Money matters

Debt deadline: While you’re writing that check, write your lawmaker

Interested in standing up to student debt? Read about the changes that may be coming and what you can do to make a difference.

At this year’s DO Day, student debt was at the top of the AOA’s legislative priority list, sharing equal billing with the repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula and graduate medical education expansion for the first time.

The emerging focus on student loans reflects the growing concern among osteopathic medical students about the amount of debt they’re accruing–and how it may impact their career choices.

Last year, osteopathic medical students graduated with nearly $221,000 of medical education debt on average, according to a survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

Worried about your medical education debt? Learn about current and upcoming legislation affecting student debt—and what you can do to try to influence it.

Now’s the time to act

The Higher Education Act (HEA), which addresses federal borrowing terms, tax incentives and loan repayment programs, expires at the end of this year.

Medical students and others worried about student borrowing and debt should reach out to their Congressional representatives, suggests financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of Edvisors.com. They can also contact Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as he will release the reauthorization bill later this year.

Kantrowitz says concerned medical students may want to advocate for the preservation of the following:

Federal PLUS loans for graduate students. Some Republican senators believe these loans foster overborrowing and have suggested eliminating them and increasing federal Stafford loan limits instead. That action may result in medical students having more difficulty securing federal loans.

The current terms of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which forgives borrowers’ federal student loans after 10 years of service with certain employers such as nonprofit hospitals. The reauthorized HEA may cap PSLF debt relief to $57,500 after 10 years, with the remaining balance forgiven after 25 years via an income-driven repayment plan. This cap was also included in President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget. “This would eliminate a key benefit of PSLF, in that borrowers in public service are indebted for only 10 years, not 25 years,” Kantrowitz says.

Tax credits and tax benefits for graduate students. The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, which most graduate students are eligible for, may be discontinued as the White House seeks to consolidate credits and benefits, and graduate students may not be eligible for the combined credit.

5 comments

  1. It’s really sad that articles like this never address the REAL problem with student debt: tuition. Instead, these articles focus on peripheral items that aren’t the problem, such as interest rates, loan forgiveness programs, etc. The problem is that college tuition inflation has outpaced core inflation to the extent that it makes core inflating look like it’s at a standstill. Greedy universities and greedy politicians are in collusion to fleece college students for trying to better themselves. Meanwhile, university administrators, most of whom serve superfluous functions, all live in mansions and live the fine life that very few of their victims… er students will ever have.

    1. I agree with the above commenters
      . After 2 years of medical school (each marked with a casual “by the way….” announcement of new tuition hikes) it’s clear that it’s little more than a calculation of how much they can get away with. We needn’t complicate it. It’s a professor talking in a WiFi equipped room a few hours a week. Frankly I’m surprised it’s not more. We’ve all been conditioned to feel like Lauren Delana. I feel sorry watching the droves of unknowing new applicants grovel for the privileged of taking part in this bubble economy.
      Don’t expect help from within though. The AOA just came by my campus for their toothless re-accreditation visit and it’s clear they are quite happy to take part in the “non-profit” profiteering for as long as they can. I don’t see much changing without the government stepping in.

  2. I couldn’t help but notice also that the author of this article doesn’t understand student loans and the differences between the different types, either. She makes the Republicans out to be boogeymen because one Republican legislator wants to increase Stafford loans instead of Graduate PLUS loans. This would actually be a GOOD thing. But the author is too confused on the details to realize that.

  3. Agree with Dr. Hamlin, as a soon to be graduate of medical school I find it interesting that the biggest concern for students is continuing PSLF and not decreasing Tuition. DO schools are some of the most expensive medical schools in the Nation- I can’t even remember how many have a “rural and primary care” mission with COA’s approaching THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! We should be concentrating on relieving the student loan burden NOT on continuing a program that may or may not allow them to “forgive” there loans in ten years.

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