Helpful Thoughts on Student Debt

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Helpful Thoughts on Student Debt 

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by: Peter Gorynski, PA-S

Although salaries for Physician Assistants are on the rise, many new graduates will find themselves burdened by six-plus years of accumulated student loan debt.  For many graduates, this means owing well over $100,000. While many students are aware of scholarships, grants, and programs such as the National Health Service Corp, it is important to remember that there are other state and federal government options for loan reimbursement and forgiveness.

Many states offer tuition reimbursement for health care workers.  In Massachusetts, for example, Physician Assistants can receive substantial compensation for working in Primary Care in underserved areas.  By working in one of these underserved areas, known as Health Professional Shortage Areas, Physician Assistants (and other health professionals) can receive up to $50,000 for two years of full-time service.  This is in addition to salary paid by the place of employment, and there is no commitment once the time of service has expired.

At the national level, Federal Student loan balances may be forgiven after 10 years of full, on-time monthly loan payments.  In order to qualify for loan forgiveness, the Physician Assistant must work in a qualifying place or places of employment at a full-time level.  Qualifying places of employment includes any 501(c)(3) organization or public health service.  A candidate may work one full time job during the 10 year period, or multiple part-time jobs at qualifying facilities so long as they average at least 30 hours of work per week.  Unlike the state program, loan forgiveness does not require work in primary care.

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