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Student Debt Relief: Programs That Pay Off Some Med School Loans

Posted by Scott Harrah
October 27, 2014

Most students at American and Caribbean medical schools can easily rack up student loans well into the six figures, but there are ways to minimize the burden.

In the latest installment of our series Financing Medical School, the UMHS Endeavour looks at methods to chip away at debt and U.S. government programs that help you repay loans if you agree to work for a specific time period in medically underserved areas.

The National Health Service Corps

The National Health Service Corps ( is a U.S. government program designed to provide loan repayment assistance to “qualified health care providers who choose to take their skills where they’re most needed,” including physicians. The repayment programs apply to federal student loans.

Following are highlights from the agency’s website

The NHSC Loan Repayment Program: “This program is open to licensed primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers who are employed or have accepted an offer of employment at an NHSC-approved site and will begin working by July 15, 2014. Awardees receive up to $50,000 in exchange for two-years of service if they practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) of 14 and above (Tier I). Awardees can also receive up to $30,000 in exchange for two-years of service if they practice in a HPSA of 13 and below. In 2013, all of the NHSC’s loan repayment awards were made to providers located in a Tier 1 HPSA. There were a total of 4,505 awards made (2,106 new and 2,399 continuations) totaling $169.7 million.” Note that the next round of applications will be accepted again in January or February 2015. Check the NHSC website for updates.

The Students to Service Loan Repayment Program: “This program accepts students in their final year of medical school and provides tuition and loan repayment assistance. In return, students commit to serve in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) with the greatest need. This program is open to allopathic and osteopathic medical students in their final year at an accredited medical school. Awardees receive up to $120,000 in exchange for at least 3 years of service. In 2014, 87 awards were made.”

The State Loan Repayment Program: “This program provides cost-sharing grants to more than 30 states to operate their own loan repayment programs for primary care providers working in HPSAs. The program is open to primary care providers deemed eligible in participating States. Providers apply to the individual State program, not to the NHSC. The number and amount of awards varies by state and by year. A minimum two-year service commitment is required.”

The Indian Health Services (IHS) Program is the “federal programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives.” According to the IHS website (, the program “awards up to $40,000 toward the repayment of your qualified student loans in exchange for an initial two-year service commitment to practice full time at Indian health program site.” IHS sites are normally in Native American or Native Alaskan areas in need of physicians.

Applications are accepted at different time periods for various programs. For more information, please visit the IHS website.

(Top image) ERASE STUDENT LOAN DEBT: Programs exist for some federal loans to help med students get out of debt. Photo: Deposit Photos

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciencesfocuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.

Posted by Scott Harrah

Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City,

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