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The average student loan debt for students graduating with a Doctorate in Pharmacology in 2018 was $166,528, according to a survey from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. This is on top of the $28,565 average student loan debt for undergraduates.
The median annual pay for a pharmacist was $126,120 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Do the benefits of this career outweigh the high cost of education?
In this guide, we’ll explain your options for paying for pharmacy school—including ways to avoid debt—and your options for repaying pharmacy school student loans, including refinancing, repayment assistance, and student loan forgiveness.
On this page:
Financial aid for pharmacy school
Paying for pharmacy school without debt can be challenging. Six to eight years of higher education on top of four years as an undergrad is expensive. There are ways to lower your costs, though, so you can reduce the number of years you’ll spend paying off medical school debt after you graduate.
Choosing your school
Begin by researching pharmacy schools and their tuition costs. Take financial aid offers into account when choosing your school, and look for schools that fit your financial situation.
For example, a public university may have lower tuition, but a private school may actually offer more need-based aid, such as scholarships or grants, that would cut your overall costs more.
You could also save by attending a public school as an in-state student.
Either attend a school in your current state, or move to your preferred school’s state and establish residency before attending. This will delay your education by a year or two, but could shave thousands off the cost.
Scholarships are free money, so you should always exhaust your options for this type of funding before taking on debt. Search for pharmacy student scholarships applicable to your location, school, interests, or demographics to offset your costs each semester.
Student loan options
If you need to borrow money to pay for pharmacy school, start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
This application with the U.S. Department of Education tells you whether you qualify for grants and work-study, and how much you could borrow in federal student loans. Grad students could be eligible to borrow a Direct Unsubsidized Loan or a PLUS loan.
To fill in additional funding gaps once you max out your federal aid, you may need to borrow private student loans from a local bank, credit union, or online lender. You may be able to get favorable terms if you have good credit or borrow with a cosigner.
>> Read more: Compare Private Student Loan Options
Because of a high expected income, you may also land financing through an income share agreement loan. Just read the terms carefully to ensure you don’t set yourself up to pay significantly more than you would with a traditional student loan.
Pharmacist student loan repayment
Once you leave school, most lenders give you a six-month grace period before you’re required to start repaying your student loans.
However, most loans accrue interest during this time (and while you’re in school), so the earlier you start making monthly payments, the more you’ll save.
Fortunately, there are options to help with pharmacist student loan debt. Student loan forgiveness and repayment programs can significantly reduce your repayment obligations, depending on where you live and work.
Federal student loan repayment programs
Federal government programs offer student loan repayment assistance for health care workers who commit to public service. These include:
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC): tax-free loan repayment assistance to qualified medical professionals who work in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
- National Institute of Health Program (NIH): up to $35,000 a year in loan repayment for graduates with Pharm.D. degrees who are interested in medical research and whose student loan debt is at least 20% of their base salary.
- Indian Health Service Repayment Program (IHS): up to $40,000 in loan repayment for two years of service in an underserved Native American or Alaska Native community.
- U.S. Army Pharmacist Loan Repayment Program: up to $120,000 in loan repayment assistance. Eligible pharmacists may also be able to earn a lump sum $30,000 sign-on bonus.
State loan repayment program (SLRP)
Supported by the NHSC, the State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), provides cost-sharing grants to states and territories to operate their own loan repayment programs.
Income-driven repayment plans
For a more manageable monthly payment, you can apply for an income-driven repayment plan for your federal loans.
These plans cap your monthly payments based on your discretionary income and extend your repayment period to 20 or 25 years. As long as you’ve kept up with your monthly payments, after the repayment period, remaining debt is forgiven.
Student loan forgiveness
Pharmacists may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness of federal student loan debt based on employment.
If you work for a nonprofit or in the public sector, such as in the military or for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you could see your loans forgiven after 120 qualifying monthly payments on an income-driven repayment plan.
You can save money and simplify repayment of your federal or private loans by refinancing to a private loan with a lower interest rate, longer repayment term, or both.
Refinancing could make your student loans easier to manage, especially if you’re repaying undergrad loans along with pharmacy school loans.
Be prepared to give up borrower protections, including income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness, when you refinance a federal loan with a private lender. Weigh that drawback with the benefits you might gain with a refinance loan.
>> Read More: Best Student Loan Refinance Companies
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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