Healthcare professionals, like other Americans, graduate with high student debt loads. The facts are staggering:
- 81% of medical school graduates have education debt.
- $180,723 is the average loan balance for aspiring doctors.
- Approximately 70% of nurses graduate with student loan debt.
- $30,000 is the average loan balance for nursing school graduates.
There are programs available to help people in healthcare pay off student Loan debts. Some are reserved for primary care providers such as doctors, registered nurses, dentists, and registered dental hygienists. Other loan repayment programs are open to a wide range of healthcare professionals. In addition to practitioners, researchers and faculty qualify for some student debt relief programs. Six great programs to help eliminate or reduce student debt include:
- National Health Service Corp.- The NHSC offers two loan repayment programs
(https://www.ihs.gov/loanrepayment/lrpbasics/eligiblehealthprofessions/). The first one is a $50,000 loan repayment in exchange for two years of service at a designated facility. Primary care doctors, dentists, and mental health clinicians are eligible. The ‘Student to Service Loan Repayment Program’ is for MD, DO, DDS, or DMD students. The government offers $120,000 in loan repayment assistance in exchange for three years of service in a high need area (https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment/).
- NURSE Corp- This loan repayment program is open to registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, and nursing faculty. Like the National Health Service Corp, the Health Resources and Services Administration manages this program. The NURSE Corp pays off 60% of the recipient’s loan balance in exchange for two years of service. Practicing nurses must complete their service at a Critical Shortage Facility, and nurse faculty must work full-time at an approved higher education institution (http://www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/repayment/nursing/).
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness- The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program allows people who have worked in public service full-time for at least 10 years the opportunity to discharge their remaining loan balances. This category includes public health workers. One of the major qualifications is that you made all of your student loan payments on time for 120 months (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service).
- Military- You can serve your country in exchange for loan forgiveness. Active duty healthcare professionals in the army receive up to $120,000 total ($40,000/year) in loan repayment assistance. The U.S. Army Reserves has a Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program (HPLR) with a maximum benefit of $40,000/year up to $250,000 for specific qualifying specialties (http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/physician/benefits.html). The U.S. Navy offers a similar program.
- Indian Health Service (IHS) – The Indian Health Service offers up to $40,000 in loan repayment in exchange for a minimum two-year commitment. The needs of the IHS are so great that a wide range of professions qualify for this program, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, dentists, pharmacists, audiologists, and medical imaging specialists (https://www.ihs.gov/loanrepayment/lrpbasics/eligiblehealthprofessions/).
- NIH (National Institutes of Health)- If research is your passion, the NIH has eight loan repayment programs that provide recipients with up to $35,000/year in education debt relief. You can be employed by the NIH or at a qualifying non-profit or government agency. Professionals with a wide range of doctoral-level degrees qualify for this program, so optometrists, pharmacists, and psychologists should examine it, as well as doctors and dentists (https://www.lrp.nih.gov/eligibility-programs).
Investigate These Programs Now
Whether you are a doctor, a nurse, or an allied health professional, there are loan repayment programs available to you. They all require a service commitment, so make sure you can fulfill your obligations. Also, think about the working conditions before you join one of these organizations.
The typical undergraduate has student loan debt equivalent to a mid-sized car. Medical and dental school graduates have loan balances equal to a mortgage. Look into these programs to relieve yourself of some of that debt now.