As a veterinarian, your main concern is caring for animals. The last thing you want to stress over is your finances.
Unfortunately, veterinary school is expensive, and you might have significant student loan debt. 2016 veterinary graduates have a mean student debt of $141,000, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Thankfully, you can find veterinary student loan forgiveness and repayment programs. These programs can help you better manage and repay your veterinary debt.
National veterinary student loan forgiveness and repayment programs
Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
Under the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), you can receive up to $25,000 a year for three years to help pay off your student loans. To receive this award, you must agree to serve at least three years in a region with a veterinarian shortage.
However, not everyone with veterinary debt is accepted into this program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture only provides awards to a limited number of recipients. To qualify, you must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or equivalent degree and qualifying student debt.
The type and amount of work you do for the yearly award depend on the area where you work. Note that this program focuses primarily on veterinary medicine for livestock raised for food.
Army Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
The Army offers a loan repayment program for different health professions, including veterinarians. You can get help paying down your student loans whether you are on active duty or in the reserves.
If you are on active duty, you can receive up to $120,000 over three years through the Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. If you’re in the reserves, you can receive $50,000 in student loan repayment over three years.
On top of that, you might qualify for specialty pay from the Army, up to $5,000 through the Diplomate Board Certified Pay program. You need to have a specialty recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Faculty Loan Repayment Program
Teachers can qualify for student loan forgiveness through a variety of programs. One option is the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP).
If you are willing to teach at an accredited health professions college or university for two years, you could be eligible for up to $40,000 of veterinary student loan repayment. This program also offers funds to help offset the tax burden from loan forgiveness.
To qualify, you must come from a disadvantaged background. You also need to have an eligible degree.
State-based veterinary student loan repayment assistance programs
Arkansas offers student loan repayment assistance for residents who attend the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Under this program, you will work in food supply veterinary medicine in Arkansas for five years. The amount of assistance you can receive under this program varies.
To qualify, you must belong to a veterinary practice that focuses at least 30 percent of its business on food animal medicine or mixed animal medicine in rural areas.
As of 2017, this program is not currently funded, but it may be in the future. You can find out more by contacting the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
The Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine offers special loans that can later be forgiven through its veterinary program.
Five veterinary students qualify for this program each year. Participants work full-time in rural Kansas and receive training to assist livestock producers.
Through this program, you can earn up to $80,000 in loan waivers over four years.
Like Kansas, Maine offers a program where you receive special loans during your time in veterinary school and later have those loans forgiven. The program offers up to $25,000 a year to Maine students pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine.
To apply, you’ll fill out an application and write an essay. A committee chooses recipients and favors students who have financial need.
In order to get veterinary student loan forgiveness, you need to practice livestock veterinary medicine in an underserved area of Maine. A portion of your loans is forgiven for each year of eligible service.
Veterinary students can receive loans for up to $20,000 a year through the Large Animal Veterinary Student Loan Program.
These loans are eligible for forgiveness when students complete the program at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. You will also need to practice large animal veterinary medicine in an area of need in the state.
North Dakota offers up to $80,000 of veterinary debt repayment assistance. To qualify, you’ll provide food animal veterinary medicine services in areas of need throughout North Dakota.
For each year of service, you’ll qualify for a larger amount of loan forgiveness. To receive the full amount of loan forgiveness, you will need to complete four years of service.
The Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board Veterinary Student Loan Repayment Program offers up to $20,000 in repayment for veterinary student loans. To qualify, you must practice veterinary medicine in a shortage area for at least two years.
However, you are not required to work two full years to qualify for repayment assistance. If you only work one year under the program, you will be eligible for assistance of up to $10,000.
Wyoming’s Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program offers up to $90,000 of veterinary student loan forgiveness over three years.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen and have graduated from an AVMA-accredited veterinary college. The grant amount is awarded on a yearly basis.
Other options for managing veterinary student loans
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Federal student loan borrowers who work in nonprofit or government jobs can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). After 10 years of payments and work in a qualifying job, this program forgives your remaining loan balance.
PSLF-eligible jobs are available for veterinarians in government, nonprofit, and military organizations. You can also try working for tax-exempt clinics and animal shelters.
Peace Corps and AmeriCorps
You can also get help paying off your veterinary debt through service in Peace Corps and AmeriCorps programs.
When you participate, you can receive money toward loan repayment. If you meet service requirements, you may be eligible to receive an education award to pay down your student loans.
Income-driven repayment plans
Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans can also help you manage veterinary debt. Under these plans, your monthly payments are capped at 10 to 20 percent of your discretionary monthly income.
After you make qualifying payments for 20 or 25 years, depending on the specific plan, any remaining debt is forgiven. Note that unlike PSLF, forgiven debt under IDR is considered taxable income for the year that it’s forgiven.
There are four types of IDR plans:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
Keep in mind that you could end up paying more interest under an IDR plan since the repayment term is extended considerably. Evaluate your options before pursuing IDR.
Veterinary debt refinancing
With student loan refinancing, you can consolidate both federal and private loans into a new loan through a private lender. In some cases, you can also reduce your interest rate and monthly payment.
Refinancing is one way veterinarians can potentially ease the burden of debt repayment. Graduates with a good credit score and steady income have a better chance of getting approved for student loan refinancing. Keep in mind, however, that refinancing federal loans with a private lender means giving up federal benefits such as income-driven repayment and PSLF eligibility.
Being a veterinarian is a rewarding career. You get to work with animals and help them stay healthy. Find an option for student loan repayment that lets you focus more on your animal patients, and less on your veterinary student loans.
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