Tennessee Student Loans
Take Your Time and Shop the Market
The one thing all college students have in common, is the need for funding. While scholarships and grants can, and do, offer valuable financial assistance for students struggling to meet the rising costs of a college education, they only go so far.
Most college-bound students will find that they need to rely on one or more loans to help them pay for their post-secondary education. For students from the Volunteer State, the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) is their portal to grants, scholarships, student loans, and valuable loan forgiveness programs.
The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation is a state agency dedicated to the needs of Tennessee’s college-bound residents. The Tennessee state legislature understands the value of helping its residents further their education at the post-secondary level. Like most state governments, they recognize that the path to a strong local economy depends on a well educated populace. To this end, Tennessee has created a variety of financial aid programs to help its residents attain their educational goals. These programs range from state funded grants and scholarships to loan forgiveness opportunities for students pursuing careers that have been deemed of value to the state of Tennessee and its local communities. TSAC also acts as an administer for all of the Federal government’s student loan programs, including Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Loans, and Federal Direct PLUS Loans for Parents and Graduate Students.
TSAC and Federal Student Loans
The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation acts as a conduit for resident students who wish to apply for any of the popular Federal student loan programs. Tennessee students looking to secure Federal student loans may apply through TSAC for any of the following programs:
- The Federal Perkins Loan
- The Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- The Federal Direct Subsidized Loan
- The Federal Direct PLUS Loan for Graduate and Professional Degree Seeking Students
- The Federal Direct PLUS Loan for Parents
The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid programs are the most popular, and most successful, source of financial aid for college-bound students in America. Federal student loans have the lowest interest rates and most attractive repayment plans of any education loans on the market. Moreover, most Federal students loans require no credit check. Tennessee residents looking for loans to help finance their education should always begin with those programs offered by the Federal government.
Loan Forgiveness for Tennessee’s College-bound Students
TSAC and the state of Tennessee offers a number of loan forgiveness programs for resident students pursuing degrees and careers in certain high demand professions. These are award-for-service programs in which students will receive financial aid in exchange for a commitment to work in a critical need profession within the state for a predetermined term of service. These loan forgiveness programs offer valuable assistance to students with definite career goals that coincide with the needs of the state to reinforce its social infrastructure. Typically, these programs are offered to students pursuing degrees in high demand fields such as teaching, healthcare and legal services.
The following loan forgiveness programs are administered by TSAC for resident students in the great state of Tennessee:
- The Minority Teachers Fellows Program is designed to encourage minority students to pursue careers in teaching, and to to take up positions as teachers within the state of Tennessee. To be eligible, applicants must be high school graduates with a minimum 2.75 GPA, and a minimum combined SAT score of 860. Students may receive up to $5000 in forgivable loans in exchange for an agreement to teach at a designated critical need facility within the state. Students who fail to meet their service obligations will be responsible for the full repayment of their loan plus interest.
- The Tennessee Teaching Scholars Program is meant to encourage and support students pursuing degrees and careers in teaching. Eligible students must be enrolled full time in an accredited undergraduate education program, and must have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Loan recipients must sign a promissory note agreeing to a term of service working as a teacher within the state at a critical need facility. Loan amounts vary according to financial need and course of study.
- The Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program is open to registered nurses in Tennessee who wish to return to university to complete a degree program leading to their taking a position as a teacher or administrator in a Tennessee nursing education program. Eligible applicants must have an unblemished nursing license, and must be enrolled in a Master’s or post-Master’s degree granting program at an approved state college or university. Recipients must complete four years of service teaching at a nursing school within the state in exchange for the total forgiveness of their loan.
- The Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program has been designed to encourage public school teachers to pursue advanced degrees in mathematics or science. Eligible applicants may receive up to $2000 per academic year in forgivable loans, with the total loan amount not to exceed $10,000. Participants in the program must agree to teach advance mathematics or science at a designated state institution. Students who fail to complete their service obligation will be responsible for the full repayment of their loan plus interest.
- The Tennessee Rural Health Loan Forgiveness Program provides up to $12,000 per year in forgivable loans for students pursuing degrees as Doctors of Medicine (MD), Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Doctors of Dental Surgery (DDS), or Doctors of Dental Medicine (DMD). The program is also open to students studying to become physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners. Participants in the program must complete one year of service in a designated health resource shortage area for every year of funding received. Students who fail to complete their service obligation must repay their loans in full, plus all applicable interest and fees.
- The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program is meant to encourage eligible attorneys to pursue careers as public defenders or state prosecutors. To be eligible, applicants must be practicing attorneys within the state who agree to a minimum of three years service as a public defender or state prosecutor. Participants will receive up to $1100 in loan repayment funds for every year of service. The money may be used to repay any approved Federal, state, or private education loan.
Alternative Loans for Tennessee Students
Grants, scholarships and Federal and state loans can definitely help to build a college fund. But even with these valuable sources of financial aid many students can find themselves with a significant level of unmet need. For those students, private loans, sometimes called alternative loans, hold the answer. Tennessee residents interested in a private loan for college will need to research a variety of lending institutions in order to find the program that is best suited to their educational needs and financial circumstances.
To be eligible for a private lender loan, student borrowers will be required to pass a credit check. For many students this can pose a problem, as they may have yet to build the satisfactory credit history that is necessary to securing a private loan. Under these circumstances, most banks and other private lending institutions will allow students to engage a cosigner with acceptable credit, typically a parent or legal guardian, to act as a guarantor on the student’s loan.
Private lender loans play a vital role in helping students finance their college education. However, they should not be entered into lightly. All loans carry significant risk to the borrower, and students are advised to only borrow the minimum amount they need to cover their outstanding unmet need.
Tennessee residents searching for ways to fund their college education should also refer to our sections on Grants for Tennessee Students and Scholarships for Tennessee Students for further financial aid opportunities.