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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Physician Assistant Loan Repayment & Forgiveness Options

Updated Apr 05, 2023   |   11-min read

Key Points:

  • The federal government offers a variety of physician assistant loan repayment options for military members and public servants. 
  • Many government PA loan assistance programs require a service commitment in exchange for student loan help. 
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Perkins Loan cancellation can also offer student loan relief for eligible borrowers. 

Becoming a physician assistant can be an emotionally and financially rewarding career path. The median annual physician assistant pay tops $100,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

That’s a solid number, but the salary of a physician assistant may only stretch so far if you’re just getting started and still paying off your student loans

Tuition for PA school programs alone averages between $43,000 for in-state students attending public schools to $76,110 for students enrolled at private universities, according to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).

Paying off physician assistant student loans can be daunting, but it’s not impossible. This guide will explain your loan repayment options and whether it’s possible to qualify for physician assistant loan forgiveness. 

In this guide:

Federal physician assistant loan repayment & forgiveness programs

Here are several government programs that could help you repay federal student loans

Americorps Education Award

You can use the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to repay qualified student loans. There are two ways to receive the award: 

  • Education award of approximately $6,000. 
  • Cash stipend of $1,800. 

This award is available to anyone who completes a 12-month term with AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps State and National, or AmeriCorps VISTA. It’s possible to receive the education award for up to two consecutive terms. If you serve a third term, you can only receive the cash stipend. 

The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program

The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program helps health care professionals to repay student loans while serving in the armed forces. If this applies to you, you may also be interested in military student loan forgiveness.

Navy physician assistant loan repayment

The Navy physician assistant loan repayment program provides up to $40,000 a year in loan repayment, minus approximately 25% for federal income taxes. The program pays this directly to your loan servicer on your behalf. 

To qualify, you must have completed an accredited physician assistant program, be certified as a physician assistant, and commit to a minimum of three years’ active duty service. 

Army physician assistant loan repayment

The Army offers loan repayment options for health-care professionals, including those with PA school loans. Qualifying PAs serving active duty for a minimum of three years can receive $40,000 a year, up to $120,000, to repay physician assistant loans.

You can combine this program with the Health Professions Bonus, which offers $75,000 in Special Pay, paid out over three years. The primary qualification for the bonus is completing a residency in a qualifying specialty. 

National Guard physician assistant loan repayment

Physician assistants serving in the National Guard can get up to $75,000 in lifetime benefits to repay their loans, paid out over a three-year service commitment. 

Physician assistants are also eligible to receive a Special Pay bonus based on years of service. It maxes out at $20,000 per year, with a three-year commitment. 

Air Force physician assistant loan repayment

PA loan repayment is extended to Air Force members who serve on active duty for a minimum of two years. The maximum amount of loan repayment available is $40,000 per year, paid to your servicer on your behalf, less any income taxes owed.

Indian Health Service loan repayment

The Indian Health Service loan repayment program awards physician assistants and other health care professionals up to $40,000 for loan repayment. You must work a minimum of two years in an underserved area in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. 

IHS recipients must be licensed to practice or certified to receive an award. You can’t receive this assistance concurrently with another federal loan repayment program, including the National Health Service Corps.

NHSC loan repayment

The National Health Service Corps. loan repayment program is open to certified PAs working in adult care, family practice, pediatric care, women’s health, and geriatrics. The award amount varies based on the terms of your service commitment and goes up to $50,000. 

Recipients are expected to work half-time or full-time for two years at an NHSC-approved site. The maximum award for half-time workers is $25,000.  

Commissioned Corps. loan repayment

The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. coordinates with other federal agencies to help employees obtain PA student loan repayment assistance.

Depending on where you work, you may have access to loan repayment and forgiveness through the Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps., the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or an income-driven repayment plan. 

State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)

Several state-based programs operate under the National Health Service Corps. to provide repayment assistance. The main qualification is agreeing to a work service commitment in an NHSC-designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). 

Disciplines and specialties that are eligible for state loan repayment vary based on the state. In Pennsylvania, for example, physician assistants can receive up to $60,000 in loan repayment. California offers loan repayment for physician assistants in six specialty areas, including mental health. 

For options available where you live, look up your state’s program contact details on the NHSC website. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) offers federal student loan cancellation for physician assistants and other borrowers working in public service. This type of PA loan forgiveness could wipe out a decent chunk of your educational loans. 

To receive forgiveness under the PSLF program:

  • You must be employed in an eligible public service job.
  • You’re required to make 120 qualifying monthly payments toward your loans (about 10 years of repayment).

