Educational Debt

Lisa Dial, CPA
Staff Writer

You have finally made it! Residency is almost over and you are searching for your first position… but, what about all of that debt from student loans? According to the American Medical Student Association:

“Medical education debt in the United States is staggering. Over 80% of graduates carry educational debt. The median debt burden for indebted graduates of public medical schools now exceeds $100,000, and the median debt for graduates of private schools is $135,000. According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical education debt is 4.5 times as high in 2003 as it was in 1984, far outpacing the consumer price index. Moreover, 25% of students have debt exceeding $150,000, and some new physicians have debt over $350,000.”

By making a minimum payment on your debt, you could still be paying for your education when you are ready to retire.

For students who want to reduce their debt, a socially conscious career can help. There are loan forgiveness programs offering to cancel education debt in return for students working in high need, underserved areas. A database of loan repayment programs for medical school students is maintained by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The National Health Service Corps website offers a list of state based loan repayment programs. The NHSC also offers loan forgiveness to medical professionals who commit to a set number of years working in areas in need of health professionals. Participants can apply to potentially eliminate up to $50,000 in debt with a two year service commitment.

While these programs are not for everyone, they prove to be a win-win situation for many new M.D.’s. The Doctor’s are reducing their debt early in their career and gaining valuable experience while the communities in need receive the benefit of quality medical care. This service also allows the physician time to determine what type of practice he/she would like to have and to also explore the various employment options available.

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