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Dentistry is a great career path but the education required to become a dentist is not cheap. In fact, the average student loan debt for all indebted dental school graduates in 2018 was $285,184, according to the American Student Dental Association.
When borrowing so much, many students will need dental school loans. Dental students should always max out federal student loans first because of the borrower protections they provide. Then they should shop around carefully to find the most affordable private student loans to cover the rest of their educational costs.
This guide will help you compare dental school loans—a specific type of graduate student loans—and will give you some tips on finding the best option.
In this guide:
- Compare Dental School Loans
- Federal Student Loans for Dental School
- 5 Best Private Dental School Loans
- Benefits of Private Loans for Dental School
- Downsides of Private Loans for Dental School
- Is Dental School Worth It?
- How to Qualify for Dental School Loan Forgiveness
Compare Dental School Loans
|Direct Unsubsidized Loan*||6.08%||Varies|
|Grad PLUS Loan*||7.08%||Varies|
|HRSA Student Loan*||Not disclosed||Varies|
|Sallie Mae||4.25% – 9.99%||$1,000 – 100%|
|Wells Fargo||4.25% – 9.99%||$250,000 maximum|
|Discover||3.99% – 10.49%3||$1,000 – 100%1|
|College Ave||5.07% – 9.75%||$1,000 – $150,000|
|Earnest||4.52% – 12.11%||$1,000 – 100%|
*This is a federal student loan
Lowest rates shown for Discover’s in-school products include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
Federal Student Loans for Dental School
First and foremost, you should always take out federal student loans from the Department of Education before obtaining any private loans.
Federal loans have low fixed interest rates, they provide much more flexibility in terms of deferment and forbearance options as well as repayment plans, and they even offer the opportunity for loan forgiveness.
There are three different types of federal loans you should look into, including:
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Federal direct unsubsidized loans are available to both undergraduates and graduate or professional students, regardless of financial need. The amount available to borrow is determined based on your school’s certified cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you are eligible to receive. There are also annual and lifetime maximums to be aware of.
Here are some of the key features of Direct Unsubsidized Loans:
- Independent graduate or professional students can borrow a maximum of $20,500 per year and can borrow a total of $138,400 in combined Subsidized and Unsubsidized federal student loans. No more than $65,000 of this aggregated combined limit can be in subsidized loans.
- The current interest rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate and professional students is 6.08% for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2019, and before July 1, 2020.
- Loan fees are 1.059% for Direct Unsubsidized Loans disbursed on or after October 1, 2019, and before October 1, 2020.
Federal Grad PLUS Loans
Federal PLUS Loans for graduate and professional students are available to graduate students who do not have an adverse credit history. You must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school.
Some of the key things to know about Grad PLUS Loans include the following:
- The maximum PLUS loan amount you can borrow is the school-certified cost of attendance as determined by your school minus any other financial aid available to you.
- The interest rate on Direct PLUS Loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2019, but before July 1, 2020, is 7.08%.
- There is a loan fee of 4.236% for loans disbursed on or after October 1, 2019, and before October 1, 2020.
These loans come from the Health Resources & Services Administration. HRSA offers two different kinds of loans that could be used to pay for dental school:
- Loans for Disadvantaged Students
- Health Professions Student Loans
Both of these loans are low-interest loans available to students from a disadvantaged or low-income background who are enrolled at least half-time in a qualifying dentistry program.
5 Best Private Dental School Loans
If you have exhausted federal student loan options, private student loan lenders can provide additional funding. While you won’t get the protections and benefits federal loans provide, and you will likely pay a higher interest rate for private loans than federal loans, these loans can still make it possible to get the degree you need to start your dentistry career.
We ranked and rated all of the major dental school loan lenders based on a variety of data points. Here are the five best based on those ratings.
Click a lender name to jump down to its review:
1) Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae is a publicly-traded company that dates back to 1973. While Sallie Mae first started as a loan servicer for Department of Education Loans, it’s primary business today is offering private student loans. Here are some of the key things to know about getting a loan for dental school from Sallie Mae.
- Editorial Rating: 5/5
- Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of school-certified expenses
- Loan terms: Up to 20 years
- APRs: 4.50% to 9.86% variable; 5.50% to 9.99% fixed
- Eligibility: You must be currently enrolled in a D.D.S. or D.M.D. program at a participating school.
