As a veterinarian, you already know the rewards of caring for animals and keeping them healthy, but financially you may be struggling to pay off the cost of your education.
The good news is that veterinarians could get help paying off all that debt through the many veterinary loan forgiveness and repayment programs now available.
In this article, we’ll explore the following veterinary student loan forgiveness and management options:
- National veterinary loan forgiveness and repayment programs
- State-based veterinary student loan repayment assistance programs
- Other options for managing veterinary student loans
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the mean amount of debt veterinary school graduates in 2018 was $183,014.
Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
Under the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), you may be eligible to receive up to $25,000 a year for three years to help pay off your student loans. To qualify, you must agree to serve at least three years in a region that has a veterinarian shortage. You also need to have both qualifying student debt and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) (or equivalent degree) from a college accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.
Under this program, the type and amount of work you do for the yearly award will depend on the area where you work; however, note that this program does focus primarily on veterinary medicine for livestock raised for food.
Army loan repayment programs for health professionals
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 with the Army Reserve.
If you are on active duty, you can receive up to $120,000 over three years to repay vet school loans from the Army Veterinary Corps through the Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. If you’re in the Army Reserve, you can receive $50,000 in student loan repayment over three years through the Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program, as long as you have a current unrestricted state license.
Faculty Loan Repayment Program
Teachers can qualify for student loan forgiveness through a variety of programs. One option that’s available for health professionals is the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) that’s offered through the federal Health Resources & Services Administration.
If you have a employer commitment to teach full or part-time at an accredited health professions college or university for two years, with FLRP you could be eligible for up to $40,000 to help repay veterinary school student loan debt. Plus, it also offers funds to help offset the tax burden you may incur if your loan is eventually forgiven. To qualify, you must come from a disadvantaged background and also have an eligible degree or certificate.
If you live in one of the following states, you may also be able to get help paying off veterinarian school loans.
Colorado offers a Veterinary Education Loan Repayment Program to licensed veterinarians residing in the state who are willing to serve designated shortage areas.
Under the program, you might be eligible to receive up to $70,000 in veterinary loan forgiveness over a 4-year span. You’ll earn progressively more loan forgiveness with each year of service — $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.
The state of Georgia offers veterinary student loan repayment assistance to both practicing veterinarians and veterinary students in their last year of study.
To qualify for assistance, you will need to commit to practicing food animal veterinary medicine in a rural community. If so, this assistance program could cover up to $80,000 of your veterinary student loan debt ($20,000 per year for four years) as long as you agree to work at least 20 hours per week in your assigned region.
You must be a Georgia resident to be considered for this program; preference may be given to previous program participants.
Georgia’s program is currently active, but is subject to annual funding appropriation by the state legislature. To check its status, go to this site from the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
As part of its veterinary training program for rural Kansas, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University offers special loans that can later be at least partially forgiven if a graduate of the college goes to work full-time in a Kansas county with less than 35,000 residents. For every year they work, graduates qualify for a year’s worth of loan forgiveness.
Five veterinary students qualify for this program each year. If accepted, you may also be able to earn up to $80,000 in loan waivers over four years.
Like Kansas, Maine has a program where you may be able to receive special forgivable loans to help cover the cost of veterinary school as long as you started your education on or after January 1, 2011.
You may be eligible to receive up to $100,000 in loans ($25,000 a year for up to 4 years). In order to get veterinary loan forgiveness, you need to practice livestock veterinary medicine in an underserved area of Maine; if that’s the case, a portion of your debt — up to 25% — gets forgiven for each year of eligible service. To learn more, check this site from the Finance Authority of Maine.
Both recent graduates and final-year students of the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine program at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine may be eligible to receive veterinary loan repayment assistance under the state’s Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program.
To qualify, you must agree to serve as a full-time licensed veterinarian in a rural community, with at least 50% of your work involving the care of food animals. A five-year contract is required and for each year of service, $15,000 of your student debt will be forgiven, up to a maximum of $75,000.
Veterinary students in Missouri can receive loans for up to $20,000 a year through the state’s Large Animal Veterinary Student Loan Program.
The loans are eligible for forgiveness when students complete the program at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. To get the loans wiped clean, you’ll need to practice large animal veterinary medicine in an area of need in the state. With each year of service, $20,000 of your student loan debt gets erased.
