Dental school is one of the most expensive of all academic programs and those who attend are likely to end up owing a small fortune because of the high price tag. In fact, according to the American Dental Education Association, the average student loan debt for graduating dentists in 2018 was $285,184. While dentists can make a good living, that’s a lot of debt for anyone to pay back. And it can be downright impossible for those who want to go into public service work.
The good news is, there are student loan forgiveness options for dental school graduates who work in qualifying professions. In fact, there are many programs available on the federal level to help dentists deal with debt, as well as some state-specific programs you can look into depending where you live. This is how dentists can receive student loan forgiveness:
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work full-time for the government or a qualifying non-profit, you can qualify to have Federal Direct Stafford Loans, PLUS loans, and Consolidation Loans forgiven. FFEL loans can also be forgiven if they’ve been consolidated. You’ll need to make 120 on-time payments on an eligible income-driven plan while you’re employed in public service work and must still be doing that work at the time you apply for forgiveness.
If you’re currently in your last year of dental school and are willing to commit to providing at least three years of service in a Health Professional Shortage Area, you can qualify for up to $120,000 in student loan repayment help through this program. There’s a limited amount of funding available and priority is given to people from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or dentists likely to continue working in an underserved area. You can complete an initial eligibility screening online and then continue with the rest of the application process.
3. National Health Services Corp Loan Repayment Program
If you have dental school debt and work in an under-served area for two years, you can get up to $50,000 in student loan repayment help if you work full-time or $25,000 if you work part-time. There’s a limited amount of funding available and you can apply online by the application deadline, which is in April. Priority is given to people who are likely to continue working in a Health Professional Shortage Area.
4. Indian Health Services Loan Repayment
If you commit to work for two years serving an American Indian or Alaskan Native community, you can qualify for up to $40,000 in student loan repayment help. You also have the option to continue working in an eligible community after your initial two-year service commitment and will continue to receive up to $20,000 in student loan repayment help annually until your student loans have been repaid. To qualify, you can apply online.
5. Faculty Loan Repayment
If you want to become a teacher at a dental school, the Health Resources and Service Administration’s Faculty Loan Repayment can enable you to do so while getting help repaying student loans. You’ll get up to $40,000 in assistance for a minimum two-year service commitment. You’ll need to apply online during the application cycle and must come from a disadvantaged background.
6. State-based Loan Repayment Programs
Many states also offer student loan repayment help to dentists who do work that helps the public. The American Dental Education Association provides a state-by-state list of programs you may be able to take advantage of.
Whether you have the average debt of most dental school grads or your loan amounts are higher or lower, paying off dental school debt can be a burden. By exploring these loan forgiveness programs, you can get the help you need to become debt-free while working in a job that’s meaningful to you.
Other Options for Repaying Student Loans
Consider refinancing student loans. Refinancing student loans could potentially lower your interest rate, saving you money and getting rid of student loan debt faster. Depending on your term, you could also lower your monthly payment. There are pros and cons of refinancing student loans, so understand if it’s the right option for you. Keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans means a loss in many benefits that only federal loans offer. These include an option for potential loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans, generous deferment options if you become unemployed or have an economic hardship, and an option to discharge loans for death or disabilitypare lenders to see who is right for you. Credible also allows you to instantly get rates from several lenders.
Find an employer who offers student loan repayment. Many companies are offering student loan repayment assistance as a perk for employees. SoFi, Abbott and Fidelity are just a few that offer student loan repayment assistance.
Make big moves. There are big money moves you could make to make it easier to pay off student loan debt. Move to an area that will help repay student loans. Downsize your home (maybe a tiny home would work for you?). Move to an area with a lower cost of living. Find a better paying job. Start a side hustle.
Make small moves. Sign up for automatic payments to save a small percentage on your student loans. Use a cash-back credit card for everyday purchases, pay off your balance in full and use the cash rewards to pay down your debt. Sallie Mae’s Accelerate credit card gives 1.25% cash back on payday loans in South Dakota every purchase, plus, you get a 25% bonus on cash back when you use rewards to pay down any student loan debt. Sell unwanted stuff to make extra money, find ways to earn extra cash and get creative with ways to save money.