Becoming a Physician Assistant is a rewarding yet expensive accomplishment. Due to the specialized training, PA student debt is higher than the national average. To keep your student loans from getting the best of you, these are some strategies to repay your student debt.
#1: Automate Payments
Regardless of if you have federal or private loans, the first thing you should do is enroll in automatic payments. Doing so will drop your interest rate by 0.25% with most lenders and save you a few dollars in the process.
#2: Make Extra Payments
If you have extra money each month, applying it to extra payments each month will result in less interest paid overall because you will pay the loan off sooner. Most lenders will automatically apply any extra monthly payment to the principal, but, you should clarify with them just to be sure.
Also, most lenders won’t assess a penalty if you prepay your student loans either. If they do, you may consider refinancing your loans if it is cheaper than remaining with the lender for the entire repayment period of 10 years.
#3: Enroll in an Income-Based Repayment Plan
If you have federal student loans, you might be able to qualify for an income-based repayment plan that caps your payment at 10% of your adjusted monthly income.
#4: Enroll in a Loan Forgiveness Plan
If you qualify for a federal income-based repayment plan, you might be able to qualify for a federal loan forgiveness program that forgives your remaining loans after 10 years of payments with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program if you work for a qualifying government agency or non-profit. There are also 20 and 25-year federal forgiveness plans as well.
#5: Apply for a National Health Service Corps Scholarship
Just like the other federal community service programs like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps that help you repay federal student loans, the National Health Service Corps as they offer a scholarship of up to $50,000.
To repay the scholarships, there is a service commitment at an NHSC-sponsored facility for up to 2 years. If the service requirements are not achieved, you may have to repay the remaining balance with cash.
There are other federal available with different funding amounts and service requirements including the National Institutes of Health ($35,000), Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program ($40,000), and joining the U.S. Armed Forces.
#6: Apply For State Medical Scholarships
Depending on your state of residence, you might be able to qualify for state medical scholarships as well. These might be more difficult to acquire as some states don’t even offer scholarships. Just like the federal scholarships, there are certain work requirements that must be achieved to receive the full scholarship amount.
#7: Pursue Private Student Loan Refinancing
If you have private or federal loans and need more than 10 years to repay the balance, you can apply for private student loan refinancing. This option will lower your monthly payment by extending the repayment term up to 15 or 20 years.
It’s also possible to use private refinancing to qualify for a lower interest rate which isn’t possible with a federal consolidation loan that only uses the weighted average of your existing interest rates. And, with most refinancing lenders you will not pay an application, origination, or prepayment fee. Much of these details depend on the individual lender, so it pays to do your research.
#8: Apply for a Federal Consolidation Loan
If you need more than 10 years to repay your federal loans, but don’t want to bundle them with your private student loans to retain some of the repayment benefits, a federal consolidation loan will extend the repayment term up to 20 years for your federal student loans.
#9: Use Employer Repayment Benefits
Some employers offer student loan repayment benefits. While not every employer offers repayment benefits, an increasing number of employers are starting to add these benefits to attract and retain top talent.
#10: Use Overtime Pay for Student Loan Payments
If you have the ability to work and get paid overtime, use that extra money to make additional loan payments. As overtime isn’t always guaranteed, this repayment strategy is a great way to maximize the fruits of your labor instead of using it for non-essential purchases that can wait until your student loan debt is at more manageable levels.
Start Repaying Your Student Loan Debt Today
You can use a combination of the above methods to repay your medical school debt. Options like automatic payments, extra monthly payments, and pursuing refinancing can be employed for any student loan regardless of your employer. Some of the other tactics like scholarships and forgiveness plans have certain income and employer requirements to qualify.
By Drew Cloud, Founder of The Student Loan Report – a sites focused solely on student loan news and information.