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Student Loans

Student Loans for Veterinary School

In 2023, the mean student loan debt for veterinary graduates who complete a four-year program and carry student loan debt was $185,486.

With such a high debt burden, it’s critical to research and compare your options to maximize your savings and potential relief options. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to student loans for veterinary schools.

Federal student loans for veterinary school

The U.S. Department of Education offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional student loans. Unlike private lenders, the federal government doesn’t require a comprehensive credit check and offers standardized interest rates for all borrowers.

It also provides access to certain benefits that can make your repayment easier, including forgiveness programs, income-driven repayment plans, and generous forbearance and deferment options.

The two types of federal loans you may qualify for as a veterinary school student are Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans. Here’s how they break down:

Direct Unsubsidized LoansDirect PLUS Loans
Annual loan limit$20,500Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid received
Aggregate loan limit$138,500None
Interest rates7.05%8.05%
Loan fee1.057%4.228%
Credit check?NoneYes
ApplicationFAFSAFAFSA plus a separate school-specific application
Repayment terms10 – 25 years10 – 25 years

Because Direct Unsubsidized Loans offer a lower interest rate and a lower upfront loan fee, it’s best to start with them. Once you max out your annual limit, you can use a Direct PLUS Loan to bridge the gap.


While Direct PLUS Loans require a credit check, it’s not as comprehensive as a private lender’s check. There’s no minimum credit score requirement—they’re just looking for major negative items on your credit report that could disqualify you, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or wage garnishment.

Private student loans for veterinary school

Private lenders don’t offer access to the same benefits as the federal government. Still, you may secure a lower interest rate with a private lender, particularly if you have excellent credit and a solid income or have a cosigner with those attributes. Private loans also don’t often come with upfront loan fees.

Options for private student loans for veterinary school include the following:

LenderRates (APR)Annual loan amounts
College Ave4.07%14.47%$2,001 – 100% of cost of attendance
Ascent5.01%15.18%$1,000 – 100% of cost of attendance
EarnestStart at 4.11%$1,000 – 100% cost of attendance
Sallie Mae4.99% – 16.44%$1,000 – 100% cost of attendance
SoFi4.99%14.50%$1,000 – 100% cost of attendance

College Ave: Best overall graduate student loan

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Poor cosigner release policy
  • Quick three-minute preapproval check
  • Offers a student credit card with no interest or late fees

College Ave offers a range of loan options with its medical school loan, with five-, eight-, 10-, 15-, or 20-year term lengths available. If you’re interested in building your credit, College Ave offers a great deal on a student credit card. 

However, cosigners note that unlike some lenders allowing the borrower to apply for cosigner release after as little as one year, College Ave doesn’t allow that until half the loan term has passed. For a 20-year loan, that’s at least a 10-year commitment.

Ascent: Best graduate student loan for eligibility 

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Excellent cosigner release policy
  • Graduated repayment plan option
  • Offers 1% cashback reward when you graduate

Ascent doesn’t specify many details about how to qualify, but either you or your cosigner will need to earn at least $24,000 per year. 

It’s also one of the better lenders regarding its cosigner release policy, with borrowers qualifying in as little as 12 months once they start repayment. 

Earnest: Best graduate student loan for no fees

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Cosigner release not available
  • Skip-a-payment feature available once per year
  • Short nine-month grace period before payments start

Most lenders won’t charge any upfront fees to take out a loan, but Earnest doesn’t charge anything afterward—not even late fees. (However, you’ll still sustain credit damage if you pay late.)

To qualify, you or your cosigner will need a credit score of at least 650 or higher, with at least three years of credit history. Consider this one carefully if you will be using a cosigner, since Earnest does not allow them to be released from the loan at all.

Sallie Mae: Best graduate student loan for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Cosigner release available after just 12 months
  • Only offers one term length for medical school loans: 20 years
  • Optional 12 months of interest-only payments once grace period ends

Sallie Mae’s medical school loan makes it extra easy to launch your veterinary career once you’ve graduated. It offers a long 36-month grace period, plus another year of interest-only payments if you need it (heads-up: this can increase the time it takes to pay off the loan).

It’s one of the few lenders to offer free credit score updates, which is particularly helpful if you’ll apply for cosigner release later. You’ll need to meet credit qualifications to remove a cosigner, and knowing your score can help prepare you.

SoFi: Best for member benefits

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Lots of discount options
  • Full-service banking available
  • Great package of extra benefits and discounts

SoFi launched in 2011 primarily as a private student loan lender, but today it offers lots of other banking products as well. If you sign up for these accounts—and they’re great products—you’ll get additional rate discounts off your loan. 

SoFi’s member benefits program is also very helpful, particularly if you’re kick-starting your career. It offers access to live financial advisors who can work with you, estate planning discounts, and more.

How to apply for student loans for veterinary school

It’s best to start as early as possible when it comes to creating your veterinary school financing plans. Not only will it ease your mind, but you may qualify for more financial assistance, too. Here’s a good strategy to use:

  1. Apply for the FAFSA: The FAFSA generally opens up on October 1 each year, for the upcoming school year. Not only will the FAFSA help you apply for federal Direct loans, but schools also use it for scholarships and grants. 
  2. Accept any federal Direct loans: Experts recommend accepting federal loans before private loans since they come with more protections. Your school may also have special rules to apply for a Direct PLUS Grad loan.
  3. Get prequalified with private student loan lenders: If you need extra funds, you can check your rates and terms with most private student loan lenders using a soft credit check which won’t impact you or your cosigner’s credit score. 
  4. Choose the best loan option: Pick the best student loan offer you received for and submit a full application. You may need to provide extra documents, so stay in touch with your lender.
  5. Receive funding: Regardless of whether your lender is the government and/or a private student loan company, they will coordinate sending over the student loan funds for veterinary school. Your school, in turn, may send you any remaining funds.  

Student loan repayment for veterinarians

If you opt for federal student loans, the standard repayment plan is 10 years. However, you can extend your term to up to 30 years with other repayment plans. You can also get on an income-driven repayment plan, which extends your term to 20 or 25 years and reduces your payment amount to 10% to 20% of your discretionary income.

Repayment starts six months after you graduate, leave school, or fall below half-time enrollment. 

With private student loans, the repayment options and terms can vary depending on the lender and what you choose. For example, in-school payments aren’t required, but they can help you save money in the long run.

Here’s a quick summary of what you might expect for monthly payments on $185,486 in student loan debt with different interest rates:

APR10 years20 years30 years

As you compare your options, use our student loan payment calculator to get an idea of the ongoing cost. 

Do veterinarians qualify for loan forgiveness?

Veterinarians can qualify for student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance if they meet the requirements. Here are programs to consider:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: If you work full-time for a government agency or qualified nonprofit organization, you may be able to get full forgiveness of your debt after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments.
  • Income-driven repayment plan forgiveness: If you make the full amount of required payments under an income-driven repayment plan, any remaining balance will be forgiven at the end (but you will owe taxes on it, too).
  • Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program: Offered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, you can get up to $25,000 per year in repayment assistance if you work for at least three years in an area designated by the federal government as having a veterinary shortage.
  • State-based programs: Your state may have its own programs to help veterinarians pay off student loan debt. Contact your state’s veterinary medical association for more details.

If you don’t qualify for forgiveness but need relief, look into income-driven repayment plans, forbearance and deferment options, and other relief offered by your servicer or lender. If you have private student loans, refinancing may be another option.