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Student Loans

Physician Assistant Student Loans

A career as a physician’s assistant can be a promising one, offering the chance to help people in their time of need, as well as a lucrative salary. The median income for a physician’s assistant (also called a PA) is over $121,500 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The challenge you may encounter, however, is how to pay for that physician’s assistant degree.

Both federal and private student loans can help you fill any funding gap so you can complete your degree and begin your PA career successfully. Here’s a look at the best physician assistant student loans and what to expect when paying for PA school.

In this guide:

Best physician assistant student loans

If you want to find the best possible physician assistant loans for you, you’ll want to shop around and compare your options. This means considering federal and private loan options, as well as looking at each loan’s interest rates, borrowing amounts, and repayment terms to find the most affordable loans for you.

This chart shows your federal student loan options for PA school as well as our top private lender picks.

Lender/LoanRates (APR)Loan amountRepayment terms
Direct Unsubsidized Loan*6.54%Varies10 to 25 years
Grad PLUS Loan*7.54%Varies10 to 25 years
College Ave1.99%11.46%$1,000 – $150,0005, 8, 10, 15, or 20 years
Sallie Mae3.12% – 12.92%$1,000 – 100% of costs15 years
Ascent0.98%14.75%1$2,001** – $200,0007, 10, 12, or 15 years
SoFi2.59%13.35%$1,000 – 100% of costs5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Earnest1.34%12.78%$1,000 – 100% of costs5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

* This is a federal student loan.
** Minimum of $6,001 for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address.

Use federal PA school loans first

Federal student loans are offered by the government, backed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). These loans come with a variety of features and benefits, such as forbearance and deferment options. Federal borrowers may also be eligible for income-driven repayment (IDR) and even student loan forgiveness programs.

Lastly, federal student loans have fixed—and usually, low—interest rates, especially for borrowers who might not otherwise meet a private lender’s credit requirements. This ensures that you can borrow the money you need, when you need it, often at the lowest rates possible.

For PA school, there are two federal student loans to consider: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Grad PLUS Loans.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are offered by the federal government to undergraduate and graduate students (including those in PA school), with no requirements to demonstrate financial need. These loans will accrue interest while you’re in school—just like a private loan—which will add to your overall loan cost.

With this loan, students can borrow up to $20,500 per year for PA school, up to an aggregate  (lifetime) limit of $138,500 (which also includes any federal loans taken out for undergraduate degree programs).

Key features of Direct Unsubsidized Loans:

  • Borrowers aren’t required to demonstrate financial need or meet credit requirements
  • A fixed interest rate of 6.54%
  • Repayment terms ranging from 10 to 25 years
  • 6-month grace period

Federal Grad PLUS loans

Grad PLUS loans are another type of federal student loan that can be used by PA students. These loans are credit based, meaning that you will need to meet certain credit history requirements to qualify.

With a Grad PLUS loan, you can borrow up to the full cost of attendance, as certified by your school. This gives you more flexibility to borrow as much as you need for PA school while still retaining the benefits of federal loans (like IDR plans and loan forgiveness options).

Key features of Federal Grad Plus loans:

  • Approval is credit based
  • Borrowers aren’t required to demonstrate financial need
  • A fixed interest rate of 7.54%
  • Borrow up to 100% of your school-certified educational expenses
  • Repayment terms range from 10 to 25 years
  • 6-month grace period

Physician assistant private student loans

If you’ve already taken advantage of your federal student loan, grant, and scholarship options to help you pay for physician assistant school, it may be time to turn to private student loans to cover the difference.

We’ve researched multiple lenders offering graduate student loans to students pursuing a PA degree, to find the best possible options available. Here are some top PA school lenders to consider.

College Ave

Editorial Selection: Best Overall

  • Deferment is available during residency
  • Choose between 20 different repayment schedules
  • Apply in just 3 minutes

College Ave offers physician assistant loans with flexible repayment options, fixed and variable rates, and the ability to defer payments for up to 48 months after leaving school.

You can use these loans for PA school, with no prepayment penalties or origination fees. Borrowers who apply with a cosigner can apply for cosigner release after 24 consecutive, on-time payments.

Loan details

  • Variable APR: 1.99%10.45%
  • Fixed APR: 3.99%11.46%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment terms: 5, 8, 10, 15, or 20 years

What stands out about College Ave’s PA school loan

Health professions loans from College Ave make it easy to defer payments until after your required residency program is completed, or up to four years after PA school graduation. This benefit, combined with four types of in-school repayment options, makes this loan customizable for your specific needs.


Sallie Mae

Editorial Selection: Best for Cosigners

  • 48-month deferment during internship or fellowship
  • Cosigners can be released after making 12 consecutive, on-time payments
  • In-school repayment can result in a lower rate

Sallie Mae is one of the most well-known student lenders, offering a variety of different funding options for students in undergraduate, graduate and, of course, healthcare programs. Graduate Student Loans for Health Professions allow you to borrow up to 100% of your educational expenses with no maximum limit, and a set repayment term of 15 years.

