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.