One of the frequently asked questions we get from aspiring medical students is “How will I pay for medical school?” Nearly 80 percent of graduating students reported having outstanding educational loans at the end of medical school, according to the most recent AAMC Medical School Graduation Questionnaire. Some students who want to borrow less, or who want to have some or all of their loans forgiven, might want to consider providing medical service for a particular organization, employer, or program after medical school (or licensure). In return for their service, they receive the benefit of loan forgiveness or loan repayment. You might not be aware of some of these service commitments that provide loan forgiveness or repayment, but they can significantly offset the cost of a medical education.
Nearly forty percent of graduating medical students in 2015 planned to participate in a program that would enable them to have a portion or all of their medical education debt forgiven in exchange for their service. These programs included the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), National Health Service Corps, Indian Health Service Corps, the Armed Services (Navy, Army, Air Force), Uniformed Service (Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services), state and private loan forgiveness programs, and hospital programs (e.g. sign-on bonus).
Some programs like the Indian Health Service require service for particular communities, and some like the National Health Service Corps require that the service be provided by a primary care physician in an underserved area. Be sure to check the requirements for each program of interest to make sure it’s a good “fit” for you. It’s never too early to begin researching financing options. Read more about these programs below to learn how you can achieve both your career and financial goals
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program through the federal government offers loan forgiveness for qualifying professionals with qualifying federal loans, who are working in public service careers. This includes federal, state or local governments, and non-profit organizations. After a borrower makes 120 on-time monthly payments, their remaining loan balance is forgiven. The AAMC’s FIRST (Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools) program developed a great PSLF Booklet to help students understand eligibility requirements and how to participate in the program.
National Health Service Corps
The National Health Service Corps offers a scholarship program and a loan repayment program for medical professionals in primary care specialties. Both require service after graduation from medical school (or licensure) in areas that have a shortage of health professionals. The scholarship program provides funding during medical school for tuition and fees. There are several loan repayment options providing up to $50,000 or $120,000 depending upon what stage in your medical career you apply to the program.
Some students may choose to obtain their medical degree by participating in a military scholarship or military loan repayment program. For students interested in providing medical service for members of the military and their families, this can be another great way to finance the cost of a medical education. The qualifications and commitment for each military program can vary, so be sure to do your research. This FIRST fact sheet can help you.
State and Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs
There are also loan forgiveness opportunities through some state and federal loan programs. To learn more about these opportunities take a look at the AAMC's list of state and federal loan repayment and forgiveness programs.
These are just a few examples; be sure to check with the financial aid offices of medical schools to see if any additional programs may be available. The more you know, the better financial decisions you will make. Visit FIRST for more information on financing, money management strategies, and tips at every stage of your medical education!