- Short cosigner release: You can apply to have your cosigner released from responsibility for the loan after just 12 consecutive on-time payments.
- No fees: There is no origination fee, application fee, or prepayment fee.
- Loans are available for less than half-time enrollment: Many other lenders require you to be enrolled in dental school at least half-time.
- Long grace period: Sallie Mae offers a grace period for 12 months after leaving school before you have to start repaying your loan.
- No pre-approval option with a soft credit check: You will have to get a hard credit check to find out rates and terms. Too many hard credit checks could damage your credit score.
- Poor customer reviews: Sallie Mae receives low marks from customers and has been the subject of many complaints. However, this is common for large-scale student loan providers.
2) Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo offers private student loans for a variety of school levels, including dental school. The Wells Fargo MedCAP Alternative Loan for Health Professionals may help students looking for student loans in health professions—including dental school. Below are some key pieces of information you should know:
- Editorial Rating: 4.90/5
- Loan Amounts: $250,000 maximum
- Loan Terms: Not disclosed
- APRs: 4.82% to 10.39% variable or 5.29% to 10.82% fixed
- Eligibility: You must be enrolled as a graduate student in an approved dental school.
- Many rate discounts available: Wells Fargo offers a customer discount for having a Portfolio by Wells Fargo account (0.50%), a checking account (0.25%), or a prior student loan (0.25%). Along with one of these, borrowers are also eligible for a 0.25% discount for making automatic payments.
- No fees: There’s no application fee, origination fee, or disbursement fee, and there are no prepayment penalties.
- Long grace period: Repayment begins six months after leaving school or five to seven years after the disbursement date, whichever comes first.
- Some discounts are for Wells Fargo customers only: In order to maximize the discounts available you must have a Portfolio by Wells Fargo account, a checking account or a prior student loan.
- Higher rates: The rates available at Wells Fargo tend to be higher than some of the other dental school lenders.
Discover is a financial services company that provides banking services, loans, and credit cards. If you want to borrow a dental school loan from Discover, here are the key terms that you need to know about:
- Editorial Rating: 4.65/5
- Loan Amounts: $1,000 – 100% of school-certified costs of attendance
- Loan Terms: 20 years
- APRs: 4.12% to 9.87% variable rate or 5.49% to 10.99% fixed-rate loans (Rates shown include an interest-only rate reduction and a 0.25% automatic repayment discount)3
- Eligibility: You must currently be enrolled at least half-time in a graduate program at an eligible school.
- Apply online and get a timely decision: You can submit all your details on your mobile device and apply in just 15 minutes or less
- Get rewarded for good grades: For each Discover student loan you take out, you can get a one-time cash reward if your GPA is 3.0 or higher.
- No fees: Never pay origination fees, prepayment penalty, disbursal fees, or application fees.
- Mandatory repayment term of 20-years: There is no option for a shorter or longer repayment timeline. However, with no prepayment penalties, you can always choose to pay ahead of schedule.
- Cosigner release isn’t available: Most competitors offer cosigner release after you make a certain number of on-time payments.
4) College Ave
College Ave aims to make the student loan borrowing process simple. College Ave focuses only on providing student loans and has streamlined the process to make borrowing easier for students and parents. Both refinance student loans and private student loans are available, including loans for those who want to attend dental school. Here is what you need to know about College Ave student loans for dental school students.
- Editorial Rating: 4.34/5
- Loan amounts: $1,000 – $150,000
- Loan terms: 5 to 20 years
- APRs: 5.07% to 8.99% variable rate; 5.80% to 9.75% fixed rate
- Eligibility: You must be enrolled in a D.D.S. or D.M.D. dental school program to apply.
- Flexible repayment terms: You have a choice of loan repayment terms while many other lenders offer you only one option for how long you can take to repay your dental school loans.
- Residency deferment: You have the option to defer repayment until you complete your residency.
- Quick application process: You can apply in three minutes or less for a CollegeAve dental school loan.
- Cosigner release is longer than with some competitors: You don’t have the option to have a cosigner removed until you have made at least 24 consecutive on-time payments.
