Licensed Counselor Loan Repayment

For those interested in the mental health field, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be daunting. Fortunately, there are options through federal, state, and local funding to repay those loans under specific requirements and circumstances.

Mental health professionals help those with difficult situations and challenges to overcome their problems and obtain the ability to create positive changes in their lives. The infographic below helps to provide licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists who work in high need communities the opportunity to research options for student loan repayment. Since becoming a mental health counselor requires a graduate degree, one way states try to gain licensed counselors in high need areas is through loan repayment programs.

Loan Repayment vs. Loan Forgiveness Programs

While loan forgiveness programs exist, they are considerably different to repayment programs.

  • Student Loan Forgiveness: Loan amounts are forgiven, no need to repay
  • Student Loan Repayment: Loan amounts are repayment through state and federal funded assistance.

By lessening the burden of large debt, mental health professionals are offered the opportunity to give back to neighborhoods in need and make an impact in underserved communities through the State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP).

State Loan Repayment Program for Counselors

The National Health Services Corps (NHSC) offers a State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), in which states are provided additional federal funding through cost-sharing to repay student loans for health services professionals. States must meet funding requirements and determine if their facilities are located in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Mental Health facilities are determined to be HSPAs based upon several factors. In addition to these HSPA eligibility requirements for a facility, it must also be an approved site under the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) requirement.

For more state specific information please refer to the state loan repayment contacts.

While not every state may participate with the NHSC’s SLRP and not every provider is eligible, there are other options for repayment.

Requirements to Qualify For the State Loan Repayment Program

In order to qualify for assistance from the program, each potential candidate must meet the following basic eligibility requirements for every state:

  • Be a U.S. citizen (U.S. born or naturalized) or a U.S. National
  • Work in a federally designated HPSA (Health Professional Shortage Area)
  • Work for a public or nonprofit entity
  • Work for at least 2 years, either full-time or half-time (assistance varies between the two)
  • Accept assignments for Medicare and Medicaid
  • Have a sliding scale for low-income and uninsured patients
  • Be a licensed professional counselor or marriage and family therapist
  • Be employed throughout the entire loan repayment contract period
  • Have not defaulted on educational loans
  • Have not breached a health professional service contract

Some eligibility requirements and program structures are state-specific, such as award amount, service obligations, length of requirement, and approved sites of employment within each state. Not everyone may be eligible to apply for the program. In order to ensure whether those interested in applying for these programs are qualified, it is recommended to go to each state’s SLRP designated website.

Last updated: April 2020