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Blog » More Than a Number: Why Student Advocacy Matters

More Than a Number: Why Student Advocacy Matters

April 21, 2016

By: Ryan Nguyen, OMS IV and AACOM Osteopathic Health Policy Intern

RNguyen OHPI

As a graduating medical student, the realities of my student debt burden have begun to settle in. While planning out my student loan repayment plan, I found myself wondering how such a debt burden would affect not just my career decisions but also major personal decisions such as buying a house or raising a family. With my monthly repayment amount on a standard 10-year repayment plan more than half of my take-home income on a resident’s salary for the next three to six years, I will also have to rely on income-based repayment while still in training, further increasing the accumulating interest. For myself, I understand this is the investment I’ve made into my future and career, but the financial realities of increasing student debt will have lasting effects for the next generation of physicians.

Through my time as an Osteopathic Health Policy Intern (OHPI), I’ve seen first-hand how policy decisions affect this number and the impact it can have on medical students. For example, prior to my first year of medical school in 2012, the in-school interest subsidy for federal Stafford loans was eliminated. This has resulted in interest accumulating on my medical student loans every day during the past four years. The financial impact is doubly felt as interest and principal capitalize upon repayment, meaning other students and I will be paying interest on top of interest. Through ED to MED, I have joined other medical students in asking Congress to reinstate the subsidy so that interest does not accumulate while we are still in school.

While the growing student debt crisis has risen to the forefront of national policy debates, often lost in the conversation is graduate student debt. Nearly 65% of graduates with more than $50,000 in student debt are graduate students, yet there has been limited discussion about how to ensure that pursuing an advanced degree remains a sound financial option.

Growing student debt burden is especially a concern for medical students like myself. Recent graduates of osteopathic medical schools report an average of $230,000 in student debt. This is on top of their existing undergraduate loan debt.

Becoming a student advocate for the ED to MED campaign has enabled me to join with other medical students to have a united voice influencing policy decisions. With negotiations for the Higher Education Act reauthorization taking place, ED to MED has given me a platform to reach out to my congressional representatives and discuss how federal policies influence my student debt burden.

Join me in making medical student debt more than a number.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by AACOM.

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