The Best Kind of Student Loan? The One You Never Have to Pay Back!
January 23, 2013

Let’s face it – college tuition isn’t getting any cheaper – in fact, quite the opposite. And with student debt skyrocketing, the idea of borrowing might make you a bit queasy. Who wants to graduate college $20,000-$30,000 in debt? But there’s good news for many North Carolina students – if you’re willing to work in critical needs fields and stay in the state to do so – you can get forgivable student loans. That’s the best kind of student loan imaginable – the one you don’t have to pay back!

North Carolina’s Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) is a new program that passed the state legislature in 2011 and came online for the current 2012-2013 academic year. The most obvious of the requirements are that you are a legal North Carolina resident and must be willing to work in the critical field of your major in North Carolina after you graduate. When you consider how much tuition rates are rising (see below), the notion of an extremely affordable education has to appeal…

FELS Eligibility Requirements
So, how do you qualify for this fantastic program – other than living and going to school in North Carolina? Here’s what you need to know and do to get in on this amazing opportunity:

  • – Must have a GPA of 3.0 for graduating high school students, 2.8 for undergraduate            students and 3.2 for grad students
  • – Must be registered with Selective Services (if required)
  • – Can’t be in default or owe a refund on any state or federal loan or grant program
  • – Must maintain satisfactory academic progress while in college

FELS Awards
And now to the most important question – how much money can you get? First, you must be enrolled for at least six hours each semester to qualify and second, the award amount is pro-rated based on the number of enrolled hours. North Carolina’s forgivable loan program has set maximums for annual awards and an aggregate based on the level of degree you are pursuing. These are:

Annual Loan Amounts

  • – Associate degree or certificate programs $3,000
  • – Bachelor’s degree programs (freshman and sophomore) $3,000
  • – Bachelor’s degree programs (junior and senior) $7,000
  • – Master’s degree programs $10,000
  • – Doctoral degree programs $14,000

Maximum Aggregate Loan Limits

  • – Associate degree or certificate programs $6,000
  • – Bachelor’s degree programs $20,000
  • – Master’s degree programs $20,000
  • – Doctoral degree programs $56,000

Employment Shortages
So why is North Carolina offering this awesome deal for students? Simple – employment shortages in critical job areas. It’s not just North Carolina that needs workers in certain skill sets – it’s an issue nationwide. But this southern state is doing something about it! So what jobs have critical shortages? Lots – and there’s something on the list for everyone – at least if you’re not afraid of math and science. Students majoring in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are growing so sparse, that some states are looking at cutting tuition costs for these majors drastically, as well as decreasing the time it takes to get the degrees.

Here’s a broad overview of the careers they’re looking to fill, but you can read the full list by clicking here:

  • – Chiropractors
  • – EMTs
  • – Dentists and dental hygienists
  • – Pharmacists and pharmacy techs
  • – Social workers
  • – Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • – Physicians and psychologists
  • – Math, science, ESL and special education teachers 

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FELS Caveats
There’s no such thing as a free lunch or a free college education and so North Carolina has a list of caveats in place for the forgivable student loan program. You can read all of the deets here, but the main ones are that one year of full time employment pays back one loan year. Part time gets you a half-year payback. If you fail to graduate or bail on working in the state or in your field, you will have to pay back the loans in cash rather than sweat hours and the loans start accruing interest from the moment you cash the check!

Despite the caveats this is great news for North Carolina students. And if you don’t live in North Carolina, but are interested in one of their critical needs jobs and don’t mind relocating, I would pack up and head south (or southeast, or north, depending on where you live)! The basic residency requirement is that you make a permanent move to the state and live there for 12 months before you enroll in the school. Even if you lose a year of school biding your time to qualify, free school is free school and it’s a beautiful state to waste time in! If you’re already in North Carolina, even better!