Doctors and Physicians
If you are a health care professional with a doctoral degree, you may be eligible for student loan repayment and forgiveness programs designed to decrease loan interest, reduce monthly student loan payments, or forgive your student loans entirely.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average student graduating with a medical degree in 2016 will have roughly $190,000 in medical school debt prior to starting in the profession. Fortunately, there are numerous repayment and forgiveness programs designed specifically for doctors that can help you repay your student debt, or help you earn loan forgiveness.
Student Debt Relief for Doctors
The following programs, if you meet their requirements, can help you get out of medical school debt in a number of ways, depending on your eligibility and where you choose to serve in the profession.
National Health Service Corps (NHSC)
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) offers three types of student loan repayment programs, with the first of these being the NHSC Loan Repayment Program.
NHSC Loan Repayment Program
To qualify for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program, which provides qualified, licensed health care providers with up to $50,000 in student loan repayment assistance, you will need to complete a two-year commitment in primary care medical, dental or mental/behavioral health in exchange for the benefits. Once your commitment is completed, you can receive additional student loan repayment assistance if you continue to serve in these areas.
Students to Service Loan Repayment Program
The next repayment program offered by the NHSC is the Students to Service Loan Repayment Program (S2S LRP). In the S2S LRP program, current medical students (MD or DO) and dental students (DDS or DMD) may be eligible for $120,000 in student loan repayment assistance if they’re willing to commit to three years of service at an approved NHSC Health Professional Shortage Area site.
State Loan Repayment Program
Depending on the state you live and work in, the NHSC sponsors numerous state repayment programs for doctors providing primary care in Health Professional Shortage Areas across many U.S. states. Known as the State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), the amount of repayment assistance you could qualify for will vary by state, making it important to speak with a student loan specialist for details on the program.
Find out if you can take advantage of NHSC Student Loan Repayment Programs for free.
Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program offers qualified healthcare professionals with up to $40,000 in student loan repayment assistance in exchange for completing a two-year commitment at an American Indian or Alaska Native community health facility.
As a requirement of this program, you will need to serve in certain health professions while at an Indian health program facility that has IHS-approved staffing needs. However, once your two-year commitment is up, you can continue to receive repayment assistance by extending your contract annually.
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) offers two student loan repayment opportunities that award up to $35,000 in repayment assistance to health care professionals with doctoral degrees.
To be eligible for the NIMHD Loan Repayment Program (LRP), you will either need to complete a two-year agreement conducting health disparities or clinical research in nonfederal research settings. You will also be required to spend more than half of your agreed time engaged in research that applies to health disparity populations, or conduct qualified research under these same conditions.
Additionally, apart from having a doctoral degree (e.g. MD, DDS, Ph.D., Dr.P.H.), your student loan debt must be above or equal to 20 percent of your base salary. You may also be required to come from a family whose income falls below the current federal low-income threshold.
Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP)
The state of Massachusetts offers loan repayment assistance to primary health professionals in the dental, medical and mental health fields through the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP).
Since 1990, the program has given eligible primary care health professionals an incentive to practice in communities that are experiencing health care provider shortages or where barriers to health care access have been identified.
To qualify for MLRP, you need to meet the following requirements:
- Be licensed to practice health care in the state of Massachusetts
- Commit to practicing full-time for two years or the equivalent extended commitment part-time
- Meet one or both of MLRP components:
- Be employed by, or have a contract to practice in, an eligible public or non-profit healthcare organization located in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)
- Be a primary care physician (M.D. & D.O.), physician assistant, nurse practitioner, behavioral and mental health professional (including substance abuse disorder) in a high-need area or facility.
If you are approved for the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program, you could be awarded up to $50,000 towards your student loans for signing a two-year contract. However, the amount of your award may be determined by your field or discipline.
Doctors in Armed Forces Loan Forgiveness
If you’re medical or dental doctor and you’re also an active or reserve U.S. military member, you may be entitled to more benefits that include loan forgiveness and repayment assistance through the following programs.
Army Healthcare Professional Benefits
Active and reserve military members who are part of the Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Allied Health Corps, Nurse Corps and Veterinary Corps may be eligible for the following benefits through the Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program.
- Active Duty: Active U.S. military members who are part of the above programs may be eligible for up to $120,000 towards repaying medical and dental school loans. If you are approved for the program, this means you could receive up to $40,000 per year to help you repay your student loans over a three-year period.
- Reserve Duty: Reserve members of the U.S. military can receive up to $50,000 in repayment assistance over three years through the same program, with up to $20,000 in assistance for the first two years, and $10,000 in the third year for those who qualify.
Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP)
If you are an active or reserve member of the U.S. Navy and you meet the qualifications for the Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP), you may be eligible for student loan repayment assistance. Once you’re approved for the program, your repayment assistance amount will be determined by your individual needs and eligibility.
The qualifications for the FAP program include:
To qualify for the FAP program as a dentist, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Graduate from a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association
- Be accepted for, or enrolled in, a graduate dental education program approved by the American Dental Association
- Be working towards certification in this program for a specialty designated by the Secretary of the Navy
- Be authorized to provide dental care in the graduate institution and in good standing
- Hold a current, unrestricted license to practice dentistry in the U.S. or U.S. territory
- Meet service obligation requirements
To qualify for the FAP program as a doctor or physician, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Graduate from a medical school in the U.S. or U.S. territory that is approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education of the American Medical Association
- Or graduate from a college of osteopathy and eligible to be licensed to practice medicine or surgery in a majority of the states, along with other educational requirements
- Be accepted for, or enrolled in a Graduate Medical Education (GME) program
- Program must be approved by the American Medical Association or American Osteopathic Association
- Program must lead to certification in specialties designated by the Secretary of the Navy
- Be authorized to provide medical care in the GME institution and in good standing
- Hold an educational license to practice medicine, surgery or osteopathy in the state where you are being trained
- Meet service obligation requirements
Other Medical School Loan Repayment and Forgiveness Options
In addition to programs designed specifically for doctor student debt relief, there are several repayment and forgiveness programs that may be ideal for cutting your student debt or eliminating it entirely. Here are some of the best options you may have available:
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Program
- IBR for New Borrowers
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Program
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program
- Military Student Loan Forgiveness
For more details on student loan repayment and forgiveness programs for doctors, speak with a student loan specialist by phone at (800) 771-6358.