The average veterinary student graduated with a student loan debt balance of $179,505 in 2022, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Repaying that much debt can be daunting, but fortunately, veterinarians have options for student loan forgiveness.
Let’s discuss a few popular programs, from state repayment programs to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), that may help alleviate the burden of your student loan:
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
The PSLF program was established to provide loan forgiveness to public service workers. Veterinarians working for 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations like animal shelters, welfare organizations, or government agencies like the Department of Agriculture, for example, could qualify. However, veterinarians in for-profit organizations or private practice would not be eligible.
The program is based on the principle of forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments under an eligible income-based repayment (IDR) plan. Additionally, veterinarians need to meet specific criteria, including:
- They must work full-time (30 hours per week) for a qualifying public service organization
- They must have direct loans, which are Federal Direct Stafford, Federal Direct PLUS, or Federal Direct Consolidation loans
- They must be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan
The PSLF program considers full-time to be a minimum of 30 hours per week; as such, some veterinary doctors may maintain work in private practice while also working for an animal shelter or another nonprofit or public service organization. As long as they work 30 hours per week in the qualifying nonprofit role, they may be eligible for PSLF.
2. Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)
The VMLRP is another valuable federal initiative that aims to improve healthcare services for animals in underserved areas across the US. The program provides financial assistance to eligible veterinarians who agree to work in a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) designated high-priority veterinary shortage areas for up to three years. Those selected could receive up to $25,000 in loan repayment for each year of service.
There are no shortage areas excluded from the list of sites. However, priority is often given to food animal medicine shortage situations and specialty areas such as public health, epidemiology, and food safety. So, applicants could expect to work in these areas to qualify.
The VMLRP was introduced by the US Department of Agriculture in 2003 and is the only federal program exclusively for veterinary student loan repayment.
3. State-Funded Loan Repayment Programs
In addition to the PSLF and VMLRP programs, many states offer their student loan repayment programs for veterinarians.
The eligibility requirements vary, but typically applicants need to work full-time in an eligible location for a specific period, such as two or three years. In exchange, they may qualify for a set amount, such as $20,000, to repay a portion of their student loan.
Consider contacting your state veterinary medical association for more information.
Pay Off Veterinary Student Loan Debt
From the federally funded PSLF and VMLRP to state-funded loan repayment programs, some plans aim to make it easier for veterinary professionals to climb out of debt and move forward with their careers.
Ultimately, these programs could help veterinarians practice the profession they love with less financial stress, allowing them to focus on providing quality care for animals in need.