Anyone who lives in New Jersey can tell you why it’s an amazing place to live. To start, many residents can easily access all of the metropolitan benefits of New York City without paying sky-high rent. Some can take a stroll down the famous Atlantic City boardwalk. Others will have the opportunity to soak up knowledge in the hallowed halls of Princeton University.
No matter what school you end up at, you’ll surely make great memories and learn a lot. You’re also likely to have to pay a lot for tuition and fees. If you need a little financial boost, keep reading to learn about your options regarding New Jersey college scholarships and grants, as well as some loan repayment programs you may be eligible for!
Related: Student loan refinancing calculator
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Average student loan debt in New Jersey
65% of New Jersey college attendees had student loan debt.
If you’re attending school in The Garden State, then chances are you want to make sure your finances look pretty rosy. Taking time to review what New Jersey state student loan debt looks like is a great start. In 2018, 64% of New Jersey college attendees had student loan debt, and on average owed $34,387.
When it comes to student loan default rates, as of 2016 (the most recent federal data available) New Jersey has a default rate of 9.4%, with almost 8,000 loan borrowers in default. Not a bad default rate when you consider the fact that Nevada, West Virginia and New Mexico all have rates over 14%.
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New Jersey student loans
If your goal is to attend school in New Jersey and you’re looking at ways to finance your education, you have options. And both federal and private student loans may be worth considering when researching how to pay for your college degree.
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Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans are all provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. If you take out a federal loan, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender.
To see which type of loan you may qualify for, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to apply for financial aid for college or grad school. You can review your state’s deadline and the federal FAFSA deadline here.
You should also review the deadlines for each college you are considering, as each college may consider the date that they receive your FAFSA form, or the date your FAFSA form is processed, as their final deadline. FAFSA will then offer you a financial aid package, dependent on your college, that may include grants, work-study opportunities and federal student loan options. It is important to note that not every student will qualify to receive federal aid.
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Types of direct loans available
There are four types of Direct Loans available:
Direct Subsidized Loans: For eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need; helps cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school. The federal government pays the interest on Direct Subsidized Loans while a student is in school at least half-time; interest starts accruing on these loans only after a six-month grace period once students graduate, or if they drop below half-time enrollment.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Eligible undergraduate, graduate and professional students may qualify for these loans. Eligibility is not based on financial need. Interest on these loans begins accruing immediately after funds are disbursed.
Direct PLUS Loans: These loans are for graduate or professional students, and parents of dependent undergraduate students who need help paying for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility for this loan is not based on financial need, but requires a credit check.
Direct Consolidation Loans: This type of federal loan combines all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan, with one loan payment. Students generally use this loan if they have taken out multiple federal loans and want to combine them into one loan for repayment. The interest rate on these loans are the weighted average of the interest rates on all of the loans that a student is consolidating, rounded to the nearest one-eighth of 1%.
NOTE: All federal student loans have fixed interest rates, and generally they have lower interest rates than private loans.
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Private student loans
Private loans are funded by private organizations such as banks, online lenders, credit unions, some schools and state-based or state-affiliated organizations. Federal student loans have interest rates that are regulated by Congress. Private lenders, follow a different set of regulations, so their interest rates can vary widely.
Private lenders may (but don’t always) require you to make payments on your loans while you are still in school, whereas you don’t have to start paying back your federal loans until after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status to less than half-time. Their rates will usually differ too. Private loans have variable or fixed interest rates which may be higher or lower than federal loan interest rates, which are always fixed.
Unlike federal loans which can only be applied for within certain deadlines (once a year, and states have their own deadlines), private loans can be applied for on an as-needed basis. Even if you suspect you may need to take out a private loan, it’s still a best practice to submit your FAFSA before applying to see what federal aid you may qualify for first.
If you’ve missed the FAFSA deadline and you’re struggling to pay for school throughout the year, private loans can potentially help you make your education payments—as long as you have enough lead time for your loan to process and for your lender to send money to your school.
For more information on private loans, you can check out our article: Private Student Loans 101
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Scholarships & grants
Who doesn’t love a gift? You may sometimes hear grants and scholarships referred to as “gift aid”. That’s because while grants or scholarships may have certain academic or other requirements to keep them, you usually don’t have to pay them back like you would with a loan.
