Getting through medical school can be a long and daunting process, and once you graduate, you can expect an average of $200,000 in student loan debt.
Depending on where you plan to work, you may be able to take advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program which can save you thousands in student debt forgiveness.
But it’s more likely that you won’t qualify for this program, forcing you to look for other ways to pay down your medical school debt.
If you’re researching your options for repaying your medical school debt, here’s what you need to know.
How to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) can be challenging. The program is designed for student loan borrowers who work for a government agency or eligible nonprofit organization. If you’re eligible, you’ll need to make 120 qualifying monthly payments, after which the remainder of your balance is forgiven.
Unfortunately, if you plan to work for a private practice, a non-qualifying hospital system or medical provider or run your own business, you’re out of luck.
That said, there are other ways to get help with your student loans, though not necessarily medical school student loan forgiveness. You’ll also have some options with your own repayment plan, including student loan refinancing.
Other ways to pay off large amounts of medical school loan debt
Unless you qualify for PSLF, there’s no such thing as medical school student loan forgiveness — that is, actual forgiveness by the lender itself, the U.S. Department of Education. That said, there are plenty of student loan repayment assistance programs that you may qualify for.
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program: If you work in an eligible underserved area for two years or longer and meet other criteria, you can get up to $50,000 in repayment assistance.
- National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program: This program provides up to $30,000 a year for four years to fourth-year medical students who agree to work for at least three years in a health professional shortage area. That’s up to $120,000 in total.
- National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs: There are eight total NIH repayment programs, each offering $35,000 per year — all of them are for researchers in various fields, including pediatrics, contraception and infertility, general research and more.
- Military loan repayment programs: If you decide to serve in one of the branches of the Armed Forces, you may qualify for repayment assistance. Benefits and terms can vary from branch to branch, though, so speak with a representative from yours to get more information.
Also, many states have their own programs to reward health professionals who work in the state and meet other requirements. One thing to keep in mind is that most of these programs require that you have federal student loans, and some types of federal loans may not qualify.
Take your time to research all of your options to find a program that you’re eligible for.
Why refinance medical school student loans
If you don’t qualify for PSLF or a loan repayment assistance program, you may need to take matters into your own hands to save time and money. Refinancing your medical school loans with a private lender may be a good way to do that.
There are many benefits to consider when you refinance medical school loans, including:
- Lower interest rates: It’s possible that you can find a lower rate than what you’re currently paying, and with such a large loan balance, even a small reduction in your rate could save you big time.
- Payment flexibility: If you have the means to make a higher payment, refinancing allows you to shorten your repayment term, making it so you can eliminate your debt faster and save on interest. On the flip side, if you need a lower monthly payment, you could swap your current repayment schedule with a longer one.
- More features: While private lenders don’t offer access to income-driven repayment plans, PSLF or many of the available loan repayment assistance programs, some lenders offer features that you can’t get with federal loans. For example, some may provide interest rate discounts if you have an existing relationship with the bank. You may also qualify for lower interest rates on future loans with the lender, unemployment protection and more.
Why medical professionals make excellent student loan refinance candidates
One of the biggest drawbacks of student loan refinancing is that it can be challenging for some people to qualify. Fortunately, for the average medical school graduate, it may be easier than you think.
According to Purefy data, the average FICO credit score and annual income for people who refinance their student loans are 774 and $98,156, respectively. As a healthcare professional, you’ll have a much easier time meeting these requirements than someone just leaving college with an undergraduate degree.
Also, because medical school graduates have such high loan amounts, the savings from a lower interest rate can be huge. Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be approved, or that you’ll get the interest rate that you’re hoping for. In some cases, you may need a cosigner to help improve your approval odds.
Take the time to research your options to find out if refinancing is right for you.
Find your best student loan refinance rate and save the most money
As with any financial product or service, it’s rarely a good idea to go with the first offer you receive. Even if you like what you see, it’s possible you can get an even better offer somewhere else.
Purefy’s Compare Rates tool allows you to compare rate offers from multiple lenders in one place. Simply provide some basic information about yourself and your student loans, and you’ll see rates and terms based on your credit profile. And don’t worry, this process requires only a soft credit check, which won’t hurt your credit score.
The more lenders you compare, the more likely you are to get the lowest interest rate possible based on your credit and financial situation. And the lower your rate, the more you’ll save.