While it may not technically be a loan repayment or forgiveness program, Nebraska’s Food Supply Animal Veterinary Incentive Program could help licensed veterinarians defray big education bills. The program offers up to $80,000 to vets who have graduated from an approved school and are willing to sign a 4-year contract to work as a full-time food supply veterinarian within one of the state’s approved communities.
This program is subject to funds availability. However, if you are selected, you may be able to get $15,000 per year for the first two years of work and $25,000 per year for the last two years.
North Dakota offers up to $80,000 of veterinary debt repayment assistance. The program is aimed mostly at recent veterinary school graduates, but established vets can also apply as long as they have outstanding student debt and are licensed to practice in the state. To qualify, you must be willing to provide food animal veterinary medicine services in areas of need throughout the state.
In Ohio, the Veterinary Student Loan Repayment Program offers up to $20,000 to help repay vet school tuition, room and board and other educational expenses.
To qualify, you must agree to one of the following: provide veterinary services for large animals; practice in an area where vet services are in short supply and public health needs to be protected; or practice in an area where services are required to enforce the law. You must also either be enrolled or a recent graduate of a state-approved veterinary school. Under the program, you’ll receive $10,000 for each year of approved service, for a maximum of two years.
In Vermont, you may be able to have part of your student debt erased under the state’s Food Animal Veterinary Education Loan Repayment Program.
To qualify, you will need to practice food animal medicine and agree to work in an underserved part of the state. In return, you are eligible to receive up to $30,000 per year of service for a maximum of three years, as long as you work at least 20 hours per week.
Wyoming’s Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program offers up to $90,000 of veterinary student loan forgiveness if you commit to a three-year minimum period (up to $30,000 per year) to provide food animal care in an underserved area.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have graduated from an accredited veterinary college and be licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Wyoming. To learn more, go to this site from the Department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Wyoming.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Federal student loan borrowers who work in nonprofit or government jobs may be able to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). To qualify, you’ll need to work full-time in a qualifying job and already have repaid loans for 10 years. You’ll also need to have federal Direct Loans (or other federal student loans that can be consolidated) and be part of an income-driven repayment plan. In return, this program will forgive any remaining loan balance.
Peace Corps and AmeriCorps
Both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps offer programs that can also help pay off veterinary school debt.
If you’ve put in qualified service for the Peace Corps — and have federal student loans (including Stafford, Direct or Perkins) — you may be able to have your loan payments deferred. With these loans, you may also become eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, as well as the federal Public Loan Service Forgiveness (PSLF) program described above. With Perkins loans in particular, you may be eligible to get up to 70% of your loan cancelled.
At AmeriCorps, if you complete an approved service term, you may be eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The award would be equal to the amount of a full federal Pell Grant, and it could be used to help pay off your student loans.
Income-driven repayment plans
Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans can also help you manage veterinary debt if you have federal student loans and can’t pay back the debt within the standard 10-year time period. Under IDR plans, your monthly loan payments are capped at 10 to 20 percent of your discretionary monthly income. Then, after making qualifying payments for 20 or 25 years (depending on the plan), any remaining debt you have is forgiven. Unlike PSLF, any debt that’s forgiven under an IDR plan is considered taxable income for the year that it’s forgiven, so be prepared to potentially see a higher tax bill.
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 beyond the standard 10-year plan for student loans. Evaluate your options carefully before choosing this option.
Veterinary debt refinancing
Refinancing is another way veterinarians can potentially ease the burden of debt repayment. With student loan refinancing, you can consolidate both federal and private loans into a new loan through a private lender. In some cases, you could also reduce your interest rate and monthly payment.
Graduates who have 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 access to federal benefits like an income-driven repayment plan and PSLF eligibility.
If you’re thinking about refinancing your student loans, be sure to research and shop around for your best deals. Our student loan refinance marketplace is a great resource for comparing lenders, learning more about refinancing and applying when you’re ready.
Being a veterinarian can be a highly satisfying career — it’s time to find an option for student loan repayment that lets you focus less on your veterinary school debt and more on your animal patients.
Laura Gariepy contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
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2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are 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.