There are a few instances where you may have to pay back grant money, but typically only if certain requirements aren’t met. Generally, grants are need-based and scholarships are awarded based on merit.
There is no one-size-fits-all grant or scholarship amount or requirements, and both scholarships and grants can come from a variety of entities (including private organizations and federal or state governments).
Some scholarships or grants can be for a small amount that may help you pay for your books or research supplies, but others can cover the entire cost of your education. Who knew parking passes could be so expensive?
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New Jersey scholarships & grants
Need help paying for college? Luckily, there are some really amazing scholarships and grants for New Jersey college students to choose from. Check into these options, and hopefully you’ll find the perfect fit!
New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship
Students who are New Jersey residents and rank in the top 15% of their class at the end of their junior or senior year of high school could be eligible for this scholarship. The award must be used at a college within their home county (with some exceptions).
Governor’s Industry Vocations Scholarship
Recipients may receive up to $2,000 from this scholarship program. The award is designed to benefit eligible women and minority students who are enrolled in a construction-related educational program.
World Trade Center Scholarship
This scholarship assists eligible dependent children and surviving spouses of New Jersey residents who were killed or died as a result of injuries or illnesses incurred by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Award amounts vary based on available funding or a student’s access to other forms of financial assistance.
New Jersey Survivor Tuition Benefits Program & Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Scholarship
The children and spouses of New Jersey firefighters, emergency service workers and law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty may qualify for this scholarship. Students can receive free tuition at any public institution of higher education in New Jersey. Some funding may be given to students at select independent institutions, too.
Governor’s Urban Scholarship
A merit-based scholarship program that aims to benefit eligible students who belong to economically-challenged communities in the state of New Jersey.
New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program
This program offers funding for eligible students who have experienced a CP&P out-of-home placement, CP&P independent living arrangement, or a transitional living program. Recipients must be seeking a post-secondary degree at an accredited college, university, or technical school.
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New Jersey student loan repayment & forgiveness programs
If you’ve taken out student loans to attend a school in New Jersey, it is never too early to start thinking about your repayment plan. And guess what? You have quite a few repayment options at your disposal.
Take a deep breath — you’ll have time to pay off your loans once you leave school. The standard student loan repayment term is 10 years, but allowances are made for eligible loan borrowers who need more time to pay off their loans (up to 25 years).
Federal student loan interest rates vary based on what year you receive the loan, and change annually in July. Between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019, interest rates for federal student loans ranged from 5% to 7.6%, depending on the type of loan.
For private loans, terms and conditions such as interest rates are set by the lender and vary due to many factors. Federal student loans typically offer the lowest interest rates and more flexible repayment options as compared to private student loans.
10 years: Standard federal student loan repayment term.
Allowances can be made for borrowers: Up to 25 years.
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Federal student loan repayment options
Just like there are several types of loans to explore, there are also different kinds of repayment plans. You can learn more about your repayment options for federal student loans here, but the following high-level summaries can give you an idea of which repayment plan may work for you.
Standard Repayment Plan
Most borrowers are eligible for this plan and may often pay less over time than with other plans because the loan term is shorter. (Typically, less interest accrues over shorter loan terms than longer ones if payments are made in full and on-time.) There is a 10-year repayment period with this plan.
Graduated Repayment Plan
Most borrowers are eligible for this plan, which allows them to pay their loans off over a longer period than the Standard Repayment Plan. Payments start relatively low, then increase over time (usually every two years).
Extended Repayment Plan
To qualify for this plan, there are income thresholds for certain loan types to qualify, and you won’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) if you choose this loan. Monthly payments are typically lower than under the 10-year Standard Plan or the Graduated Repayment Plan and borrowers may have a longer period to pay them off (and therefore make more interest payments).
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
Direct Loan borrowers (and all Consolidation Loan borrowers) with eligible loan types may be able to choose this plan. Monthly payments are 10% of discretionary income, and any remaining loan balance will be forgiven after 20 years (for undergraduate studies) or 25 years (for graduate or professional studies).
