Student Loans for Caribbean Medical Schools: What You Should Know

 May 20, 2020
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Students heading to Caribbean medical schools might have to approach student loan borrowing differently than those who choose a stateside school. Federal and private loans for Caribbean medical schools may have their own set of rules and regulations.

Understanding the process is key to making a sound plan to pay for a Caribbean medical school. Here’s our guide on what you should know.

Why Caribbean medical schools? A second chance

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The best Caribbean medical schools offer the same academic rigor, training and credentials that U.S. medical schools do. Graduates of these schools can practice medicine after passing their board exams and completing their residencies; the process is the same for both Caribbean and U.S. medical school grads.

But Caribbean medical schools are sometimes referred to as “second-chance” schools. With less competition for spots, U.S. applicants don’t have to be the perfect candidate to secure a seat. It’s not uncommon for applicants rejected by U.S. medical schools to turn their search toward Caribbean medical programs.

Caribbean medical schools have worse outcomes, higher costs

Caribbean medical schools won’t be the best or wisest option for every applicant. Students considering a Caribbean school should take a look at their own goals, expectations and drive, suggested Taylor Barrett, a recent graduate of the American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten.

For instance, overall outcomes at Caribbean medical schools lag behind performance at U.S. institutions.

“There is a big dropout rate — it’s a very intense workload,” Barrett said. Even for students who complete their degree and graduate, residency match rates are lower than in U.S. medical schools.

Then there’s the cost. According to Student Loan Hero’s medical school debt rankings, students can expect to pay an average of $39,116 per year in tuition at a U.S. medical school. But Caribbean medical schools often charge higher costs, and students can face sky-high prices that come with island life.

Barrett faced around $60,000 per year in educational fees. Other Caribbean medical schools have similarly high price tags. St. George’s University, for example, has medical program costs of about $62,000 per year. Housing can be expensive, too. Barrett’s monthly expenses included rental costs of between $2,000 to $2,500 for a two-bedroom flat, plus $400 for utilities.

The total cost for his degree was steep: Barrett puts his medical school debt at around $415,000. Still, he feels as though the investment has paid off now that he’s completed his degree and lined up a residency. However, he acknowledged that not all of his classmates were so lucky.

“If you’re considering a Caribbean medical school, it’s important to do your research and understand the trade-offs,” said Barrett. This will allow you to make an informed decision about whether a Caribbean medical school is worth it for you.

How to get federal or private student loans for Caribbean medical schools

Like Barrett, most enrollees at Caribbean medical schools will need to get federal or private student loans to pay for a degree. But getting federal and private loans for Caribbean medical schools isn’t always a straightforward process.

Here’s an overview of medical school loan options in the Caribbean for 2019-2020.

Graduate loan type Interest rate Loan fee Annual loan limit
Direct unsubsidized loans for graduate students 6.6% 1.062% $40,500
Grad PLUS loans 7.08% 4.236% Up to the cost of attendance minus other financial aid
Private medical school loans Determined by the lender and based on the borrower’s credit and other qualifications Varies by lender Typically limited to the cost of attendance, but can vary by lender

Federal medical school loans at Caribbean schools

Federal student loans are currently offered to U.S. students at certain Caribbean medical schools. The following Caribbean medical schools are approved for participation in the Direct Loan Program, per the Federal Student Aid site:

The Federal Student Aid Office does note that the above schools must continually meet requirements to maintain its status.

However, a school’s eligibility might not always extend to its medical program. Make sure to reach out directly to Caribbean medical schools to verify their participation in the Direct Loan Program.

For students who meet aid eligibility requirements and attend a qualified medical school, federal student loans might be the easiest way to finance their medical degree. If you’re eligible, you can use these two types of federal student loans to pay for Caribbean medical school:

  • Direct unsubsidized loans
  • Grad PLUS loans

Private loans for Caribbean medical schools

In addition to federal aid options, students can also find funding through private lenders. Still, finding private student loans for Caribbean medical schools can take some legwork.

Many U.S. lenders are willing to offer private loans for Caribbean medical schools, but you’ll need to know where to look. The first place to begin your search is with your school’s financial aid office.

This office and its advisors work with students to find financing, so they can point you to lenders and programs that work with students in your situation. It’s also a good idea to check with our recommended private lenders.

Of course, there’s more to getting private student loans for Caribbean medical schools than simply finding a lender. You will also need to meet the requirements to get approved for these loans.

Reputable lenders require good credit to get a private student loan, in addition to other criteria. You could also qualify by finding a cosigner with good credit. If you have poor credit or a rocky credit history, it might be difficult to get private student loans for Caribbean medical schools.

Figure out Caribbean medical school loans; then make a plan to repay them

Getting the student loans you need to pay for a medical degree in the Caribbean doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Students who plan ahead and do their research can figure out how to get access to necessary federal or private student loans for Caribbean medical schools.

It’s also never too early to form your strategy to pay off medical school debt. Once you’ve figured out how to get the funding you need, work on your medical school debt repayment plan.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.

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