Few health school students can afford an education without some type of financial aid.
Even fewer are armed with the knowledge to tap into the various grants, loans, scholarships and work-study programs available to hard-working students. For instance, did you know that by simply completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you become automatically eligible for many federal programs?
Federal Loans and Income-Based College Loan Repayment
College loans are similar to home loans or car loans—they are a debt that must be repaid to the lender with interest. The good news is that the federal government regulates the maximum interest that lenders can charge on federally-guaranteed student loans. In addition, payment against these loans doesn't start until six months after the student graduates, or when the borrower is enrolled less than half time as a student in health school.
If one of your concerns is being unable to repay your loans because of your income, the federal government has addressed this with a specific program. Known as income-based repayment (IBR), or the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, the program limits your monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of your discretionary income. What's more, the government will forgive federal student loans after 20 years assuming you meet appropriate requirements.
Pros and Cons of IBR
Paying back your federal loans through income-based repayment has many advantages.
- Your monthly payments are based on your family size and what you earn.
- The government covers your loan interest for the first three years of repayment, if you can't.
- After 20 years of payments, any remaining student loan debt is forgiven.
- If you work in public service for 10 years under a Direct Loan program, your debt balance will be forgiven.
The main drawback to this method of repayment is that you pay more interest over time, because of the length of the repayment period.
Work Study Programs for Health School Students
Federal work-study programs allow health school students who demonstrate financial need to earn money for their education by working.
You may find a job with a professor within the campus community, or off campus with a nonprofit agency or public bureau. Students often take jobs related to their individual field of study. At minimum, work-study students earn the federal minimum wage, but can often earn more. When you apply for Federal Financial Aid through completion of the FAFSA, you can indicate that you want to be considered for work-study assistance.
Health School Scholarships
Scholarships seek to highlight and reward students' specific talents or qualifications—academic, athletic or artistic. Scholarships, like grants, are gifts that do not need to be repaid, although some scholarships are awarded with certain stipulations (such as enrolling in a particular field of study). For health school students, the association of your specialty, or your school, may also give scholarships to qualified individuals. But the best scholarship resources are often:
- Local organizations
- Small businesses
- Large corporations
- Philanthropic individuals
Grants for Health School Students
Grants are a great way to subsidize your health school education, because unlike student loans, grants do not have to be paid back. There are over one thousand federal grant programs in the U.S., offering more than $400 billion dollars worth of financial aid to students and organizations. The application process can be intimidating, but securing a student grant is like finding free money for qualified individuals.
Additional Repayment Programs for Health Care Students
Many state departments of health and human services offer health professionals loan repayment programs in health care areas in need of qualified workers. Also consider:
Joining a military reserve: Depending on your length of service and category of health care expertise, the military may pay college student loan debt up to $65,000 maximum.
Work for the Indian Health Service: The IHS Loan Repayment Program covers up to $20,000 a year in eligible loan payments. If you work for two years at an IHS site that offers the Supplemental Loan Repayment Program, you can receive a loan repayment award up to $40,000.
Become a dental hygienist and work in a medically-underserved area: The National Health Service Corps of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers up to $50,000 in repayment funding for dental hygienists willing to work two years at an approved site within a Health Professional Shortage Area.