In Connecticut, the average federal and private student loan balance for borrowers is $32,767 — 11% lower than the national average of $36,689. However, student loans can be a substantial burden, taking up a significant portion of graduates’ take-home pay.
The state has a few scholarships, grants and state-run loan programs to help make college more affordable. While the state doesn’t have its own student loan repayment assistance program, you may be eligible for a federal loan forgiveness program instead.
Here’s what you need to know to manage your Connecticut student loans.
Connecticut student loans: Borrowers owe average of $32,767 in federal, private debt — and more facts
For those looking to minimize their education costs by attending a public school, 17 colleges and universities make up the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities organization. This network comprises four state universities, 12 community colleges and Charter Oak State College — a public, online degree-granting institution.
However, Connecticut is also home to many prestigious private schools, including Yale University.
To make college more attainable for Connecticut residents, the state operates the following scholarship and grant programs:
- Minority Teacher Incentive Grant: College students who are part of minority groups and are interested in teaching may qualify for this grant. If eligible, recipients can get up to $5,000 a year for their final two years of school if enrolled in an approved Connecticut teacher preparation program. Eligible students can also receive $2,500 yearly stipends for up to four years of teaching in a Connecticut public elementary or secondary school.
- Roberta B. Willis Merit-Based Scholarship: Connecticut residents can receive up to $5,250 a year if they attend an eligible four-year institution. To qualify, students must be high school seniors or graduate with a junior year class rank of 20% or better or have an SAT score of 1200 or higher or an ACT score of 25 or higher.
- Roberta B. Willis Need-Based Grant: Low-income students who plan on attending a Connecticut public school or nonprofit private university can receive up to $4,500 a year in a four-year or two-year program.
- TEACH Connecticut Scholarship: To encourage more Connecticut residents to become teachers, the state offers the TEACH Connecticut Scholarship. Eligible students enrolling in partner educator preparation programs can receive $1,000 to cover a portion of their tuition.
Student loan debt by ZIP code in Connecticut’s largest counties, from Fairfield to New Haven
Loan repayment programs for Connecticut residents
While some states have robust student loan repayment assistance programs, Connecticut doesn’t operate any assistance programs of its own. However, borrowers may qualify for full or partial loan forgiveness through the following federal programs.
Income-driven repayment (IDR)
Federal loan borrowers can apply for one of the four IDR plans offered by the government. If approved, your monthly payments will be recalculated based on your discretionary income and family size, and will extend your repayment term to either 20 or 25 years.
If you have a balance after your repayment term ends, the government will discharge the remaining amount. However, you might have to pay income taxes on the amount forgiven.
You can apply for an IDR plan online.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
If you have federal direct loans and are employed by a nonprofit organization or government agency, you may qualify for PSLF.
PSLF is a federal loan forgiveness program that discharges your remaining balance after you make 120 monthly payments while working for an eligible employer for at least 10 years.
If you qualify for PSLF, your remaining loan balance is forgiven. Unlike IDR forgiveness, the amount discharged is not taxable as income.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
If you have federal direct subsidized or unsubsidized loans and are a teacher, you may qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Under this program, eligible teachers can receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness in exchange for working at least five full and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency.
Connecticut federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe more than national average — and more comparisons
How to refinance Connecticut student loans
In Connecticut, 7.2% of borrowers owe $100,000 or more in student loans. If you’re part of that group, student loan refinancing can be an effective way to reduce your interest charges and accelerate your debt repayment.
To refinance your student loans, you apply for a private lender loan to cover your existing debt. Because it’s an entirely new loan, you’ll get a different interest rate, repayment term and monthly payment. Borrowers with good credit may qualify for a lower interest rate, or opt for a longer loan term to get a smaller monthly payment.
One lender specializing in student loan refinancing for Connecticut residents is the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA). Through CHESLA, borrowers can refinance $5,000 to $125,000 in student loan debt. CHESLA’s refinancing loans have fixed interest rates, and borrowers can choose a repayment term of five, 10 or 15 years.
You can refinance both federal and private student loans. However, think twice before refinancing your federal debt. When you refinance, you’ll lose your current federal loan benefits, such as access to alternative payment plans and forbearance. Some refinancing lenders have financial hardship repayment options, but they’re usually less generous than federal programs.
- 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
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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