Here’s a shortlist of jobs for PAs that might qualify:

  • Working as a physician assistant for your local county health department.
  • Being employed at a nonprofit outpatient care center.
  • Working for a public school or tax-exempt nonprofit private school.
  • Serving as a PA in a state-run correctional facility.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

If you borrowed a Perkins Loan, some of the same service opportunities that qualify you for PSLF may make you eligible for Perkins Loan cancellation. 

For example, you may be able to get cancellation of PA school loans if you’re employed by a child or family services agency or serve in the military or volunteer with AmeriCorps. 

The amount of cancellation you qualify for depends on your profession. Military members, for example, are eligible for 50% to 100% cancellation. AmeriCorps volunteers are eligible for 70%, and some other occupations are eligible for up to 100% loan cancellation. 

Income-driven repayment plans with student loan forgiveness

Income-driven repayment plans can be a gateway to student loan forgiveness, including eligibility for PSLF. They let you reduce the amount you pay toward your loans, while completing the loan payments required for loan forgiveness. 

Income-driven repayment plan options for federal student loans include: 

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE): Payments are generally capped at 10% of your discretionary income, not to exceed the monthly amount you’d pay on the Standard Repayment Plan. Loan balances may be forgiven after a 20-year repayment term.
  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE): Payments are generally capped at 10% of discretionary income, with loan terms lasting 20 years for undergraduate loans and 25 years for graduate loans. 
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR): Payments are capped at 10% or 15% of discretionary income, depending on when you borrowed your loans. Loan terms last 20 or 25 years, based on when you borrowed. 
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): Payments are the lesser of no more than 20% of your discretionary income or what you’d pay on a fixed repayment plan over 12 years, with payments adjusted for your income. Repayment can extend up to 25 years. 

Physician assistant jobs with loan repayment

Another possibility for managing your loans is looking for physician assistant jobs with loan repayment as an employee benefit. Health care providers and employers may use loan repayment as an incentive to attract and retain new physician assistants and other medical staff. 

Finding jobs with this benefit is as simple as searching online job boards, using phrases like “physician assistant loan reimbursement” or “physician assistant loan repayment.” You may also find these opportunities by connecting with recruiters or health care professionals in your network. 

When scouting out physician assistant positions that offer loan repayment, do your research. Specifically, consider:

  • How much loan repayment is available.
  • Whether there’s a set service commitment required to receive loan repayment. 
  • What the loan repayment benefit is worth compared to salary potential and other benefits. 

If you come across a job listing that looks promising but loan repayment isn’t listed as a perk, still ask. A prospective employer’s human resources department can tell you whether it’s an option and how employees can qualify. 

Refinancing and consolidation for PA school loans

Refinancing or consolidating can make PA loan repayment easier and possibly more affordable. There are two ways you can consolidate your PA school loans.

First, you can refinance and consolidate them with a private lender. This only makes sense if you are eligible for a lower interest rate than you are currently paying and if you are okay with giving up federal benefits.

The other option is consolidating federal student loans through a Direct Consolidation Loan offered by the government. While this won’t reduce your interest rate, it can simplify repayment as you will only have to worry about making one monthly payment.

Refinancing PA School Loans

When refinancing your student loan, you’ll take out a new private loan that’s ideally at a lower interest rate compared to the average rate you’re paying on your existing loans. You’ll use the new loan to pay off the old ones. 

If you have multiple loans, student loan refinancing also acts as debt consolidation by giving you just one monthly payment to manage.

Refinancing and consolidation could help you save money if you get a lower interest rate, or give you a lower monthly payment if you get a longer repayment term.

If this sounds like the right solution for you, our list of the best student loan refinancing companies has more info.

>> Read more: Should You Refinance Federal Student Loans?

Direct Consolidation Loans

You can consolidate federal student loans using a Direct Consolidation Loan to simplify repayment. Your new interest rate will be the weighted average of the rates on your loans, so this doesn’t save money the way refinancing might.

You can’t consolidate private student loans with federal loans using a Direct Consolidation Loan. You can, however, refinance or consolidate federal loans into a private refinancing loan. But keep in mind, you’ll give up borrower protections associated with federal loans. 

Physician assistant scholarships

Last but not least, you may be able to cover some of the cost of PA school without taking on debt in the first place. Scholarships can provide the funding you need to cover tuition, fees, and other expenses, and don’t have to be repaid.

>> Read More: Student loan repayment options