Getting Out From Under Debt

  • Article by: NANCY GIGUERE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: April 7, 2010 - 10:08 AM

Health professionals can reduce debt through state and federal loan repayment programs. There are options for both practicing clinicians and students.

For most health professionals, getting through school is just half the battle. The other half is paying off student loans, a process that can take years. The good news is that programs exist to help health professionals and students reduce the amount they owe.

Practicing Clinicians

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program provides $50,000, tax free, to primary care clinicians in exchange for two years of service (in addition, loan repayors negotiate their salaries with the employing site). Members of the corps serve at an approved site, such as a rural health clinic, Indian Health Service Clinic, public health department clinic or other facility that cares for low-income and uninsured people. At the end of the two-year commitment, participants may be eligible to reapply.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens trained and credentialed in an eligible primary care discipline. Eligible professionals include: physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physician assistants, dentists, dental hygienists, health service psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors.

Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will double NHSC field strength. Applications will be accepted continuously until funds are expended or July 29, 2010, whichever comes first. For more information, visit nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment.

Students And Residents

The Minnesota Office of Rural Health and Primary Care offers several loan forgiveness programs for eligible students and residents. These include medical residents in primary care specialties, students in physician assistant or advanced practice nursing programs, pharmacy students and residents, and dental students and residents.

Also eligible are students in licensed and registered nursing programs, as well as those preparing to teach nursing or allid health.

Participants are chosen based on suitability for practice. Preference is given to those closest to completing their training. The number of applicants selected each year depends on state funding. Visit www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc for more information.

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