BEST OF

6 Best Student Loans for Vet School of October 2021

Veterinary school students should opt for federal student loan benefits and protections when taking on debt.

Ryan LaneMay 26, 2021

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Roughly 83% of veterinarians in the class of 2018 took out student loans for vet school, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Those students graduated with an average debt of $183,014 for their doctor of veterinary medicine degree — more than twice the projected $76,633 starting salary for veterinarians.

To keep loan payments manageable, the majority of students should choose federal student loans for vet school rather than private loans. Opt for low-cost federal health professions student loans first, if you can qualify, then turn to unsubsidized direct loans and graduate PLUS loans.

Here are our picks for the best student loans for vet school, plus what you should know about each before borrowing.

Summary of Best Student Loans for Vet School of October 2021

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.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

3.73 - 5.28%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate students can receive only unsubsidized direct loans. They can take out up to $20,500 annually in these loans, which may not be enough to cover vet school costs.

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 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate

Available Term Lengths

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

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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.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

6.20 - 6.28%

Variable APR

N/A

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.

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Our picks for

Borrowers with good credit

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

mid-500's

Fixed APR

3.32 - 12.93%

Variable APR

1.87 - 11.10%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

1.87 - 11.10%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Ascent's undergraduate student loan. Ascent offers a medical student loan for D.V.M. students that lets you postpone payments for 36 months after leaving school.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • Grace period of 9 months is longer than many lenders offer.

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

Cons

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: Not available.

  • Loan amounts: up to $200,000.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, 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.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 09/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-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: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.

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College Ave Medical Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Medical Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Medical Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

4.49 - 11.46%

Variable APR

1.99 - 10.45%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.99 - 10.45%

Key facts

CollegeAve’s medical school loans let you defer payments for up to 36 months after school.

Pros

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

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.

  • You can defer payments up to an additional 48 months during fellowship 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

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

3.50 - 12.60%

Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's undergraduate student loan. Sallie Mae offers vet students a medical school loan with a 36-month grace period and 48-month deferment during a residency or fellowship.

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.

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

10 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: The 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. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. 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 variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRS assume a $10,000 loan to a borrower who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae loans. Advertised APRs are valid as of 07/22/2021. Loan amounts: 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. Examples of typical transactions for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common variable rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 6.88% APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $136.17 and one payment of $66.85 for a total loan cost of $18,314.28. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan.

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Citizens Private Student Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Citizens Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.49 - 10.95%

Variable APR

1.03 - 10.41%

Variable APR

1.03 - 10.41%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Citizen Bank's undergraduate student loan. Citizens offers vet 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 from 1.03%-11.01% (1.03%-10.41%APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.49%-11.70% (3.49% -10.95% APR).

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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.

Which student loan for vet school is right for you?

Most likely, federal student loans will be your best bet for vet school. When paying off vet school loans, many vets may need the income-driven repayment plans that only federal student loans offer.

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 May 26, 2021

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Student Loans for Vet School of October 2021