Veterinary school students should opt for federal student loan benefits and protections when taking on debt.
Summary of Best Student Loans for Vet School of November 2019
Our pick for
Most borrowers as a first option
If you can’t qualify for a low-cost federal health professions student loan, federal direct unsubsidized loans should be your top choice for vet school.
Our pick for
Manageable payments after vet school
Both unsubsidized federal student loans and graduate PLUS loans qualify for income-driven repayment plans that limit payments to as little as 10% of your discretionary income.
Our picks for
Borrowers with good credit
Vet students who have good to excellent credit, or a co-signer that does, may pay less overall by borrowing a private student loan. While private loans may have better rates and lower fees than federal loans, they lack the same repayment options and protections.
Types of student loans for vet school
You may be able to pay for vet school with multiple types of student loans:
Federal health professions student loans
Vet students may be able to take out Health Professional Student Loans and Loans for Disadvantaged Students. These loans are funded by the federal government, but not the Department of Education. That means they have some key differences — both good and bad — from federal direct and PLUS loans:
- Lower costs. HPSL and LDS have fixed interest rates of 5% and no origination fees. Unsubsidized loans and PLUS loans have fees of roughly 1% and 4%, respectively. Health professions loans also don’t accrue interest while you’re in school.
- Longer grace periods. Federal health professions student loans don’t enter repayment until 12 months after you graduate — that’s twice as long as other federal loans.
- Limited availability and funding. HPSL and LDS are available only to students with financial need or from disadvantaged backgrounds at participating vet schools. The amount you’ll receive is up to your school’s discretion and available funding.
- Fewer repayment options. Your school will determine your repayment term for these loans. Because HPSL and LDS don’t come from the Department of Education, they aren’t eligible for programs such as income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You can consolidate HPSL and LDS into the federal student loan program to access these benefits. This is different from private loans, which can’t be transferred to the federal program.
You can apply for HPSL and LDS by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You will need to include your parents’ financial information on this form to qualify.
Federal unsubsidized and PLUS student loans
Veterinary students may be eligible for two types of federal student loans: unsubsidized direct loans and graduate PLUS loans.
Unsubsidized loans have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans, but also a smaller borrowing maximum for graduate students — $20,500 per year. Take that max in unsubsidized loans, then use PLUS loans to cover up to the rest of your cost of attendance.
You can apply for federal student loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You don’t have to provide your parents’ financial information to receive these loans — and likely shouldn’t to ensure your expected family contribution is as low as possible.
Private student loans for vet school
You may be able to get a private loan for vet school with a lower interest rate and smaller fees than federal loans have, depending on your or a co-signer’s credit score and financial history.
Many private lenders offer specific student loans for health professionals, including those studying for a D.V.M., as well as loans available to all graduate students. You can use either to pay for veterinary school, so compare all your options to get the best deal possible.
Some states offer forgivable private loans, but you typically must commit to working in a shortage area to qualify. For example, Missouri provides $20,000 loans to eligible students who plan to practice large animal veterinary medicine in an area of need.
» MORE: How much is vet school?
Which student loan for vet school is right for you?
Consider this: The average vet school debt of $183,014 would come with monthly payments of more than $2,100 on a standard, 10-year repayment plan, assuming current interest rates. Under the Revised Pay As You Earn income-driven plan, those payments could shrink to less than $500, based on the average vet salary of $76,633 for new grads. You would likely pay more overall on REPAYE’s 25-year repayment term, though.
If you’ll borrow less — perhaps much less — than your projected starting salary, you may pay less by qualifying for a lower interest rate with a private student loan. But federal loan protections better minimize your risk. If you don’t need those protections once you’re practicing, refinancing vet school loans with a private lender could lower your interest rate and save you money.
Last updated on November 14, 2019
To recap our selections...
NerdWallet's Best Student Loans for Vet School of November 2019
- Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan: Best for Most borrowers as a first option
- Federal Grad PLUS Loan: Best for Manageable payments after vet school
- College Ave Private Student Loan: Best for Borrowers with good credit
- Sallie Mae Private Student Loan: Best for Borrowers with good credit
- Wells Fargo Private Student Loan: Best for Borrowers with good credit
- PNC Private Student Loan: Best for Borrowers with good credit
- Citizens One Private Student Loan: Best for Borrowers with good credit