Student Loans for Medical Studies May Not Be Easier To Repay

Student loans and medical schools

Tuition for college and advanced education has increased significantly over the past several years. Any student or family who has or had student loans is well aware of this. For many there may be some relief coming to make repaying the student loans less burdensome. However, the situation may be different for students studying in medical, dental, and doctoral nursing schools.

Beginning this week, the Department of Education is making available a program to anyone with a federal student loan which will cap the monthly payment based on income. Eligibility for income-based repayment (IBR) will be determined by a person’s income and loan size. The IBR repayment must be less than what the monthly payment on a 10 yr schedule would be.

You can get an idea of what your repayment might be by using the chart in the fact sheet here (pdf), which gives this example:

"Based upon the IBR repayment formula a borrower with a family size of one and an AGI of $30,000 would have an IBR calculated payment amount of $172 per month. If this borrower had total student loan debt of $25,000, the calculated monthly repayment amount under a 10-year standard plan with an interest rate of 6.8 percent would be $288. Since the $172 IBR calculated amount is less than the 10-year plan amount of $288, the borrower would be eligible to repay under IBR at a monthly amount of $172. However, if this borrower’s total educational loan debt was only $10,000 the 10-year calculated amount would be $115 per month, which is less than the IBR amount of $172. Thus, the borrower would not be eligible for IBR."


For medical and dental students, this IBR may not make repayment less burdensome. Previously, students who were either in medical school or residency could defer all payments on their federal Stafford loans until after residency. With the income-based plan, these young doctors and dentists who are out of school but still in residency will be required to make small monthly payments towards their student loans if they earn more than $16,245.

The average medical student graduates with $140,000 or more in student debt. A resident making $50,000, for instance, could owe $422 per month under the income-based repayment plan.

It might direct some of the young physicians and dentists into public service as a way to have their student loans repaid. The IBR plan has a 10-year public service loan forgiveness built in. Currently this is only available to those under the Direct Loan Program, but perhaps those who are working on healthcare reform could extend this to all graduating physicians and dentists.

For more information go to

Department of Education