- Struggling borrowers may see less help: There is no forbearance policy for borrowers who face financial struggles, and eligibility to pause payments is evaluated on a case-by-case basis
Earnest was founded to help financially responsible individuals realize their dreams by looking comprehensively at your financial profile. They offer many different types of private student loans, including dental school loans. Below is more information on Earnest loans for dental school:
- Editorial Rating: 4.31/5
- Loan Amounts: $1,000 – $150,000
- Loan Terms: Not disclosed
- APRs: 3.35% to 4.69% variable APR and 4.90% to 12.11% fixed APR
- Eligibility: You must be enrolled full-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution.
- No fees: Pay no origination, application, disbursement, or prepayment fees.
- Flexible Repayment Options: You can choose from deferred repayment, fixed $25 per month payments, interest-only payments, and immediate full repayment while in school.
- Quick application decisions: Find out if you’re approved within minutes of submitting an online application.
- No cosigner release: Cosigner release is not available making the cosigner responsible for the lifetime of the loan.
- State Availability: Variable rates and the option to defer payments until after graduation are not available in all states.
How We Chose the Best Dental School Loans
To find the best dental school loans, our Editorial Team analyzed each product by BBB rating (10%), variable APR (7.5%), fixed APR (7.5%), term lengths (15%), loan amounts (7.5%), in-school repayment options (10%), cosigner release availability (7.5%), forbearance options (5%), deferment options (5%), initial soft-credit pull (5%), customer support (5%), discounts available (10%), and extra benefits (5%).
Learn more about our ratings and methodology here.
Benefits of Private Loans for Dental School
There are some benefits of taking out private loans for dental school, including the following:
- You can obtain additional funding you need. You may be able to obtain more money from a private lender than you could through federal student loans.
- Many lenders charge no loan origination fees. Federal loans, on the other hand, do charge a fee to originate your loans.
- You have a choice of lenders. You have a lot more flexibility in picking who provides your private student loan than when you get federal loans through the Department of Education.
- You can choose a fixed or variable interest rate loan. Federal loans only offer fixed-rate loans. Variable-rate loans often start with a lower interest rate, although it is possible the rate and payments will go up over time.
Downsides of Private Loans for Dental School
There are also some downsides of taking out private student loans for dental school, including the following:
- You will likely pay more interest. Rates on private loans tend to be higher than the rates on federal student loans.
- You don’t have as much flexibility in loan repayment. Your repayment schedule and monthly payment is determined by your lender and you can’t change it, unlike with federal student loans. There are also fewer options for putting loans into forbearance or deferment and you can’t choose income-driven payment plans.
- You can’t get loans forgiven: While federal student loans offer Public Service Loan Forgiveness to forgive a portion of your loans if you do qualifying public service work, private student loans do not offer any kind of forgiveness.
Is Dental School Worth It?
Dental school is undeniably expensive, but only you can decide for yourself it is worth paying the hefty tuition fees necessary to get a degree that opens up the door to making a very good living. Dentists tend to earn between $104,800 to $208,000 per year and the median salary for a dentist was $151,440 in 2017, which is considerably above the average salary in the United States.
Dentists also tend to enjoy career stability and have good workplace benefits, so you may decide it is worth paying the costs of dental school—even if it means repaying student loans for years. Still, it is always important to weigh the pros and cons and to borrow the minimum amount you need to get your education so you can make loan repayment more affordable.
How to Qualify for Dental School Loan Forgiveness
If you attend dental school and borrow to do so, you may wish to look into opportunities to have some of your loans forgiven. There are many possible options for loan forgiveness for dentist including:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment
- The Army Dental Corps Program
- The Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
- The Veterans Affairs Student Loan Repayment Program
Your state may also provide loan forgiveness for resident professionals, but these options can vary depending on where you live. You should check with your state department of education to find out whether you qualify for any support.
To become eligible for any of these programs, you usually must work for the government, for a non-profit, or in an area where there is a shortage of healthcare professionals. You also typically must make a certain number of on-time payments on your loans and/or must commit to a certain number of years of service to get your loans forgiven.
Bottom Line: Dental School is Expensive But Loans are Available
Going to dental school makes it possible to enjoy a lucrative career, but many students have to borrow to afford the high costs of their dental education.
If you have to borrow dental school loans, remember to exhaust your federal student loan options first, then shop around carefully to find lenders with the most affordable rates.
Discover Student Loan Disclosures
1. Aggregate loan limits apply.
2. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please click here for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
3. Lowest rates include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.00% as of January 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please click here for more information about interest rates.
See Discover Student Loan Disclosures.
Author: Christy Rakoczy
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