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
To qualify for this plan, borrowers must have a higher debt relative to their discretionary income. Payments for this plan are capped at 10% of discretionary income (and never more than what would be paid on the Standard Repayment Plan), and any remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 years.
Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
IBR is designed for borrowers who have a high debt relative to their income in order to qualify. Monthly payments will not usually be higher than the 10-year Standard Plan amount. Generally, however, borrowers may pay more over time than under the Standard Plan.
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
Direct Loan borrowers with an eligible loan type may want to consider ICR. This plan is different from IBR because there is no financial hardship requirement. But, it may cost more over time when compared to the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, and any remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years.
Borrowers can expect to pay more over time than under the 10-year Standard Plan. Monthly payments are based on annual income, but loans will be paid in full within 15 years. This repayment plan is only available for FFEL Program loans, which are not eligible for PSLF.
Still not sure which payment plan is right for you?
For more information on repayment plans, check out our student loan repayment option article to help add some clarity.
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Student loan refinancing
Another option to potentially help accelerate student loan repayment is to refinance your student loans with a private lender. Some private lenders will let you consolidate and refinance both your federal and private student loans into one loan and interest rate.
Consolidating your loans (aka combining them) under one lender gives you the opportunity to refinance your loan and get a new term and interest rate. If you have an improved financial profile compared to when you took out your original loan, you may be able to lower your interest rate when you refinance, or even shorten your term to pay off your loan more quickly!
But, it is important to remember that if you refinance federal student loans with a private lender you will lose access to federal programs such as the income-driven repayment plans mentioned above, as well as student loan forgiveness and forbearance options.
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Student loan forgiveness
At first glance, student loan forgiveness looks appealing, but it may not be as easily attainable as one might think. For example, 98% of those who applied to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program were denied due to issues such as not meeting the program requirements or mistakes made on their forms.
That being said, there are state-specific and federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs that certain student loan borrowers may be eligible for.
Before you review your options, it’s important to know that the terms forgiveness, cancellation and discharge essentially mean the same thing when it comes to federal student loans, but are applied in different scenarios. For example, if you are no longer required to make loan payments due to your job, that could fall under forgiveness or cancellation.
Or, if the school you received your loans at closed before you graduated, this situation would generally be called a discharge.
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Different types of student loan forgiveness programs
Even if you don’t complete your education, can’t find a job, or are unhappy with the quality of your education, you must repay your loans. But there are circumstances that may lead to federal student loans being forgiven, canceled, or discharged. Here are some of those options:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Those who teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency (amongst other qualifications) may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 on select federal loans.
Perkins Loan Cancellation
Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
Qualification may relieve eligible borrowers from repaying a qualifying Direct Loan, a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan and/or a Federal Perkins Loan or to complete a TEACH Grant service obligation.
Closed School Discharge
Borrowers who were unable to complete an academic program because their school closed might be eligible for a discharge of Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, or Federal Perkins Loans.
False Certification of Student Eligibility or Unauthorized Signature/Unauthorized Payment Discharge
Due to a variety of circumstances, borrowers may be eligible to discharge Direct Loans or FFEL Program loans due to issues such as identity theft or mistakes made by a school.
Unpaid Refund Discharge
Certain borrowers may be eligible for partial discharge of Direct Loans or FFEL Program loans if they withdrew from school, but the portion of a loan that the school was required to return to the borrower wasn’t returned.
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New Jersey specific student loan forgiveness programs
Federal loan forgiveness programs are a logical place to start, but it can be smart to also consider other student loan forgiveness programs, too. There are forgiveness programs tailored to loan borrowers who live in certain locations, or have an in-demand and service-based vocation.
Primary Care Physician & Dentist Loan Redemption Program
This program encourages physicians, dentists, physician assistants, certified nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to practice in medically-underserved areas of New Jersey. Loan repayment assistance is provided in exchange for agreeing to work in medically-underserved areas. Repayment amounts range as high as $120,000 for two to four years of service.
Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program
Student loan redemption is offered in exchange for service as a full-time faculty member at a school of nursing in the state of New Jersey. Recipients must agree to work in such a position for a five-year period following the completion of an approved graduate degree program.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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