How to Pay for PA School With Physician Assistant Student Loans, Scholarships & More
Physician assistant student loans can help with the cost of paying for PA school. Both federal and private lenders can offer PA school loans for eligible borrowers, and scholarships, grants, and savings can help you minimize student debt.
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Getting a physician assistant degree can be the first step on a promising career path. There’s just one challenge: figuring out how to pay for PA school.
Physician assistant student loans can help fill the funding gap so you can complete your degree. This guide will help you learn about paying for PA school and which physician assistant school loans you should consider.
In this guide:
- How much does PA school cost?
- How to pay for PA school
- LendEDU’s 5 best physician assistant student loans
- How to get loan forgiveness as a physician assistant
How much does PA school cost?
When planning how to pay for PA school, first understand how much you can expect it to cost. According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), median in-state tuition for public PA school programs was $43,000 as of the 2015-16 academic year. Private PA school students paid a median tuition of $76,110.
Out-of-state tuition rates were similarly high. For students enrolled in public PA programs, the median cost was $77,269 through 2015. Out-of-state resident tuition for private programs was slightly lower, at $76,635.
Bottom line? PA school can be expensive. While loans are not necessarily a bad thing, you should borrow wisely to minimize the chore of paying off medical school debt later on.
How to pay for PA school
The good news is that you have plenty of options. When deciding how to pay for PA school, explore every financing path to find what works best for you and your financial situation.
1. Use free money first
The first place to look for financial aid is from sources that allow you to avoid taking on any student loan debt. Physician assistant scholarships and grants, for example, can help you pay for tuition, fees, and other costs of attending PA school without acquiring student debt.
PA school scholarships
Unless a scholarship specifically has a repayment or work commitment requirement, this is free money you can use for school.
To find scholarships for PA students, check out the Physician Assistant Foundation and the federal government. Here are a few examples:
- The National Health Service Corps Scholarship: This NHSC program is designed for students who agree to work as health professionals in an underserved community after graduation, in exchange for payment of up to two years’ eligible tuition, fees, and other expenses related to your PA degree.
- PA Foundation Scholarship: This program offers funding for student members of the American Academy of Physician Assistants who are enrolled at an accredited PA school and have successfully completed at least one term.
- AAPA Past Presidents Scholarship: Also awarded by the PA Foundation, this scholarship is available to students who demonstrate leadership qualities within their physician assistant program or community.
- NMF Primary Care Leadership Program: This program provides scholarship funding for eligible medical, nursing, and PA students “who are poised to become leaders in primary care.”
College savings for PA school
Another option is to tap financial resources you already have or could create to minimize your need for loans.
Parents may be able to help out with money set aside in a college savings fund, for example. You could supplement that with personal savings or take on a part-time or full-time job to help cover PA school costs.
2. Apply for federal student aid
Federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education can help with paying for PA school, and you should use them before other loan options for two reasons:
- Federal loans have lower interest rates than private student loans.
- They have more flexible student loan repayment plans, including income-driven repayment options that can make loans easier to manage in the early stages of your career.
The first step to apply for federal loans is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information you include on this form helps the federal financial aid office determine which loans and grants you qualify for and how much funding you can receive.
Federal loans for graduate students include Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Graduate PLUS Loans—both a part of the federal Direct Loans program.
- You don’t need to prove financial need for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and your repayment term can last 10 to 25 years, depending on which repayment plan you choose.
- You need to be enrolled at least half time to qualify for a PLUS Loan, and the same 10 to 25-year repayment options apply.
3. Compare PA school loans
One potential hitch of using federal student loans when paying for PA school is the borrowing limits. If your education costs exceed the maximum amount you can borrow, private PA school loans could make up the difference.
Private student loan lenders may charge higher interest rates to borrow, and there will likely be less flexibility in your student loan repayment options, but you shouldn’t count them out for PA school financial aid.
LendEDU’s 5 best physician assistant student loans
We researched and rated lenders offering graduate student loans to students pursuing a PA degree. Here are our top five picks:
The PNC Solution for Health & Medical Professionals loan program is designed for both undergraduate and graduate students who’ve maxed out federal funding. To qualify for a loan, students must be enrolled at least half time in an accredited program.
