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8 Medical School Loan Forgiveness Programs

Dec. 20, 2018
Loans, Student Loans
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Medical school loan forgiveness programs are generally designed to incentivize doctors to work in the public sector or in the nation’s underserved areas.

These federal and state programs forgive physicians’ student loan debt or pay off a portion of the medical school loan on the physician’s behalf. In return, the doctor agrees to specific terms, such as practicing in a rural community for a certain period of time.

Loan forgiveness is one element of a larger student loan repayment strategy. Before pursuing any of the programs below, understand how loan forgiveness for doctors best fits into your repayment approach.

Medical school loan forgiveness programs

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

For federal student loans only.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a U.S. Department of Education program that erases any federal student loan balance remaining after you make 10 years of payments while working for the government or a nonprofit. Doctors can benefit from Public Service Loan Forgiveness particularly if they complete a residency at a qualifying nonprofit or public hospital.

To maximize the amount forgiven, make qualifying payments on an income-driven repayment plan. Forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness is tax-free.

» MORE: 5 strategies for paying off medical school debt

2. State loan repayment programs

Find out from your state if both federal and private student loans are eligible.

Many states have programs that repay some or all of doctors’ student loans if they work in a rural or underserved area for a certain period of time — typically at least two years. The Association of American Medical Colleges has a database of state and federal programs.

3. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

In addition to state-based loan repayment programs for doctors who work in underserved areas, the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program offers up to $50,000 in tax-free student loan repayment for primary care physicians who work at least two years in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

A Health Professional Shortage Area is a designated geographic location, population or facility that has a lack of primary care, dental care or mental health providers. You can search for these areas through the Health Resources & Services Administration website.

You may qualify for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program if you specialize in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, geriatrics or psychiatry. Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.

» MORE: Average medical school debt

4. National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program offers up to $120,000 in tax-free student loan repayment (up to $30,000 a year for four years) for fourth-year medical students who agree to work full-time for at least three years in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

You may qualify if you plan to specialize in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, geriatrics or psychiatry. Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.

» MORE: 12 options for refinancing medical school loans

5. National Health Service Corps Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The National Health Service Corps Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program offers up to $75,000 in student loan repayment for doctors who work at least three years doing substance abuse treatment at an approved site.

You’ll get priority for the program if you have a DATA 2000 waiver to prescribe approved narcotics to treat opioid use disorder, work in an opioid treatment program or are licensed or certified in substance use interventions.

6. National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs

For federal and private student loans.

There are eight National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs that each offer up to $35,000 in student loan repayment per year for doctors in biomedical or biobehavioral research careers. Each of the programs targets researchers in various fields including clinical, pediatric, AIDS and contraception and infertility.

Your loans don’t qualify if you refinanced or consolidated them with loans issued to someone else, like a parent or spouse.

7. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 in student loan repayment for doctors who work for at least two years in communities that serve American Indian or Alaska Native populations. You may be able to extend your contract beyond the initial two years and continue receiving loan repayment benefits until your qualifying student loans are paid off.

Your loans don’t qualify if you refinanced or consolidated them with loans issued to someone else, like a parent or spouse. This loan repayment benefit is taxable, but the program pays a percentage of the federal taxes.

8. Military loan repayment programs

Ask your military branch whether both federal and private student loans are eligible.

The U.S. military offers student loan repayment benefits to doctors who serve. For example, the Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 a year in loan repayment for up to three years. Contact your military branch for details about your options.

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