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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Physician Assistant Loan Repayment & Forgiveness Options

Becoming a physician assistant can be an emotionally and financially rewarding career path. The median annual physician assistant pay tops $130,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if you’re still paying off student loans, you may wonder if that salary is enough.

This guide will explain your loan repayment options and whether it’s possible to qualify for physician assistant loan forgiveness so you can maximize your earnings and pay down your student debt as quickly as possible.

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 physician assistant student loans. There are two ways to receive the award: 

  • Education award: up to $7,395 per year
  • Cash stipend: $1,800 for new AmeriCorps VISTA members or $3,000 for AmeriCorps VISTA leaders, issued upon service completion

This award is available to anyone who completes a 12-month term with AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps State and National, or AmeriCorps VISTA.

Award amounts can change annually, but 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 (HPLRP) helps health care professionals repay student loans while serving in these branches of the armed forces:

Air ForceNavyArmy National Guard
Max. annual benefit$40,000$40,000$25,000
Service commitment2 years3 years3 – 7 years
Active duty?

If you enlist in the National Guard, you may also be 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.

Indian Health Service loan repayment

The Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) also provides physician assistants and other healthcare professionals with annual loan repayment:

  • Amount: up to $50,000 per year
  • Commitment: at least two years at a health facility serving Indigenous communities
  • Eligibility: must be licensed to practice to receive an award

You can extend your service contract every year until your qualifying student debt is repaid. However, 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 (NHSC) loan repayment program is open to certified PAs working in the following specialties:

  • Adult care
  • Family practice
  • Pediatric care
  • Women’s health
  • Geriatrics

Recipients are expected to work half-time or full-time for two years at an NHSC-approved site.

The award amount varies based on the terms of your service commitment and goes up to $75,000. The maximum award for half-time workers is $37,500.  

Commissioned Corps loan repayment

The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service 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 IHS, the NHSC, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or an income-driven repayment plan. 

State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)

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

Eligible disciplines and specialties, as well as award amounts, vary by state. 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:

  • Make 120 qualifying monthly payments toward your loans (about 10 years of repayment)
  • Be employed in an eligible public service job

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

  • Working as a PA 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 one of the following applies:

  • You’re employed by a child or family services agency.
  • You serve in the military
  • You 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: 

  • Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE): Payments are generally capped at 5% to 10% of discretionary income, and you’ll be eligible for loan forgiveness within 10 to 25 years. Note that the SAVE plan replaces the former Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • The loan repayment’s value 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.

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.