Even if you take out a high number of loans to pay for medical school, your overall debt burden might be low if you participate in a service program once you graduate. Due to the exceptional need for primary care physicians, loan forgiveness programs in these fields are more widely available than for other specialties.
Loan forgiveness and/or repayment programs are sponsored by national, state, and local governments, as well as some private organizations. Typically, after completing a residency, physicians who enter these programs are recruited to practice in designated health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). Benefits vary, but on average, participants provide service for two to four years (depending on the number of years they received support) in exchange for living stipends and repayment of educational loans.
The federal government is canceling up to $20,000 of federal student loan debt for millions of Americans. Below are links to additional information on the student loan relief package, as well as advocacy efforts for a more long-term solution for medical students and family physicians.
The programs and resources listed here are a sample of available loan forgiveness programs. Contact the financial aid office at your school or your family medicine department for more information.
Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) – The AAMC provides a directory of state loan repayment programs with service commitments. The programs listed are only a sampling of those available. See your financial aid advisor for more information.
Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program – The IHS Loan Repayment Program awards up to $40,000 for repayment of student loans in exchange for a two-year commitment to practice in health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities – Participants are offered loan repayment to develop research programs that reflect an understanding of the variety of issues and problems associated with disparities in health status. Eligible applicants
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program – The NHSC offers up to $50,000 toward loan repayment for licensed health care providers in exchange for two years of service at an approved site.
NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program – Medical students may earn up to $120,000 in their final year of school in exchange for a commitment to serve at least three years at an approved NHSC site in an HPSA of greatest need.
NHSC Scholarships – Scholarships are offered to students dedicated to a career in primary care. After residency completion, you will serve at a practice site that is in a HPSA of greatest need. The period of service is one year for each year of scholarship support, with a two-year minimum commitment.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program – The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on an individual's Direct Loans after he or she has made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a government or not-for-profit organization. If you plan to enter this program, be sure that you have accurately researched requirements and eligibility for PSLF. There are strict guidelines regarding which payments qualify for forgiveness, and proper documentation is essential.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration Primary Care Loans – Primary care loan programs provide long-term, low-interest loans to full-time, financial-needs students to pursue a degree in allopathic or osteopathic medicine. Students must enter and complete residency training in primary care within four years after graduation, and practice in primary care for the life of the loan. See the AAMC directory of state loan repayment programs that have active programs.
Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) - HRSA loan program open to faculty members. HRSA will repay a portion of your health professional student loan debt ($40,000 max over two years.) In return, you serve at an eligible health professions school. Check out the FLRP application page for more details.
Fully-trained clinicians are eligible for loan repayment in exchange for service in an eligible community. Contact a recruiter at the branch of service that interests you for more information.