If you’ve recently graduated from a physician assistant program- congratulations! You’ve got a bright future ahead of you in regards to your career. Now, about that debt… The excitement you feel about finally finishing your PA program is probably tempered by anxiety over the large sum of money you borrowed to finance your education and now must pay back. Overcoming student loan debt isn’t easy, but fortunately there are a few (often lucrative) programs out there that can help.
There are many sources of loan repayment programs available to physician assistants. Many are programs affiliated with the federal government, or are associated with military service. Other loan repayment programs for physician assistants may be funded by local or state governments. Finally, some private entities, namely employers, help attract PAs to their practices by offering student loan reimbursement to help pay down that mountain of debt.
If you could use some help paying off your student loans, here are a few loan repayment programs for physician assistants to consider.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program encourages individuals to enter and continue working in a full-time capacity in public service positions. Physician assistants working for non-profit or government organizations providing emergency management services, care for individuals with disabilities and/or the elderly, or public health services may be eligible for the program.
Only certain types of loans qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Applicants must also have made at least 120 payments on these qualified loans. If your loan type or payment history precludes you from the program, there may be ways you can consolidate your loans to increase your chances of eligibility.
National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment
If you’ve got a bent for research, this is the loan repayment opportunity for you. The National Institutes of Health awards up to $35,000 towards student loans for a two year commitment to conducting clinical research. Research may be funded by a domestic nonprofit organization, or U.S. federal, local, or state governments.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program (IHS LRP) awards up to $40,000 towards repayment of student loans. In exchange, physician assistants must commit to two years of full-time practice at an Indian Health Program site. The Indian Health Services Program aims to provide the highest level of physical, mental, social and spiritual healthcare to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Qualifying practice sites are located across the country. The program does not require the participating physician assistants to be of American Indian ancestry.
National Health Service Corps
The National Helath Service Corps (NHSC) offers loan repayment assistance to healthcare providers practicing in medically underserved locations. Physician assistants working in these areas may be eligible to receive up to $50,000 towards student loans in exchange for two years of full-time service. Award amounts range from $30,000 to $50,000 and depend on the level of medical need where the PA practices. If you consider yourself more of a city dweller, these programs still deserve a look. Many medically underserved areas are located within commuting distance from suburban and urban neighborhoods. You may be able to reside in the city or suburbs while still practicing in an underserved area.
U.S. Military Loan Repayment Programs
The U.S. Army offers unmatched student loan repayment opportunities for physician assistants looking to serve. Through the Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program, PAs may receive up to $120,000 to pay down qualifying student loans in an allotment of $40,000 per year for three years. The U.S. Navy offers a similar program.
If you aren’t interested in full-time service, the National Guard may be a more viable option for you. The National Guard awards up to $20,000 in exchange for a three-year contract to physician assistants looking for student loan assistance.
State-Based Loan Repayment Programs
Can’t find a federal loan repayment that’s right for you? Check your state’s loan repayment listings. Similar to the federal government, many states provide loan repayment opportunities for physician assistants. The Association of American Medical Colleges provides a helpful list of state-based student loan repayment programs for physician assistants.
Employer Funded Student Loan Repayment Incentives
Some employers off loan repayment as part of a benefit package. This can make signing an employment agreement much more attractive and offset anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars of your student loans. Make sure to honor all stipulations set forth in your contract so you get the full benefit.
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