Managing Student Loans

Pursuing a career as a dentist is one of the most lucrative occupations a student can consider, with dentists income firmly placed in the top 5% group of incomes in the US. The American Dental Association also foresees a national shortage in dentists in the coming years, so those students who make the investment in dental school now will reap rich rewards.

Almost all students who attend dental school are post graduates so already have the cost of undergraduate education to consider, and dental school is an expensive choice. The average dental graduate will have more than $100,000 in loan debt as they start their career, but their income allows this to be dealt with in a timely fashion and not be overly burdened. As the American Dental Education Association-ADEA- states, it is a “sound investment that will pay off in significant life time income.”

Having a low income background should be no deterrent to applying for dental school as loans are available to fund the costs. In addition there are scholarships and grants available which are based on both merit and financial need. ADEA itself has a fee reduction program available for those students in extreme financial need. For the public minded the federal government has a loan forgiveness program which will forgive dental loans for those who graduate and work in areas which are designated as in need of dentists.

When applying for dental school the student must submit an ADEA AADSAS application, and it is worth researching first which dental schools offer scholarships and loans. The first step for financial aid will be a familiar one to graduates as it is the federal Stafford loan program. Students are advised to maximise borrowing on Stafford loans before applying for graduate PLUS loans which are also offered at fixed rates of interest. Each year there will be a top limit allowed for Stafford loans and this is on top of any undergraduate Stafford loans.

If additional funding is required it is worth investigating loans available through Health Professional Loans, before looking at private student loans. There is also the possibility of obtaining finance through a trainee program. Private student loans should always be the last choice for borrowing as they will be more costly to service than federal loans but some of the primary student loan lenders have good graduate packages on offer.

Latest figures from 2007 indicate that the average starting salary for newly qualified dentists within their first ten years of practice was between $182,000 and $227,000. Thus the level of borrowing which dental school entails should not put students off. The costs to qualify may indeed be high but are only a fraction of the lifetime earnings which dentists can expect to earn once established in their profession.