Becoming a chiropractor might not seem like it would be as expensive as becoming a doctor, which requires medical school, but it can be. Student loan debt for chiropractors can reach six figures.
The average chiropractic program requires at least 90 hours of previous undergraduate work to be accepted, and that’s before you even start the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) program, which requires another 4,200 hours of classroom, lab, and clinical training.
You can expect to pay between $40,000 to $120,000 for a chiropractic degree, depending on what school you attend. To fund the high cost of the program, many chiropractic students take out student loans. The average DC graduate finishes school with “significant” student loan debt from chiropractic, many of them over $100,000—not even counting the student loan debt taken out from undergrad years, which averages around $28,288.
Chiropractors often have a hard time paying back their loans. In one study of Kansas City area medical professionals, 41 out of 62 graduates who had defaulted on their loans were chiropractors, with the highest default amount being $160,000. Since more than half of all chiropractors are self-employed, they often need to take out commercial or business loans to get their businesses set up.
If you’re looking at a career as a chiropractor, the cost and potential for default may be making you think twice. You can, however, make it happen — if you understand how to pay for chiropractic school in a financially smart way.
Paying for Chiropractic School
Make sure that you shop around for a school that’s affordable, because school costs can vary widely.
Before you take out any student loans, take a look at scholarships and grants that are available. There are a number of scholarship programs for chiropractic students. And while they’re all competitive, they also offer money that won’t need to be repaid. While amounts vary, the average is about $1,000. You can apply for as many as you’d like (and should apply for everything you qualify for), so you can end up with far more than $1,000 in education funding.
You should also complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It’s the first step to getting qualified for federal grants, which can help decrease the amount of student loans you’ll need.
Student Loan Options for Chiropractic Students
There are no student loans specifically geared for chiropractic students. While chiropractors successfully lobbied to be included in certain repayment and forgiveness programs, they often found after graduation that they couldn’t make the payments on their loans because of both low customer demand and insurance companies’ refusal to pay for extended chiropractic care. The Health Education Assistance Loan, or HEAL, program that many chiropractors used was discontinued in 1998 due to high rates of default.
Even without special student loans for chiropractic school, students looking to attend a chiropractic program can get both federal graduate and private loans. A federal Graduate PLUS Loan is still available to chiropractic students who are considered credit-worthy. While income and debt are not considered as approval factors, negative items on your credit report can disqualify you from being eligible for a Graduate PLUS loan.
Paying Back Student Loans for Chiropractic School
If you’re about to graduate from chiropractic school and are wondering how you’ll pay off your loans fast, you’re not alone. The solution depends on what type of loans you have. If your loans are private, then chances are you’ve already been making payments on them. With federal loans, you have several options, including forgiveness or cancellation in certain circumstances.
Graduate PLUS loans are not the same as loans you may have taken out during your undergraduate education, you’ll want to consult the StudentAid.gov website to understand exactly what your options are. Unfortunately, with the discontinuation of the HEAL program, there are no special repayment options for chiropractic students.
If you find yourself unable to make the payments, you could also refinance. When you refinance, you take out a new loan that pays off the old ones. While you could save money if you get a lower interest rate, most of the time when you refinance student loans you end up with a lower monthly payment. You’re also stretching out the loan term, which means that not only could you pay for a longer period of time, you could also pay more in the long run.
Chiropractic school is expensive. If you have a solid plan for repayment, however, it doesn’t have to result in financial ruin.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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