If you’re a medical student, then you’ll be happy to hear about a new federal program that can give you big-time money for college by helping you repay some, if not all, of your student loans.
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Students to Service Loan Repayment Program, a pilot program created by the Affordable Care Act, with pay some or all of your college loans as long as you work as a primary care physician in an area of the country that doesn’t have enough physicians. Here’s how it works:
Students to Serve provides financial aid to fourth year medical students (MDs and DOs) who commit to a career in primary care. You must agree to work full-time for a minimum of three years or part-time for a minimum of six years in NHSC-approved communities with limited access to physicians, which the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recognizes Health Professional Shortage Areas (HSPAs).
To be eligible for the program, “applicants must be enrolled as a full-time student in the last year of school, be attending a fully accredited school in an eligible degree program, and be planning to complete an accredited primary medical care residency in an NHSC-approved specialty (Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Pediatrics, OB/GYN, and Geriatrics).”
Full-Time Clinical Practitioners
If you work full-time in an HSPA, you will receive up to $120,000 in student loan repayment assistance over three years. The program defines full-time as working no less than 40 hours per week for a minimum of 45 weeks a year.
Part-Time Clinical Practitioners
If you work full-time in an HSPA, you will receive up to $120,000 in student loan repayment assistance over six years. The program defines part-time work as working no less than 20 hours per week, and no more than 39 hours per week, for a minimum of 45 weeks per year.
Maximum Annual Payments
Annual payments from the program max out at $30,000.
What if I owe more than $120,000 in student loans?
Many students owe more than $120,000 in student loans when they graduate medical school. Often, students can owe more than $200,000. If you want to stick with the program past your initial commitment of three or six years, the program will continue to help you repay your student loans, resulting in the possibility of being able to pay off all of your qualifying student loans through the program.
What if the Program Receives More Applications Than it Can Handle?
If Students to Serve receives more qualified applications than it has available funding, the program will prioritize applications based on two criteria: 1) whether an applicant has a disadvantaged background, based on environmental and/or economic factors and whether an applicant received a Federal Exceptional Financial Need Scholarship, and 2) whether an applicant indicated a higher likelihood of continuing to serve in an HSPA once the service commitment is completed.
This year’s application cycle opened on Nov. 15 and closed on Dec. 19, so, if you’re a third-year student this year, start thinking about what you need to do to be eligible for the program when the application cycle begins again next November. If you want to be a primary care physician, you can get big-time loan repayment assistance through Students to Service. Ask your school’s financial aid office for more details.