Student Loans: Get Off My Back!

Jan 21, 2020

Many students, past and present, deal with the necessary haggle of student loans; especially for those pursuing higher education. A survey completed by the AAMC in 2015 states that medical students in particular who graduated that year carried on average $182K in debt, while those who graduated in 2016, rose up to $190K, with nearly 25% carrying more than $200K. Pretty substantial, and frankly “scary” numbers for a medical student. In additional to this burden, about 33% of these students still carry a debt from their undergraduate studies, which is typically around $24K.

Now that we've fed you the veggies, how about some good news? Once you matched into a residency program, the general salary for a first-year resident is $52.5K. Though you may not be jumping out of your shoes, there are many programs available beyond your initial salary that can help you chip away at those lingering debts. For example, a ten-year plan would pan out to about $2,000 per month in payments (with $182K in loans). 

Solution number one is to finance your debts through a private lender. This could provide you with a lower interest rate, but you’ll have to pre-qualify first via few factors, including your credit as well as your current income. Solution number two is to consider working for an organization in a state that offers a student loan assistance program. Though it varies by area, certain states can knock away a considerable piece of those loans in just a few years. In Texas, the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program offers up to $160K for over four years of practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). In New York, Doctors Across New York provides an additional payment of up to $150K over a five-year commitment to doctors practicing in underserved areas.

The student loan forgiveness state programs are a valuable resource, and should be taken into serious consideration when deciding on a destination and facility of choice. Perhaps you’re thinking of immediate relief, or more of a short-term solution. To be honest, that is not really feasible with $200K in debt. But, when negotiating your “dream” role, it is important to use that as an opportunity to obtain a possible sign-on bonus as well as relocation assistance to help ease the burden, at least temporarily. Keeping a positive mind-set, and considering all possible solutions, can help you achieve your goals of financial growth and stability as a physician.