Dodging Your Debt
You saw it coming, but there was nothing you could do to
stop it. It sat in the back of your brain during school and, as graduation date
approached, it grew. While you battled the more horrifying demons -- exams,
clinical rotations, sleep deprivation -- this little gremlin lurked in the
shadows and waited for its turn to terrorize. Now that you are certified and your
dream job is secured, you must face what has grown into a true monster: your
sours the taste of those first, glorious paychecks like a fat bill from the
Federal Loan Service (or, heaven forbid, a private loan source!). Never fear.
As a professional in one of the most in-demand fields, there are plenty of
sources to help relieve your debt. Here are five that you may not have
- National Health
Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program: NHSC is by far one of the best
options to quickly repay your debt while serving a population in dire need of
medical providers. Clinical sites nation-wide are graded based on their need
for medical providers; the highest-scored locations will give up to $60,000 of
loan repayment for a two-year commitment from full-time clinicians. Smaller
sums are offered for part-time commitments and candidates can extend their
contracts beyond the initial two years. Sites are typically primary care
clinics in rural or inner city areas. If your prospective employer is not
listed as a rated site, you can submit an application and make them an eligible
This option is often viewed as a
"primary-care-only" opportunity. However, many people forget that all Indian Health
Services (IHS) and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) sites are also eligible, including
hospitals and the larger Federal Medical Centers. Be sure to apply if you work
at any of these locations.
More info here: http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment/
- U.S. Armed Forces
loan repayment programs: Most branches of the U.S. military offer loan
repayment in exchange for a service commitment. This option is also available
to the Reserve and National Guard components, though the amount of repayment,
length of service and other details can drastically vary. Clinicians with a
strong interest in military service should discuss these options with a
recruiter and ensure they are added to any recruitment contract.
information is available on the websites of the particular military branches:
- Public Service
Loan Forgiveness Program: This often-overlooked loan repayment option is
perfect for clinicians entrenched in debt for the long haul. The program is
geared towards graduates working in federal government positions or nonprofit
organizations (many hospitals are in this category) and forgives the remaining
balance of all loans after 120 payments are made. What does that really mean?
If you work for a qualifying employer, you need to make only minimum payments
for 10 years to wipe out your debt. Who says procrastination doesn't pay off?
More info: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service#what-is-the-public
- Perkins Loan
Forgiveness: You may have this in your back pocket and not even realize it.
Perkins loans are federally-sponsored loans that are awarded based on financial
need. Just fill out a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to each
school year and accept the loan. After graduation, complete the appropriate
paperwork. The loan is deferred and a portion is cancelled each year for
graduates working in healthcare (just like you, PA-C or NP).
- Private employer
loan repayment: It's a job-seeker's market. Exceptional candidates, even
new graduates, are commanding excellent incentive packages, especially in
specialties with high demand (primary care) or high turnover (emergency
medicine, critical care). Employers are focused on retaining talent and will
sometimes offer loan repayment packages in exchange for a time commitment. This
is an excellent compromise during negotiations when employers can't or won't
budge on the base salary offer.
A Final Word
else, relax and have patience. You will make plenty of money during your career
and the burden of debt will eventually become a distant memory. While these
programs can certainly give you a boost, any PA or NP can easily manage their
debt with hard work and responsible spending. Don't forget to stash away a
portion for retirement from the beginning and allow yourself the occasional