Is Medical School Loan Forgiveness an Option?

The rising costs of medical school educations, living expenses, and housing combine to create staggering debt for entry-level doctors, surgeons, and medical technicians. Medical organizations have begun to address the problem in a systematic way by providing comprehensive information for concerned students planning medical careers. These resources offer substantial assistance for locating financing, scholarships, loans, and medical school loan forgiveness programs to ameliorate the overwhelming expense of a good medical education.

Educational Financing Strategies

Part of the problem comes from the disparate nature of funding for graduate and undergraduate programs. Average student debt often exceeds $200,000 after school, and rapid medical innovations will require training that causes indebtedness to increase, outpacing inflation.

Planning Debt Forgiveness

Students can eliminate some or all of their educational debts through medical student loan forgiveness programs. Many employers offer benefit packages that include loan paybacks, so graduates can check with human resource departments of their current or prospective employers to identify opportunities for loan payments or forgiveness.

Wise students should incorporate forgiveness programs into their educational strategy. By researching the possibilities, students might even need to adjust their medical specialties to qualify for some loan breaks. Unfortunately, increased medical subspecialties drive the demand for medical personnel, increasing educational costs, while medical incomes compared with other career choices have actually fallen in recent years. The disparity between top medical jobs and lower-end positions continues to grow, reflecting a similar discrepancy between the incomes of regular workers and the CEOs of large corporations.

Loan Repayment Possibilities

Graduating medical school deserves accolades for stunning personal achievement. Unfortunately, starting work begins the obligation of repaying staggering debt. New graduates can choose from five repayment options.

  1. Loan repayments can be based on income, making debt service manageable.
  2. Postponement during residency allows struggling physicians to qualify for more lucrative positions before beginning loan repayments.
  3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness offers many different programs at the state and local levels for loan forgiveness.
  4. The armed services and Civil Service government positions offer numerous ways to reduce debt through scholarships, loan forgiveness, and loan payments.
  5. Private employers sometimes offer to make loan payments as a job benefit.

Programs that Offer Loan Forgiveness

Recent action by Congress allows for debt forgiveness automatically after 20 years of payments. Students can now cap their payments at 10 percent of their income. The following programs also offer loan forgiveness to medical graduates.

  • The National Health Service Corps repays part of student debt in return for service in areas where medical personnel shortages exist.
  • City, local, state, and county governments offer loan forgiveness programs for service in designated areas. The federal government often matches these grants.
  • The Indian Health Service (IHS) offers forgiveness programs for service in tribal areas.
  • The HIS also offers repayment programs for medical research.
  • Some states, such as Kansas and Arkansas, require applicants for state forgiveness programs to qualify prior to acceptance at medical school.
  • Kansas offers a scholarship for tuition and up to $1,500 per month living expenses for student who agree to provide medical care in the state.
  • Some programs do not include emergency medicine practitioners for repayment awards.
  • Arkansas offers a program for students at the University of Arkansas College of Medicine. Educational debts can be reduced by $12,000 for each year of service in the state.
  • Texas offers $9000 annual credit up to five years for physicians licensed in Texas in certain areas of the state. High-need areas qualify for matching federal funds to provide an $18,000 annual credit.
  • New York offers $10,000 per year for two years to reduce the debt of doctors practicing in designated areas.

The preceding list gives a few examples, but there are more than 70 state approved programs that offer varying degrees of medical school loan forgiveness. Researching the possibilities will give you the necessary data to make better decisions about your future.

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