Dentistry is a solid 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%|
|College Ave||5.07% – 9.75%||$1,000 – $150,000|
|Citizens Bank||3.17% – 9.49%||$1,000 – $180,000|
|PNC||4.52% – 12.11%||Up to $65,000|
|Discover||3.99% – 10.49%||$1,000 – 100%|
*This is a federal student loan
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.
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.
- 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
- Application deadline: 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) 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.
- 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
- Application deadline: 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
3) Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank is the 24th largest bank in the U.S. and it offers a wide variety of financial products including student loans. Here are some of the key features you need to know about the student loans Citizens Bank offers for dental school students.
- Loan Amounts: $1,000 – $180,000 or $350,000
- Loan Terms: 5, 10, or 15-year repayment
- APRs: 4.90% to 12.04% fixed or 3.89% to 11.61% variable APR
- Application Deadline: You must be currently enrolled at least half-time at an eligible institution.
- Multi-year approval: Apply just once at the start of your dental school career to get approval for funds for all four years of schooling.
- No fees: There’s no application fee, origination fee, or disbursement fee, and there are no prepayment penalties.
- Deferment options: You have the option to defer loan payments both while in school and for four years after graduating during your residency or internship.
- Autopay discount is for Citizens Bank customers only: Although there’s a .50% autopay discount, you must set up autopay from a Citizens Bank account to qualify.
- Short repayment timeline: You have a maximum of 15 years to repay Citizens Bank dental school loans, which is a shorter time than many competitors.
- Cosigner release takes 36 on-time payments: Many other competitors offer a shorter repayment timeline.
PNC is the ninth-largest bank in the U.S. as measured by assets and is the fifth-largest bank as measured by the number of branches. There are 2,459 PNC Bank branches throughout the United States and these branches are located in 19 different states. PNC offers wealth management and banking services, including private student loans for dental school and for other types of schooling. If you are a dental student interested in borrowing from PNC Bank to fund your education, here are some key things that you need to know:
- Loan Amounts: Up to $65,000
- Loan Terms: 5, 10, or 15 years
- APRs: 4.52% to 11.79% fixed APR and 4.90% to 12.11% variable APR
- Application Deadline: Up to 60 days after the end of the school term
- No fees: Pay no fee to originate your loan, no application or disbursement fee, and no prepayment penalties.
- Long application deadline: You can apply for a PNC solutions loan as long as 60 days after the school term ends.
- Quick application decisions: Find out if you’re approved within minutes of submitting an online application.
- Very long co-signer release: A total of 48 consecutive on-time monthly payments are required to become eligible.
- Short deferment period: Repayments start within six months after graduation.
- Limited repayment options: You can only stretch out loan repayment for a maximum of 15 years. Less flexibility in how long you have to pay your loan can make monthly payments unaffordable for some borrowers.
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:
- 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)
- Application Deadline: 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 online or via your mobile device and will get a decision within just 15 minutes.
- Get rewarded for good grades: For each Discover student loan you take out, you can get a one-time discount if your GPA is 3.0 or higher.
- No fees: Never pay origination fees, prepayment penalties, 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.
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.
Author: Christy Rakoczy
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