Six of 10 physical therapy students will leave school toting at least $70,000 in student loan debt, according to WebPT. But if you’re an aspiring physical therapist (PT), you can avoid that level of hurt with a little research.
Here’s how to avoid borrowing too much in student loans as you choose from among 240-plus accredited physical therapy programs in the U.S.
Avoid PT programs with unnecessarily costly tuition
The field of physical therapy is expected to grow by 28% through the 2016-2026 period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs aren’t especially difficult to find. In fact, most programs have employment rates at or near 99%. With that in mind, going to costlier, more prestigious schools might not be worth your money.
But you don’t have to seek out the cheapest schools either. You could cut your cost in half by attending an in-state school. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, nonresidents with full course loads pay about twice as much in tuition and fees ($18,304) per semester as their local peers ($9,778).
The other benefit of attending school close to home is that it could minimize your room and board costs, which can rack up. Duke University’s financial aid office, for example, estimates that the annual price of apartment rent and food in the Durham, N.C., area is approximately $24,252. Imagine wiping away most of that price tag by living at home, if that’s an option.
You could also halve your cost of attendance by prioritizing public universities. The average annual tuition of a public DPT program ($17,742) is dwarfed by the price tag of private schools ($35,534), according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
For the duration of your three-year program, you’d pay an average of $60,627 in tuition and fees at a public school versus $109,999 at a private one. Ask yourself if the price difference is worth it.
Seek out private scholarships and state grants
Once you’ve found a school that doesn’t come with a high price tag, continue to seek financial aid to lower your cost of attendance even further.
Your school could be a source of this assistance, so it’s wise to check in with campus financial aid offices, regardless of whether you’ve already applied. Aid offices can tell you about which type of financial package you could expect to receive, or can walk you through options to strengthen such a package.
Your off-campus options include seeking grants from your home state. Many states, including Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware, offer grants to graduate students. Keep in mind that your eligibility for grants could depend on your level of financial need.
Other government-funded scholarships might ask for service in exchange for aid. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Health Professional Scholarship Program, for example, calls for two years serving in a VA clinic. Similarly, the Indian Health Service Scholarship requires its recipients to work for two years in a health facility serving an American Indian or Alaska Native community once they receive their diploma.
Private scholarships often don’t carry such requirements. The BrightLife Direct scholarship, for example, offers $1,000 to current rehab therapy students regardless of their financial background or prospects.
It’s wise to apply for all the gift aid you could reasonably win, though you may find yourself still in need of funds. In that case, you’re likely to turn to student loans. But even if taking on college debt becomes necessary, there are still ways to save yourself money by attacking the debt early.
Start repaying your student loan debt ASAP
Although you might be bright-eyed about your job prospects, you might also be less enthused with your first salary figures. Nearly three-fourths of graduates expect to earn between $60,001 and $80,000 at their initial post-college gig, according to WebPT.
With five-figure earnings, you likely won’t be able to repay your student loan debt overnight. To get a head start, begin repaying any borrowed amounts — federal or private — as soon as it’s feasible.
Our student loan prepayment calculator shows how much you could save by starting your loan repayment ahead of schedule.
You might think repaying loans while you’re a full-time doctoral student is impossible. Consider, though, that you can come up with cash via a few strategies.
Find work on campus
As you evaluate potential PT programs, ask the careers services department about part-time positions that can help you chip away at your loan balances. All the better if the position is related to your field of study. You might find work as a lab assistant, for example, to cover your potentially pricey lab fees at school.
Budget your potential expenses
Comparing prospective expenses at your top-choice schools could help you borrow less money and repay it more quickly. By spending less than you need to on apartment rent, for example, you could devote the savings to loan payments.
Attending a school with lower off-campus costs also won’t leave you as tempted to misuse student loan funds.
Make fair comparisons between your contender schools by creating basic, line-by-line budgets.
Consider your long-term career aims
Not all physical therapy programs will cater to your specialty, so it’s wise to zero in on schools that could put you on the right career track.
Once you know the type of physical therapist you aspire to be, you can discover related loan forgiveness programs and options.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness, for example, could wipe away your federal loans if you work as a physical therapist in public service for 10 years and meet other requirements.
If you don’t envision yourself working in a clinical therapy setting, on the other hand, you might review the National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program. You could receive up to $35,000 worth of repayment assistance if you pursue a research-oriented career.
The best physical therapy schools aren’t always the best ones for your situation. They also don’t have to be the most expensive. As you’re deciding where to earn your degree, consider the costs before you decide to borrow federal or private student loans.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.06% – 13.06%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.37% – 11.23%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.62% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.93% – 9.81%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|