By Liane Weissenberger, Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager
Medical students face unique challenges after graduation. For many, managing high student loan debt during residency can be a struggle. In a recent article on KevinMD.com, Dr. Ahmad Yousaf, an internal medicine physician, broke down the reality of his financial hardship after graduation.
With $180,000 in student loan debt, Ahmad’s loan accrued $1,020 a month in interest at an interest rate of 6.8%. Paying for basic expenses such as rent, utilities, and food on a resident’s salary of $40,000-$50,000 was a struggle for Ahmad:
“I live in northern Jersey, where monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is around $1,000 to $1,400; a 2-bedroom ranges between $1,500 and $2,400. I lived in a 1-bedroom. I cleared about $3,000 a month after taxes. $1,000 went to paying just the interest on my loans and never touching the principal, and $1,200 went to paying rent.
“I was left with $800 to spend on food ($100 to $300, thank God for a mother and mother-in-law who have phenomenal cooking skills), gas ($160), car payments ($200) because you cannot move between three hospitals on public transportation, insurance payments ($200), cell phones ($80) with no landline, internet ($50), and, well … there is no money left.
“So, I guess I could have just paid the minimum on my loans and have had money for heat and electricity. The problem is, that after five years of residency, I would have owed Ms. Mae close to ~$250,000.”
Ahmad’s story is not an outlier. In fact, it is the financial reality for many medical residents, and the situation isn’t necessarily improving on its own.
The mean student debt reported by 2015 graduates of osteopathic medical school is about $230,000, meaning many students go into residency with an even greater debt burden. Additionally, a law passed in 2013 tied interest rates for student loans to the financial market and placed a cap on how high those interest rates could rise. Unfortunately, at 9.5% for Federal Stafford loans and 10.5% for GradPLUS loans, those caps aren’t a great deal for graduate students. The Congressional Budget Office projects that in just 7-8 years, the market will rise to meet these caps, nearly doubling the amount of interest a medical student will have to repay.
Change won’t happen unless more medical students, residents, and physicians are willing to speak up about the impact that student debt has on their lives. Congress is currently negotiating changes to the Higher Education Act, the law that governs student financial aid and repayment options. Now is your chance to speak up and tell Congress that medical students are #donewithdebt!
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