Borrowers who sign up for autopay for their monthly payment get a pnc-psl-1363-autopayreduc interest rate discount, more than the 0.25% discount many lenders offer. Payments can be deferred while you’re in school or you can begin paying right away to offset some interest charges.
In case you need a cosigner for loan approval, cosigner release is available after pnc-psl-1363-cosignreleasepay consecutive, on-time loan payments.
- LendEDU rating: 5.00 / 5.00
- Loan amounts: pnc-psl-1363-amounthigh
- Loan terms: pnc-psl-1363-termlengthrange_y
- APRs: pnc-psl-1363-fixlow – pnc-psl-1363-fixhigh fixed; pnc-psl-1363-varlow – pnc-psl-1363-varhigh variable
- Fees: pnc-psl-1363-origfee origination fee
- Full review: PNC Student Loans Review
- Both variable- and fixed-rate loans are available.
- No application or origination fees for borrowers.
- The autopay discount is more generous than most other lenders offer.
- The pnc-psl-1363-cosignreleasepay-month waiting period for cosigner release is long compared to what other lenders generally require.
- Maximum loan limits are lower than some competitors’ loan options.
2. Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae offers both fixed- and variable-rate private loans for graduate school. Loans are available with a lengthy grace period and a generous deferment option that includes your internship or fellowship.
It’s possible to borrow from salliemae-psl-104-amountlow to salliemae-psl-104-amounthigh to complete your degree. You can repay loans over a period of up to salliemae-psl-104-termlengthhigh_y, and eligible borrowers can take advantage of a grace period of salliemae-psl-104-graceperiod.
There’s no origination fee for these loans, and cosigner release is available in as little as 12 months.
- LendEDU rating: 4.75 / 5.00
- Loan amounts: salliemae-psl-104-amountlow – salliemae-psl-104-amounthigh
- Loan terms: salliemae-psl-104-termlengthrange_y
- APRs: salliemae-psl-104-fixlow% – salliemae-psl-104-fixhigh% fixed; salliemae-psl-104-varlow% – salliemae-psl-104-varhigh% variable
- Fees: salliemae-psl-104-origfee origination fee, salliemae-psl-104-prepayfee prepayment fee, salliemae-psl-104-latefee late fee
- Full review: Sallie Mae Student Loans Review
- Receive a salliemae-psl-104-autopayreduc rate discount when you enroll in autopay.
- Cosigner release may be available after making 12 on-time payments and meeting certain credit requirements.
- Fund up to salliemae-psl-104-amounthigh.
- Prepayment amounts are applied to fees and interest first, principal balance last.
- Only borrowers can apply for cosigner release, and you’ll need to be creditworthy to qualify.
Ascent offers private loans to junior and senior undergraduate students, and grad students who want to borrow for PA school without enlisting the help of a cosigner. Students can qualify with limited or no credit history if they are enrolled full time.
Ascent loans can be used to cover up to ascent-psl-26-aggloanamount in education costs, and flexible payment options are available. Interest rates can be fixed or variable, with loan terms lasting ascent-psl-26-termlengthrange_y.
- LendEDU rating: 4.67 / 5.00
- Loan amounts: ascent-psl-26-amountlow – ascent-psl-26-aggloanamount aggregate loan limit
- Loan terms: ascent-psl-26-termlengthrange_y
- APRs: ascent-psl-26-fixlow% – ascent-psl-26-fixhigh% fixed; ascent-psl-26-varlow% – ascent-psl-26-varhigh% variable
- Fees: ascent-psl-26-origfee origination fee, ascent-psl-26-prepayfee prepayment fee, ascent-psl-26-latefee late payment fee
- Full review: Ascent Student Loans Review
- Borrowers can receive a ascent-psl-26-autopayreduc interest rate reduction with autopay.
- Ascent can help borrowers establish and build credit by repaying student loans, without needing a cosigner.
- Qualifying borrowers can get up to a 1% cash back reward if they graduate.
- Borrowers who are approved without a cosigner may pay higher rates.
