By Pamela Murphy, MSW, AACOM Vice President of Government Relations
Most medical students rely on some form of federal aid to finance their education. With osteopathic medicals students graduating with an average student loan debt of almost $230,000, federal financial aid and loan forgiveness programs are critical for helping students pursue their passion for medicine without a heavy financial burden that will follow them for decades into their careers.
Congress is currently negotiating changes to the Higher Education Act (HEA), the law governing federal financial aid and loan repayment programs. These discussions present a timely opportunity for medical students to ensure that Congress incorporates their needs into law.
The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 tied interest rates to the market, placing caps at 9.5% interest for Federal Stafford Loans and 10.5% for GradPLUS loans. These interest rates are projected to hit their limits in only 7-8 years, which will significantly increase the amount of interest medical students will have to pay on their loans.
Federal financial aid programs, such as the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS and Federal Perkins Loans, are critical to medical students’ ability to finance their education. Limiting borrowing for these loans would create additional hardships for prospective medical students seeking to advance their education.
According to the AACOM 2014-2015 Survey of Graduating Seniors, 55% of graduating osteopathic medical students expressed their intent to enter the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The PSLF provides students with the opportunity to serve in high-need communities while simultaneously paying down their student debt. Our nation faces a critical physician workforce shortage, especially in rural and/or underserved areas. Programs like the PSLF are essential for incentivizing public service, while at the same time meeting the needs of our changing health care ecosystem.
As a medical student, you have a unique opportunity to speak up about the issues that will impact your future – and Congress is ready to listen. Click here to send your Member of Congress a message that you’re #donewithdebt!