How to Save on Student Loans for Physician Assistant School

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For most aspiring physician assistants, loans are just a part of the bargain toward a booming career. About 86% of students end up taking out education loans for their graduate programs, according to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).

But just because you might need to borrow for PA school doesn’t mean that you have to borrow a lot. Consider these five steps to lessen your reliance on loans.

1. Choose among cheaper physician assistant programs

There are nearly 240 accredited physician assistant programs, and they weren’t created equal.

Once you’ve narrowed your school list to programs catering to your specialty and preferences like class size, consider two ways to save money: staying close to home and going public.

Nine of 10 public physician assistant schools offer discounted tuition rates for in-state residents, according to the PAEA. The association reported that in 2017 the median tuition of for in-state students ($47,886) was dwarfed by that of their out-of-state classmates ($85,401).

Private school students pay even more on average, a whopping $87,160 for their three-year program. These costs don’t include a litany of secondary fees, such as those for books and lab or clinical work.

Choosing a cheaper physician assistant school means you’ll have an easier time coming up with the cash to pay for it.

2. Seek government scholarships — if you’re OK with the service requirement

With federal loans, you could cover every last cent of most physician assistant programs. The Department of Education allows you to borrow up to $20,500 per year in direct unsubsidized loans, and you could cover the difference — your tuition shortfall — using PLUS loans.

But if you’d rather leave school with less or, ideally, no debt, you’re better off prioritizing gift aid.

As long as you’re zeroing in on the federal government’s aid options, keep these three scholarship programs top of mind. Each offers to cover your tuition and other academic fees in exchange for work service upon your graduation.

Your (prospective) schools’ financial aid office can help you navigate your eligibility and applications for these government-funded scholarship programs.

3. Seek private scholarships for your physician assistant school

Even if you score aid from a government-funded scholarship, you will probably still face a hefty cost of attendance.

Now’s the time to investigate your private scholarship options, which usually don’t come with service or other requirements beyond basic eligibility rules. You typically must be an admitted or enrolled physician assistant student, for example, and you may need to meet some academic benchmarks.

The Physician Assistant Foundation, for one, awards nearly 40 scholarships of $1,000 to $2,000 in value to enrolled students.

As you seek gift aid, also consider local professional associations. If you live on the West Coast, for example, the California Academy of PAs offers three student scholarships worth $2,000 each.

You could also find opportunities according to your interests or specialty. For instance, PAs for Latino Health and PAs in Orthopedic Surgery offer $500 scholarships.

4. Investigate your federal and private student loan options

As a last resort, federal and private student loans are an option to fund your physician assistant program. Remember, however, that loans — unlike scholarships or grants — need to be repaid with interest over time, potentially hampering your other long-term financial goals.

Federal loans are generally preferable to private loans because they come with more room for error. You could switch your repayment plan, temporarily pause your repayment and apply for loan forgiveness, for example.

Private loans, on the other hand, come with more limited options for loan deferment and forbearance if your repayment goes south. Still, if you have a strong credit history, or a cosigner who does, you could score a lower interest rate from a private lender than the government can offer. Either way, make sure to shop around when looking for private student loans to get the best terms and options.

Compare all the details of federal and private loans before choosing to go down either or both paths. Borrowing as little as possible — and securing the lowest possible interest rate — could help you avoid additional debt down the line.

5. Plan for your student loan repayment

If you decide to borrow student loans, plan your eventual repayment while you’re still in school. You might not have time to start a money-making side hustle, but you could still budget your in-school expenses to carve out some spare change for early or extra payments.

Also, consider the many loan repayment assistance and forgiveness options for physician assistants. If you plan to work for the government or a nonprofit, for example, you could qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after a decade of timely payments.

There are also plenty of state-funded assistance programs for physician assistant graduates. Find your state contact via the Department of Health and Human Services.

Finally, you might consider refinancing your student loan debt once you’re off-campus and earning a salary. And if you do, know that the American Academy of Physician Assistants says its members can get refinancing discounts or perks at lenders such as SoFi and Laurel Road. Certain terms and limitations may apply.

Fortunately for you, PAs earn very healthy salaries, with a median mark of $104,860 in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using the strategies above, you can keep more of your pay, instead of kissing it goodbye to pay student loan principal and interest payments

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount.  The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 11/4/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.


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3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.250% as of October 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates for more information about interest rates.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

Citizens Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of December 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.70%. Variable interest rates range from 2.80% – 11.06% (2.80% – 10.91% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Published in Paying for College, Student Loan Repayment, Student Loans