- You must make at least 24 payments to release a cosigner.
4. College Ave
College Ave offers medical school loans with flexible repayment options, fixed and variable rates, and the ability to defer payments for up to collegeave-psl-1216-graceperiod after leaving school.
Repayment terms last up to collegeave-psl-1216-termlengthhigh_y, with a low minimum threshold for borrowing.
You can use these loans for up to collegeave-psl-1216-amounthigh for PA school, with no prepayment penalties or origination fees. Borrowers who apply with a cosigner can apply for cosigner release after collegeave-psl-1216-cosignreleasepay consecutive, on-time payments.
- LendEDU rating: 4.66 / 5.00
- Loan amounts: collegeave-psl-1216-amountlow – collegeave-psl-1216-amounthigh
- Loan terms: collegeave-psl-1216-termlengthrange_y
- APRs: collegeave-psl-1216-fixlow – collegeave-psl-1216-fixhigh fixed; collegeave-psl-1216-varlow – collegeave-psl-1216-varhigh variable
- Fees: collegeave-psl-1216-origfee origination fee, collegeave-psl-1216-prepayfee prepayment fee, collegeave-psl-1216-latefee late payment fee
- Full review: College Ave Student Loans Review
- Choose among flexible payment options that fit your budget and needs.
- You can tailor your loan repayment to be collegeave-psl-1216-termlengthrange_y.
- The grace period of collegeave-psl-1216-graceperiod gives you time to prepare for loan repayment while starting your career.
- You’ll need to wait at least collegeave-psl-1216-cosignreleasepay months to apply for cosigner release.
- International students can’t apply without a cosigner.
Earnest offers both medical school student loans and student loan refinancing. Loans have a nine-month grace period, with no prepayment, origination, or distribution fees.
Borrowers have the option to skip a payment once per year, and interest rates are competitive. PA students can borrow up to earnest-psl-1614-amounthigh.
- LendEDU rating: 4.66 / 5.00
- Loan amounts: up to earnest-psl-1614-amounthigh
- Loan terms: Not disclosed
- APRs: earnest-psl-1614-fixlow – earnest-psl-1614-fixhigh fixed; earnest-psl-1614-varlow – earnest-psl-1614-varhigh variable
- Fees: earnest-psl-1614-origfee origination fee, earnest-psl-1614-prepayfee prepayment fee, earnest-psl-1614-latefee late fee
- Full review: Earnest Student Loans Review
- The skip-a-payment option could come in handy if you need a temporary break from payments.
- Borrowers aren’t penalized with a late payment fee if they miss their payment due date.
- Interest rates are low for creditworthy borrowers.
- Cosigner release is not available.
- Earnest loans for PA school are not available in every state.
- The nine-month grace period isn’t as long as what you could get with another lender.
How to get loan forgiveness as a physician assistant
Student loan forgiveness is a way to cancel some or all of your federal student loan balances. There are a few ways you could get loan relief as a physician assistant, based on your loan repayment program.
Our guide to physician assistant loan repayment and forgiveness covers your options in more depth.
Income-driven repayment plans
Income-driven repayment plans are available to federal student loan borrowers. Plans include:
- Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
With each option, your monthly payment is based on a percentage of your discretionary income. If you remain on an income-driven plan for the full repayment term (20 or 25 years), any balance remaining at the end of the term will be forgiven.
The usefulness of these plans depends on your income as a PA. If your monthly payments, based on your income, would be more than you’d pay on the standard repayment plan, you won’t qualify for income-driven repayment (and it wouldn’t benefit you).
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
To be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness for your federal loans, you have to:
- Commit to working in a qualifying public service role.
- Make 120 qualifying monthly payments toward your loans. For that reason, you should enroll in an income-driven plan for a lower monthly payment.
- Have Direct Loans.
PA jobs with tuition reimbursement
One other option is to ask prospective employers about tuition reimbursement programs. You may be able to use this employee benefit to pay off some of your loan balances.
Some government programs, such as NHSC or the Indian Health Service program also offer tuition repayment for primary care providers working in certain communities.
Author: Rebecca Lake
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