Rhode Island Student Loans: Debt Stats, Repayment Programs and Refinancing Loans
The average federal and private student loan borrower in Rhode Island owes $30,225, 18% less than the national average of $36,689. However, the Ocean State is also home to some exclusive — and expensive — universities.
If you live in Rhode Island, you may be eligible for scholarships or grants to reduce your costs. And after you graduate, you may qualify for student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs offered by the state or federal government.
Whether you’re planning on attending college this fall or your grace period is about to end, here’s what you need to know to manage your Rhode Island student loans.
Rhode Island student loans: Borrowers owe average of $30,225 in federal, private debt
Rhode Island borrowers owe $30,225 in federal and private student loans. That amount is below the national average for student loan debt, though Rhode Island residents do tend to earn higher incomes. The median household income in Rhode Island is $67,167, compared with the national median of $62,843.
Rhode Island student debt overview
Total outstanding debt
Number of borrowers
Average total monthly payment
Note: Averages include federal and private student loan debt.
The relatively low average loan balance for Rhode Island borrowers is particularly remarkable considering that the state is in the Northeast, which tends to be more expensive. States near Rhode Island tend to have much higher average balances. For example, the average federal and private student loan balance is $31,821 in Massachusetts, $32,767 in Connecticut and $35,638 in New York.
You can see how Rhode Island measures up to the other states in this chart:
Student loan debt in Rhode Island’s largest county: Providence
Student loan debt in most populous Rhode Island county
Average student loan balance
Average monthly student loan payment
Note: Limited to counties with a population of at least 300,000 residents; averages include federal and private student loan debt.
4 things to know about going to college in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a tiny state, with just over 1 million people living there. However, it has a robust education system, with several noteworthy institutions and financial aid programs.
If you’re planning on attending school within the state, here are some things to keep in mind:
Public universities: The state has just three public schools. The University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College are four-year universities, while the Community College of Rhode Island is a two-year school.
Private schools: Despite its size, several prestigious universities are in Rhode Island, including Brown University, a nationally-recognized Ivy League school. Other well-known schools include Providence College, Bryant University, the New England Institute of Technology and the Rhode Island School of Design.
State scholarships: The Rhode Island Foundation connects students to financial aid opportunities. There are scholarships targeted for different groups, such as first-generation students, Black students, women and individuals pursuing arts careers, among others.
Other financial aid options: The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) maintains a database of local scholarship opportunities offered by nonprofits and businesses. You must register and create an account to search through available scholarships.
Loan repayment programs for Rhode Island residents
Depending on your job, you may be eligible for partial or full student loan forgiveness from the federal government, or you could qualify for repayment assistance from the state. There are multiple student loan relief programs available to Rhode Island residents.
PSLF, a federal loan forgiveness program, is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Designed to encourage people to work in public service, you can qualify for loan forgiveness if you work for a nonprofit organization or government agency for at least 10 years and make 120 qualifying monthly loan payments.
If you meet that criteria, you can have your remaining federal loan balance forgiven tax-free. Use the PSLF Help Tool to find out if you qualify and to apply for forgiveness.
Rhode Island Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program (HLRP)
If you’re a health care professional, you may be eligible for assistance repaying your federal and private loans. Through the Rhode Island HLRP, you can get money for repaying your loans if you make a two-year commitment to provide direct patient care in an ambulatory outpatient setting (with the funding amount varying based on the applicant). Primary care, mental health and dentistry are among the medical fields eligible for this program.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
If you have federal student loans and teach in an elementary school, secondary school or educational service agency, you may qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
Through this program, select teachers — those who teach science or mathematics at the secondary level or work in special education — can qualify for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness. Teachers in other areas can receive up to $5,000 to repay their loans.
To get loan forgiveness, you must work for at least five consecutive academic years for a qualifying school.
Provided by Rhode Island Commerce Corp., the Wavemaker Fellowship is a tax credit program. The program is designed to encourage students in subjects such as technology, engineering, finance and medicine to work or launch businesses in the state.
If selected, you can use the tax credit to pay your income tax liability, or you can opt for a full refund of your tax credit amount.
The Wavemaker Fellowship tax credit is valued as the annual total of your student loan payments up to the following limits:
If you have an associate degree, the maximum award is $1,000 a year
If you have a bachelor’s degree, the maximum is $4,000 a year
If you have a master’s degree, the maximum award is $6,000 a year
Rhode Island federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe more than national average — plus a look at payment status
How to refinance Rhode Island student loans
Nearly 6% of federal student loan borrowers in Rhode Island owe six figures in debt, not including what they may owe in private loans. If you have $100,000 or more in debt, interest can occur rapidly, and your balance can grow over time.
Student loan refinancing can be especially beneficial if you have a large loan balance. By refinancing your loans, you can lower your interest rate, reduce your monthly payments and save money on your total repayment costs. You can use Student Loan Hero’s student loan payment calculator to determine how much you can save.
The nonprofit RISLA offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to borrowers nationwide. Regularly recognized by publications as a top lender, it offers competitive interest rates and terms and allows borrowers to refinance between $7,500 and $250,000 of their debt.
However, what makes RISLA stand out from other lenders is its unique benefits. Notably, it offers the following perks:
Income-Based Repayment: Similar to the federal repayment plan of the same name, RISLA’s version of IBR bases your payments on your family size and income, extending your repayment term to up to 25 years. If you still have a balance after 25 years of making payments, RISLA will forgive the remaining amount.
Total and Permanent Disability Discharge: If you become physically disabled or develop a mental impairment and are unable to work, RISLA will discharge your loan balance.
Nursing Reward Program: Licensed registered nurses employed by health facilities in Rhode Island with RISLA loans can qualify for the company’s program. RISLA will lower the interest rate on nurses’ loans to 0% for 48 months. While the 0% period is in effect, all your payments will go entirely toward the loan principal, lowering your payments and decreasing your total repayment amount.
And whether you decide to use RISLA or another lender, make sure you understand the pros and cons of refinancing before submitting your loan application, particularly if you have federal loans. Once you refinance federal loans, you’ll no longer be eligible for federal forbearance, forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans. While some refinancing lenders, like RISLA, offer similar benefits, they tend to be less generous than the federal programs.
US. 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.