Student Loan Forgiveness Options for Alaska Residents

Katie Taylor Updated: April 30, 2019

Alaska residents have access to the incredible beauty and grandeur of the country's coldest state.

But if you're a health care professional, you may also have access to Alaska's generous student loan forgiveness program. 


Repayment assistance for healthcare professionals

In Alaska, recruiting a single primary care provider to the Alaska Tribal Health Care System takes approximately 14 months and $31,000.

The Alaska SHARP program began in 2010 to address the growing need for health care professionals to serve in health care service shortage areas. Since its creation, the program has provided funding to more than 170 clinicians. 

How the program works

In partnership with a federal HRSA grant, the SHARP program provides two-year service contracts to awardees who meet the requirements and agree to work in a health professional shortage area (HPSA).

Tier 1 awardees can receive up to $35,000 each year — or if they work in a "very hard to fill" location, up to $47,000 per year. Tier 2 awardees can receive up to $20,000 each year, or up to $27,000 for very hard to fill locations. 

What's the difference between a Tier 1 and Tier 2 awardee?

Tier 1 awardees are:

  • Primary Care Physicians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Dentists
  • Pharmacists

Tier 2 awardees are: 

  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Physician Assistants
  • Registered Nurses
  • Certified Nurse Midwifes
  • Psychologists (Ph.D. or PsyD)
  • Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
  • Psychiatric Nurse Specialists (PNS)
  • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)
  • Marriage & Family Therapists (MFT)
  • Registered Clinical Dental Hygienists

And what about that very hard to fill designation? 

The State of Alaska designates its positions as regular-fill or very hard-to-fill (VHTF). Employers who apply to participate in the SHARP program are the ones who make the case for a particular position being VHTF based on the length of prior vacancies, the fate of prior failed personnel searches, and the history of relying on temporary staffing to fill the position. 

Eligibility requirements

Clinicians seeking to participate in the SHARP program must:

  • Be in an eligible medical, dental or behavioral health occupation
  • Provide direct patient care 
  • Provide primary care 
  • Have eligible education loan debt 
  • Be employed either full-time or half-time at the time of the award
  • Be finished with licensure-relevant school and/or training
  • Hold a relevant occupational license
  • Be able to start a contract between October and December
  • Be a U.S. citizen (or naturalized)
  • Work in an approved non-profit or government entity located within a federal HPSA designation

What loans are eligible

All loans taken in association with completing the relevant degree (i.e., medical, dental, etc) are eligible so long as they are solely in the awardee's name. Loans taken out to complete other degrees are not eligible. 

How to apply

To apply for the Alaska SHARP program, visit the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services informational page on the forgiveness program and email them at to find out about the next application opportunity.

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What to do if you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness

Not everyone will meet the eligibility requirements for Alaska's loan forgiveness program — or even be practicing in an eligible field. If the SHARP program doesn't work for you, you're not out of options. There are plenty of ways to make your debt load more manageable — regardless of your career path.  

Let's check out a few of them.

1. Refinance your loans

When you refinance your student loans with a private lender, you have the option to do two fantastic things in one step: (1) reduce your monthly payment and (2) decrease the amount you'll pay over the life of the loan. That's a pretty big deal because with most options for reducing your monthly payment (like an income-driven repayment plan), you actually end up stretching out your payments and owing more over the life of the loan.

But when you refinance, you don't just change your repayment term or reallocate your payments — you lower your interest rate. 

Dropping even a point from your interest rate could save you thousands of dollars. In fact, the average borrower who refinances can lower their payment by $258 per month or save more than $16,000 over the life of their loan. 

2. Apply for federal grants or forgiveness programs

The federal government is in the loan forgiveness game too — across a broad range of industries. Check out our ultimate list of grants to pay off your student loans to find a program that could benefit you.

There are also programs that are open to borrowers without regard to their industry. The most well known federal forgiveness option is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Participants can get their student loans discharged after 10 years working for an eligible non-profit organization or government agency.

Because this program focuses on public service rather than specific industries, a high school teacher can get the same benefit that a legal aid attorney receives.

3. Sign up for an income-driven repayment plan

If you have federal loans, you're eligible to apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. When your monthly payments are calculated under an IDR plan, you pay only what the federal government has determined is reasonable based on what you earn. Payments are capped at an amount between 10% and 20% of your discretionary income.

See: Discretionary Income: Why It Matters for Student Loans

A word of caution, though: getting on an IDR plan could actually increase your payments, depending on your income. Before you apply, use our calculator to determine what your payments would be under an income-based repayment plan. 

If the Alaska forgiveness programs aren't in your future, take a proactive step, and find out how much you could save by refinancing your student loans. 

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Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

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For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

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SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

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Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

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Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

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Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

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Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

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