, but not by much.
At the same time, there are other student loan forgiveness programs in Ohio on a state level — and some are even specifically designed for the state’s residents. Here’s our list of 10 such opportunities:
1. John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
2. Ohio Access to Justice Foundation Loan Repayment Assistance Program
3. Ohio Dentist and Dental Hygienist Loan Repayment Program
4. Ohio Free Clinic Dentist Loan Repayment Program
5. Ohio Nurse Education Loan Assistance Program
6. Ohio Nurse Education Loan Assistance Program for Future Nurse Instructors
7. Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program
8. Ohio Substance Abuse Disorder Professional Loan Repayment Program
9. Ohio Veterinary Student Loan Repayment Program
10. Loan repayment assistance from your school
If you work in Ohio as a state or federal public defender or state prosecutor, you may be eligible for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program. If you qualify, you could receive help repaying your loans. Note, however, that the amount of assistance will vary by year.
The program requires you to commit to continuing to work as a full-time public defender or state prosecutor for at least three years. Only borrowers with qualifying federal student loans can take advantage of this program. Private student loans, parent PLUS Loans and alternative loans won’t be eligible.
Attorneys employed in private practice, even if they provide public defense services under contract to the state, are ineligible for the program.
The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds civil legal aid programs. To aid with the recruitment and retention of talented attorneys, it offers student loan repayment assistance to lawyers that work for eligible legal aid organizations.
To qualify, you must work full time for one of the following organizations:
- Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.
- Community Legal Aid Services, Inc.
- Ohio Justice Bus, LLC
- Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.
- The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
- The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (Ohio State Legal Services Association)
- Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati
- Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, LLC
- Ohio Legal Help
- Ohio Poverty Law Center, LLC (Ohio State Legal Services Association)
- Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (Ohio State Legal Services Association)
- Pro Seniors, Inc.
The amount of assistance varies by year. In 2019 — the most recently available data — the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation awarded $666,426 of loan repayment assistance to 138 attorneys.
If you’re a dentist or dental hygienist willing to work in a designated health care professional shortage area, the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program (ODLRP) or the Ohio Dental Hygienist Loan Repayment Program (ODHLRP) can help you pay off your student loans.
Full-time applicants who work at least 40 hours a week for two years will receive up to $25,000 per year to repay student loans. If you continue to serve at your practice site for a third or fourth year, you may receive up to $35,000 per year in loan repayment assistance. (Part-time workers can receive up to half of the full-time amounts.) The program can help you repay both federal and private student loans.
If you’re a licensed dentist and volunteer or work part time at an Ohio free clinic, you may be eligible for up to $10,000 in loan repayment assistance through the Ohio Free Clinic Dentist Loan Repayment Program.
The maximum amount you can receive is based on whether you’re an employee or a volunteer. If you’re a volunteer, the award is determined by the number of hours you volunteer during a 12-month period.
Staffers, meanwhile, receive an annual $5,000 payment for eight to 19 hours of weekly service within that same term; those working over 19 hours are encouraged to apply for the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program.
Funds can be used to repay both federal and private student loans.
The Nurse Education Loan Assistance Program (NEALP) is a program providing loans for Ohio students who are enrolled at least half-time in an approved Ohio nurse education program ahead of their licensure and intend to work in the nursing field after graduation.
Assistance of up to $12,000 can be given for up to eight semesters, 12 quarters or an equivalent term. If a student works full time as a nurse within the state for at least five years, they can qualify for total loan cancellation.
Loan amounts vary by year. For the 2021-2022 academic year, the award amount was $1,620 per year.
Similar to the NEALP, the Nurse Education Loan Assistance Program for Future Nurse Instructors provides loans to nursing students that plan on becoming nursing faculty members after graduation.
Eligible students can receive a minimum of $5,000 per year (in the 2021-22 academic year, the award was $6,000 per year) in assistance in exchange for a four-year service commitment. For each year of service, a portion of the balance is forgiven, up to a maximum of total forgiveness of the outstanding loan balance.
As with the NEALP program, participants can receive assistance for up to eight semesters, 12 quarters or an equivalent term (up to $12,000); they can also qualify for loan cancellation with four years of service.
Through the Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program (OPLRP), doctors may qualify for loan repayment assistance.
Like other repayment programs, participating physicians must fulfill a service commitment and work for at least two years in an underserved community, and can serve a further two one-year period if they meet the terms of their initial contracts. The physician must be willing to take patients regardless of their ability to pay, and their practice facility must also accept Medicare and Medicaid.
Here’s what you can receive if you’re approved to be a part of the program:
- For the first two years, you can receive up to $25,000 per year to put toward your medical school loans if you work at least 40 hours per week.
- If you maintain eligibility for a third or fourth year, you may get up to $35,000 per year for your medical school debt.
- If you’re considered part time but work at least 20 hours per week, you’re eligible for up to half of these amounts.
To qualify, you must offer primary care in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynecology or psychiatry.
