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8 Best Dental School Loans of October 2020

Ryan LaneJune 19, 2020

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Dental students facing heavy debt should opt for federal loans.

Federal student loans should be your first choice if you need to borrow to pay for dental school.

Government-funded options include low-cost loans for dentists, and all federal loans let you tie payments to your future income.

Dentists also have strong earning power, so private dental school loans can make sense, too. Make sure you can get a better interest rate than what federal loans offer and that you won’t need benefits like income-driven payment plans.

Here are our picks for the best dental school loans, as well as what to know about each.

Our pick for

Most borrowers as a first option

If low-cost federal health professions student loans aren’t available, start with federal direct unsubsidized loans to pay for dental school.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Fixed APR

2.75 - 4.30%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate students can receive only unsubsidized direct loans. They can take out up to $20,500 annually, which may not be enough to cover your dental school bill.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.

  • Lower interest rates compared with private lenders.

Cons

  • You pay an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.

  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000

  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.

  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 4.53%, while grad students get higher 6.08% rate.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Manageable payments post-graduation

Grad PLUS loans offer income-driven plans that can cap your bills at 10% of your discretionary income, but repayment terms can last up to 25 years.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Fixed APR

5.30 - 5.30%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Grad PLUS loans have higher interest rates and fees than unsubsidized loans but let you borrow more money.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.

  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.

Cons

  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.

  • You pay an origination fee.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.

  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.

  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Disclaimer

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Our pick for

Part-time dental students

If you’re studying part-time to be a dental hygienist or dental assistant, for example, you may not qualify for federal student loans or some private loans.

A.M. Money Private Student Loan

A.M. Money Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

7.08 - 8.06%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for students who don’t have a co-signer, have a strong GPA and attend one of the schools A.M. money works with.

Pros

  • GPA is used to determine eligibility instead of credit or a co-signer.

  • Offers a hard-to-find, temporary income-based repayment option for up to 36 months.

  • All borrowers get the same fixed rate, benchmarked to the federal PLUS loan rates.

Cons

  • Works with a limited list of schools.

  • Charges an origination fee.

  • You can’t pay more than the minimum via autopay.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Credit and a co-signer are not required. Approval is based on GPA.

  • Minimum income: No minimum. Approval is based on GPA.

  • Loan amounts: $2,001 up to the full cost of attendance, maximum $50,000

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Disclaimer

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Our pick for

International dental students

International students aren’t eligible for federal student loans and will have few private options without access to an eligible co-signer.

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

7.52 - 13.63%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

N/A


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

You can only take out up to $50,000 a year ($25,000 each semester) from MPOWER, which may not be enough by itself to pay for dental school.

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.

  • Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer, and borrowers can access national disaster forbearance as well.

Cons

  • Payment required while in school and during the grace period.

  • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.

Qualifications

  • MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $50,000, limited to $25,000 per academic period.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Dental students with excellent credit

Ascent Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Private Student Loan

Ascent Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

3.53 - 14.50%

Variable APR

2.69 - 12.98%

Min. Credit Score

680

Check Rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

2.69 - 12.98%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Ascent's private student loan. Ascent's dental school loan comes with a 12-month grace period.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders.

  • You can make biweekly payments via autopay.

  • For co-signed option, multiple in-school repayment options are available, including interest-only, flat-fee and deferred.

  • For non-co-signed future-income based option, no co-signer or credit history is required.

Cons

  • Non-co-signed future income-based option is available only to college juniors and seniors.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose for co-signed option. For non-co-signed future income-based option, Ascent emphasizes future earnings over income or credit score.

  • Minimum income: $24,000 for the co-signed and non-co-signed credit-based option. Income is not considered for the non-co-signed future income-based option.

  • Loan amounts: For co-signed option, $1,000 minimum to $200,000 over the lifetime of a borrower. The amount for each loan period cannot exceed the total cost of attendance. For non-co-signed option, $1,000 to $20,000.

  • Non-co-signed future income-based borrowers must also meet satisfactory academic performance requirements with a 2.9 GPA or higher.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years for cosigned option or 10 or 15 for non-co-signed option

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 10/01/2020 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate future income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates . 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must have a minimum credit score. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.
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College Ave Dental Student Loan
Check Rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Dental Student Loan

College Ave Dental Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.69 - 9.95%

Variable APR

1.39 - 8.99%

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.39 - 8.99%

Key facts

Best for dental students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Twelve-month grace period is longer than other lenders offer.

