Illinois Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

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Updated on April 28, 2023

Illinois ranks 8th in the nation for student loan debt, totaling a staggering $61.6 billion. With an average debt of $37,757 per borrower, more than 906,500 residents, or about 13% of the state’s population, are grappling with this financial burden.

Fortunately, several federal and state forgiveness programs are available to Illinois borrowers.

Over 1.5 million Illinois residents applied for student loan forgiveness before President Joe Biden’s debt cancellation plan was put on hold amid legal challenges. This plan is currently awaiting a Supreme Court decision.

According to newly released data from the U.S. Education Department, the three congressional districts in Illinois with the highest response rates for debt relief applications were the 5th, 6th, and 8th districts in the Chicago area.

Regardless of the outcome of President Biden’s plan, Illinois borrowers can take advantage of other federal forgiveness programs and state-based initiatives to eliminate their debt burden.

Related: State-Based Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Illinois Residents

Before exploring Illinois-specific programs, let’s discuss the federal student loan forgiveness programs offered by the Department of Education to all Americans, including Illinois residents. These programs provide relief for federal student loans based on factors such as your profession or income.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)

PSLF is designed for individuals with Direct Loans working in qualifying public service jobs. To be eligible, borrowers must make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer, such as a government agency, public school, or nonprofit organization.

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness Waiver

Starting in spring 2023, most borrowers who have been paying their federal student loans for 20 years or longer will automatically receive relief, allowing the rest of their debt to be discharged.

This change results from a new IDR account adjustment announced by the Biden administration in April 2022. That fix gives borrowers credit toward income-based repayment forgiveness for the time spent in repayment, forbearance, and some periods of deferment. It’s open to all federal student loan borrowers, but those with FFEL or Perkins Loans may need to be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Eligibility criteria include working full-time for five consecutive years in a low-income school or educational service agency and having taken out federal Direct or Stafford Loans after October 1, 1998. Forgiveness amounts vary, with up to $17,500 for highly qualified math, science, and special education teachers and up to $5,000 for other eligible teachers.

President Joe Biden’s Broad Debt Cancellation Plan

This student debt relief program promises to wipe out up to $20,000 of debt for Pell Grant recipients who meet income criteria and up to $10,000 for other qualifying borrowers. Applications are on hold as the Supreme Court assesses the program’s legality. In the meantime, the Biden administration has extended the pandemic-related payment pause and interest rate freeze.

Illinois Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Illinois offers several state-specific student loan forgiveness programs to help ease the financial burden of student debt. These programs are designed to support professionals in vital education, healthcare, and mental health sectors. By participating in one of these programs, you can make a meaningful impact on your community while receiving financial assistance to pay off your student loans.

John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program: Supporting the Pursuit of Justice

The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program is dedicated to state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who commit to at least three years of service. This program requires eligible candidates to have:

  • Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or Federal Direct Loans

  • A commitment to serve in their roles for at least three years

The award, up to $4,000 per year, can be received multiple times, with an aggregate limit of $60,000. Be mindful that any unfulfilled employment commitments will necessitate repayment.

Program Details: John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program

Teachers in Illinois with Federal Stafford Loans can benefit from the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program by working in a qualifying low-income area, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory.

Eligible teachers can receive matching forgiveness funds of up to $5,000 from the state in addition to the federal loan forgiveness program.

Program Details: Illinois Teacher Loan Repayment Program

Veterans’ Home Nurse Loan Repayment Program

Medical professionals working in veterans’ homes can apply for the Veterans’ Home Nurse Loan Repayment Program to receive an annual award of $5,000 to repay their student loans. Eligible professionals include:

  • Physicians

  • Certified nurse practitioners

  • Registered professional nurses

  • Certified nursing assistants

  • Licensed practical nurses

To receive the award, a 12-month service commitment in a veterans’ home is required, with the option to renew up to four times.

Program Details: Veterans Home Nurse Loan Repayment Program

Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program

The Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program aims to support the long-term careers of nurse educators.

If you are currently instructing practical or professional nurses for at least 12 months at an approved institution, you may qualify for an annual award of up to $5,000 to repay your student loan debt.

The award can be received for a maximum of four years.

Program Details: Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program

Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program

The Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program, administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), offers loan repayment support for mental health and substance abuse professionals in underserved community mental health centers.

Eligible applicants must:

  • Be US citizens or eligible noncitizens

  • Be Illinois residents

  • Have a student loan balance

  • Have worked at least 12 consecutive months in a qualifying behavioral health role

  • Not have defaulted on a student loan

The award amount is based on your position and remaining loan balance, with funding available for up to four years. A 12-month work commitment in an underserved area is required for each year of loan repayment assistance.

Applications for the 2022-2023 cycle began in November 2022 and will be accepted as long as funding is available.

Program Details: Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program

Bottom Line

In Illinois, various state-specific student loan forgiveness programs are available to taxpayers and professionals in essential fields such as teaching, dentistry, and public service. These programs offer crucial financial relief and support to those who qualify and are dedicated to serving their communities.

While the outcome of Biden’s debt forgiveness plan for millions of federal student loan borrowers is still unclear, it’s important to remember that these state-specific programs remain accessible to eligible borrowers in Illinois.

Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in debt cancellation, both in Illinois and at the federal level, and seize the opportunities available. Enhance your understanding of these programs and make informed decisions by subscribing to our newsletter today.

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