Health care professionals specializing in the treatment of substance abuse disorders can qualify for student loan repayment assistance of up to $50,000 or $25,000 (for full-time and part-time service, respectively) through the Ohio Substance Abuse Disorder Professional Loan Repayment Program.
In return, you must work for at least two years in a qualifying underserved area and treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. The site where you work must accept Medicaid and utilize a sliding scale fee structure or provide other financial assistance to patients with lower incomes.
Both federal and private student loans are eligible for repayment assistance. The following professions can qualify for the program:
- Licensed independent chemical dependency counselor (LICDC)
- Licensed independent marriage and family therapist (LIMFT)
- Licensed independent social worker (LISW)
- Licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC)
- Nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse midwife (CNM), clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
- Pharmacist (RPh)
- Physician (DO/MD)
- Physician assistant (PA)
- Psychologist (PsyD/PhD)
- Registered nurse (RN)
If you’re a veterinarian, you may be eligible for up to $20,000 in student loan repayment assistance through the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board’s Veterinary Student Loan Repayment Program.
To qualify, you must be enrolled or have graduated within the past three years from an approved veterinary college and be eligible for licensure within Ohio. You must commit to work in one of the following fields for at least two years:
- Large animal veterinary care
- Veterinary services necessary to enforce or implement the law
- Veterinary services necessary to protect public health
If you have another service obligation with the federal or state government or a private entity, you’re ineligible for this program unless the original obligation will be satisfied prior the beginning your service commitment with the Veterinary Student Loan Repayment program.
Depending on where you went to college, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness directly from your school. Some colleges and universities offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) for their graduates, and, in some cases, those with specific majors or concentrations. For example:
- Ohio Christian University PayBack Promise: If you attended Ohio Christian University and earn less than $45,000 after graduation, the school will provide you with assistance through quarterly reimbursements until your income surpasses $45,000, or your loans are paid in full — whichever comes first. The program provides assistance for both private and federal loans, including parent PLUS Loans.
- Capital University Law School: Graduates of Capital University’s law program who work full time and earn less than $50,000 per year can qualify for its loan repayment assistance program. To qualify, students must work in a law-related capacity for a nonprofit organization or a government agency. Help is provided via quarterly disbursements, and students can reapply each year for continued assistance.
Contact your alma mater to see if you’re eligible for school-specific repayment assistance.
While there are many student loan forgiveness programs in Ohio, not all borrowers will be eligible. However, there are other ways to get help with your loans.
Depending on the type of loans you have and your field, you may be eligible for one of the following loan forgiveness programs:
- Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) forgiveness: Federal loan borrowers can enroll in an IDR plan, which will reduce their monthly payments but also require a longer loan term; depending on the plan, terms are either 20 or 25 years. If the borrower still has an outstanding balance at the end of the term, the remaining amount is forgiven.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): PSLF is for federal student loan borrowers that work full time for a nonprofit organization or government agency for at least 10 years (120 qualifying payments are required).
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Teachers that work for five consecutive, full academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency can qualify for up to $17,500 in federal loan repayment assistance.
Employer assistance programs
Nationwide, employer student loan repayment assistance programs are becoming more common. In Ohio, several companies offer student loan repayment benefits. For example:
- Cleveland Clinic: At the Cleveland Clinic, eligible professionals can qualify for up to $15,750 in lifetime student loan repayment assistance.
- Trilogy Health Services: At Trilogy Health Services, employees that have been with the company for at least six months and work at least 20 hours per week can qualify for $100 per month in student loan assistance for full-time employees ($50 per month for part-time employees).
Student loan refinancing
Not everyone will qualify for Ohio student loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with your debt, another option to consider is student loan refinancing.
When you refinance, you work with a private lender to take out a loan for the amount of your current debt. The new loan will ideally have a different set of terms than your old one(s); you can have a new interest rate, monthly payment and repayment term. Afterward, you’ll have only one loan to manage and one monthly payment to remember.
If you have good credit and a stable income, you could qualify for a lower interest rate, helping you save money. Or, you could reduce your monthly payment by extending your repayment term, giving you more breathing room in your budget.
But although you can refinance both federal and private student loans, refinancing federal loans can be risky. You’ll transfer your debt to a private lender, and you’ll no longer be eligible for federal benefits like PSLF, IDR plans, federal forbearance or deferment programs or any future mass federal loan forgiveness initiatives.
To help you decide if student loan refinancing is right for you, you can use our student loan refinancing calculator to see how refinancing would affect your payments and total repayment cost.
If you have outstanding student loans and live in Ohio, you may be eligible for one of the state’s loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs. You can visit the Ohio Department of Higher Education to find more information about available grants, scholarships and loan forgiveness programs in the state.
If you aren’t eligible for loan forgiveness in Ohio, don’t be discouraged. There are several ways to make your loans more manageable. Check out our full guide to student loan forgiveness, as well as tips on paying off your federal loans.