Loan details

  • Variable APR: 3.12% – 12.80%
  • Fixed APR: 4.25% – 12.92%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment terms: 15 years

What stands out about Sallie Mae’s PA school loan

After PA school, Sallie Mae borrowers can defer repayment for up to 48 months while in an internship or fellowship program. Cosigners, if applicable, can also be released after just 12 months of on-time, consecutive payments.


Earnest

Editorial Selection: Best for Skipping a Payment

  • Skip one payment per year, if needed
  • No fees
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Earnest offers a graduate student loan that can be used for attending PA school in all states except Nevada. Loans have no prepayment, origination, or distribution fees, plus a nine-month grace period for repayment.

Loan details

  • Variable APR: 1.34%11.44%
  • Fixed APR: 3.24%12.78%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

What stands out about Earnest’s PA school loan

Cosigners cannot be released from an Earnest graduate loan without refinancing. However, borrowers can request to skip one repayment every 12 months. Also, interest rates on Earnest’s loans are competitive.


Ascent

Editorial Selection: Best for Eligibility

  • 1% cash back upon graduation
  • No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Ascent offers private graduate student loans for PA school. Ascent loans can be used to cover up to $400,000 in education costs, and flexible payment options are available.

Loan details

  • Variable APR: 0.98%11.80%
  • Fixed APR: 3.27%14.75%
  • Loan amounts: $2,001 – $400,000
  • Repayment terms: 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

What stands out about Ascent’s PA school loan

Loans through Ascent can be cosigned or non-cosigned, though cosigners are eligible for release after only 12 months of consecutive, on-time payments. Ascent offers a nine-month grace period, in addition to 48 months of residency and/or internship deferment.


SoFi

Editorial Selection: Best Career Services

  • Members qualify for career services and other benefits
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

SoFi is a lender offering graduate private loans for students in healthcare professions, such as PA school. These loans can be used to cover all of your educational expenses, with four different in-school repayment options.

Loan details

  • Variable APR: 2.59%12.13%
  • Fixed APR: 4.50%13.35%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – 100% of school-certified attendance costs
  • Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, or 15 years

What stands out about SoFi’s PA school loan

Borrowers can defer repayment until 48 months after graduation while they complete a residency or internship program. SoFi also offers a number of resources to borrowers experiencing financial hardship, such as payment postponement. Cosigners can be released from their financial obligation after just 24 on-time, consecutive loan payments.

>> Read More: Medical school loans


How to get PA student loans

  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.
  2. Tap your own savings or income. Another option is to tap into the 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.
  3. Apply for federal student aid. Federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education can help with paying for PA school. You should use these before turning to private loan options, because federal loans have lower interest rates than private student loans and they offer more flexible student loan repayment plans. The first step to applying for federal loans is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  4. Consider private 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 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.
  5. Compare loan options. It’s always wise to shop around and compare the private loan options available to you before choosing one. Different lenders offer different rates, repayment options, loan terms, and even deferment periods. For this reason, one lender might be a better fit for you.

How much does PA school cost?

According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), median in-state tuition for public PA school programs is around $52,000. Private PA school students paid a median tuition of about $95,000.

Out-of-state tuition rates were similarly high. For non-resident students enrolled in public PA programs, the median cost was about $93,000.

Frequently asked questions about PA student loans

Which PA school loan is the best?

The best physician assistant school loan for you is the one that meets your financial needs. In general, federal student loans are the best place to turn first, as they offer many protections, features, and fixed, low interest rates.

If you still need funding, private PA school loans can fill in the gap. It’s best to shop around so that you can find the loan with the best terms and lowest rates, allowing you to reduce your borrowing costs as much as possible.

Do I need a cosigner for PA school loans?

Depending on your credit history, credit score, and income, a lender may request that you have a cosigner when taking out a private PA school loan. This cosigner could be any trusted, creditworthy adult such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, or spouse. While adding a cosigner can boost your chances of approval—and often get you better loan terms—most lenders also allow cosigners to be released from their financial obligation after a certain number of timely payments.

Do PA school loans cover living expenses?

Most private lenders will allow you to take out a PA school loan that helps cover eligible living expenses. You can usually borrow up to 100% of your school-certified expenses, which may include things like housing and transportation.

How much can I borrow with PA student loans?

In general, you can borrow as much as you need for PA school with a private loan. Federal student loans have maximum limits, but private loans let you borrow up to 100% of your necessary expenses. Some lenders do have aggregate limits, however, which may also take into account any loans you acquired from the same lender for your undergraduate degree.

When does repayment on PA school loans start?

Most PA school loans offer a grace period of between six and 12 months. Once you graduate, this grace period extends the time before full principal and interest repayment begins. Beyond that, however, most lenders also allow an additional grace period while you’re in a PA fellowship or internship program. This additional grace period can range from 36 to 60 months, depending on the lender.


1 Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 10/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.  Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.