Your commitment, your dedication, your compassion, your hard work, and more have rewarded you with graduating from medical school—a massive academic achievement. But that achievement may come with a financial burden: an enormous student loan debt that may make you feel overwhelmed. You may also have debt from undergraduate studies, too.
It’s certainly not unusual among medical students. In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average medical school debt for 2017 graduates was $189,000.
However, solutions are available, from clever repayment options to loan forgiveness programs. These programs—sponsored not only by state, national, and local governments but also by private institutions—are designed to ease the financial burden of medical student loan debt. Of course, you must meet the program requirements and restrictions. Some programs may require you to work in a specific practice for a certain amount of time.
Below are some loan forgiveness programs to consider. Benefits vary, so always check out the details to be sure.
National Loan Forgiveness Programs
- National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities – In return for loan repayment, participants must spend time developing research programs that address issues associated with the disparities in health status.
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program – This program awards up to $40,000 for student loan repayment, providing you commit to two years practicing in health facilities that serve Alaskan Native and American Indian communities.
- NHSC Scholarships – The National Health Service Corps program offers scholarships to students committed to primary care. To qualify, students must serve at an HRSA practice site for a minimum of two years.
- NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment – This program offers up to $120,000 in medical student loan repayment. To qualify for funds, the student must serve at least three years at an approved NHSC site.
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program – This program offers up to $50,000 in loan repayment, but you must commit to at least two years of service at an approved NHSC site.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – This program will forgive the remaining balance on a student’s Direct Loan after 120 monthly payments have made under an approved repayment plan. The student must also have 10 years of full-time service.
State Loan Forgiveness Programs
Alongside the above national programs, many states also offer programs for their residents. In many states, independent loan repayment plans are also available. The Association of American Medical Colleges provides a list of individual state loan repayment programs and their subsequent service requirements.
For example, California provides a maximum award of $60,000 and even allows renewal for a third and forth year with amounts as high as $40,000. Georgia requires a one-year commitment for up to $25,000 per year for a four-year max forgiveness of $100,000. Similarly, Minnesota offers annual forgiveness payments of $25,000 per year for four years of service.
Military Forgiveness Options
For doctors who have graduated and are practicing, you can enroll in military service for student loan assistance.
- Army – The Army offers more than $45,000 per year in grants for physicians working to complete their residency. In addition, if you are an army physician, you may be eligible for up to $40,000 per year for a 3-year residency. Working in specific specialties in the Army Reserve can also provide you with additional money to repay student loans.
- Navy – Similar to Army benefits, Navy physicians can have their loans paid directly to the institution. If you extend your active duty, you may be eligible to receive up to $40,000 in loan repayment. You also may be eligible for grants up to $45,000 per year toward medical school debts, plus a monthly in-residence stipend.
- Air Force – For each year you are in residency you can receive up to $45,000 through the Financial Assistance Program (FAP). A stipend of $2,000 each month is also provided to help pay for your living expenses. After you complete your residency, you are obligated to complete one year of service for each year you participated in the FAP.
Your specialty of choice, where you live, your commitment to military service—all of these factors may provide you with several loan forgiveness options. Do, however, keep in mind your professional goals and needs as well as your future plans. When you apply to a loan forgiveness program, consider the length of commitment and how it will affect your future plans.
Obviously, the main goal is to eliminate a large amount of debt over a short amount of time, enabling you to pursue a successful career without the financial burden.
Read the fine print. Do your research. Find the right program. Reap the rewards!