  • You can defer payments up to an additional 12 months during residency after your grace period.

Cons

  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.

  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.25 - 12.35%

Variable APR

1.25 - 11.15%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.25 - 11.15%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's undergraduate student loan. Dental students can receive a residency deferment of up to 48 months.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Information not available on minimum qualifying credit scores or income.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

5 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.25% - 12.35% APR and Variable 1.25% - 11.15% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 06/25/2020. and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.51% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $124.69 and one payment of $66.91, for a Total Loan Cost of $23,661.42.
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Citizens One Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.25 - 11.53%

Variable APR

1.21 - 10.97%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website


Variable APR

1.21 - 10.97%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Citizens One's undergraduate student loan. Citizens One offers dental students an aggregate loan amount of $350,000, higher than some other medical professions.

Pros

  • Six-month grace period extension is available.

  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.

  • Multiyear loan approval is available.

Cons

  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $100,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Student Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from1.21%-11.36% (1.21%-10.97% APR).Fixed interest rates range from 4.25%-11.95% (4.25% -11.53% APR).
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Choosing student loans for dental school

Dental school loans are often unavoidable: More than 80% of dentists in the class of 2019 graduated with student debt, according to the American Dental Education Association. Their average dental school debt was more than $292,000.

If you might face that level of debt, federal student loans should be your first choice.

Federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans that typically limit payments to 10% of your discretionary income. That can provide some financial breathing room, especially if you need money to start your own dental practice or purchase an existing one.

Federal student loans also offer Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But unless you pursue a career like academic research or teaching dentistry, PSLF may be less of an incentive than it is for other health professionals who are more likely to work for a nonprofit like a hospital.

There are other dental school debt forgiveness programs. Many of these eliminate federal and private student loans. You typically need to practice in a rural or underserved area to qualify.

Federal student loans for dental school

You may have access to multiple federal student loans for dental school. Consider them in the following order:

  • Health Professions Student Loan. Students with financial need can apply for these health professions student loans at participating dental schools. Funding may be limited. These loans have fixed interest rates of 5% and interest is subsidized while you’re in school.

  • Loans for Disadvantaged Students. LDS and HPSL have similar terms, and both come from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Because LDS and HPSL aren’t Department of Education loans, they aren’t eligible for programs like PSLF or income-driven repayment. But you can consolidate them to qualify.

  • Unsubsidized federal direct loans. Graduate students are eligible for up to $20,500 annually in federal unsubsidized loans.

  • Graduate PLUS loans. After exhausting the previous options, you can borrow what remains up to your cost of attendance in graduate PLUS loans. PLUS loans have the highest interest rates and charge the most in fees among federal student loans.

If you’re in an undergraduate dental program — to be a dental hygienist or dental assistant, for example — you may also be eligible for subsidized loans. You’ll need to demonstrate financial need to qualify for these loans, and loan limits are different for undergraduates.

Private loans for dental school

Many private lenders offer student loans for dental school. These loans are credit-based, so you could beat a federal loan’s interest rate if you or a co-signer has good credit.

Some lenders market loans specifically for graduate-level dental students. These may have features tailored to dental students. For example, multiple lenders let you postpone payments during a residency.

Such perks can sound nice, but keep an eye on how much you’ll owe each month. A potential six-figure dentist salary may make you confident in affording those bills. But if you aren’t able to, you won’t be able to fall back on income-driven payments like you can with federal loans.

And if you stick with federal loans and your earnings do align with those expectations? You can consider refinancing dental school loans with a private lender at a lower interest rate to recoup some savings.

How to get loans for dental school

How you get loans for dental school will depend on the type you wish to take out:

  • Health professions student loans. Contact your dental school’s financial aid office to see if it participates in this program, and ask about its application process.

  • Federal student loans. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to qualify for subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans, as well as graduate PLUS loans.

  • Private student loans. You can borrow from any private lender that offers graduate student loans. Get the best deal possible by shopping around; then apply directly with the lender.

Last updated on June 19, 2020

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Dental School Loans of October 2020

Frequently asked questions