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Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Doctors

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As a medical professional, you might have taken on a mountain of debt on your journey to becoming a doctor. The average indebted doctor left medical school in 2016 owing more than $189,000 in student loans, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Even if you’re on your way to a six-figure income, your residency income will likely be far less — in 2017, residents earned an average of just over $57,000. During that time, the interest alone on all your student loans could be equal to your entire disposable income after room and board.

Fortunately, there are student loan forgiveness programs for doctors and other medical professionals that could pay off part or even all of your loans. If you’re looking to cure yourself of medical school debt, turn to these programs for assistance.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC)

The National Health Service Corps can provide up to $50,000 to repay your health profession student loan in exchange for a two-year commitment to work at an NHSC site in a high-need, underserved area. After completing your initial service commitment, you can apply to extend your service and receive additional loan repayment assistance.

In order to qualify, you’ll need to work at least half-time in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Along with earning loan forgiveness, you could put your medical degree to good use by caring for an underserved community.

Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program

This federal program offers up to $40,000 in exchange for two years of service in an American Indian or Alaskan Native community. You can also renew your contract and receive additional benefits that could pay off your entire student loan balance.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program

If you work in medical research, you could qualify for $35,000 per year from the NIH Loan Repayment Program. To do so, you’ll need to conduct research at a non-profit organization in an eligible field, such as health disparities, contraception and infertility or pediatric medicine.

Students to Service Program

If you’re still in medical school, you can apply for a major award through the Students to Service Program. This program provides up to $120,000 to medical students who commit to providing primary health care at an approved site for three years after graduating.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)

The PSLF program is intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. You could receive forgiveness of the remaining balance of your federal direct loans after making 120 qualifying payments while employed by certain public service employers.

Since you’ll likely have to work for 10 years before you get loan forgiveness, you’ll have to move your student loans off the standard 10-year plan and onto an income-driven repayment or extended repayment plan — otherwise you’ll have already paid off your balance by the time you qualify for forgiveness.

You should also keep up to date with any developments around the PSLF program. While it was signed into law in 2007, the program is not guaranteed to be around forever, and it’s recently drawn controversy over the uncertainty around getting approved.

Military loan repayment programs

If you’re serving as a medical provider in the Army, Navy or Air Force, you could qualify for assistance toward your student loans. Here are some of the programs available for military personnel.

Financial Assistance Program (FAP)

The Army, Air Force and Navy all offer the FAP, a program that grants loan repayment assistance and a living stipend to medical residents.

If you’re a medical resident in the Army or Air Force, you could get at least $45,000 per year of service, plus a monthly stipend of at least $2,000. And although the Navy grant can change from year to year, Navy medical residents could also qualify for significant assistance from the Navy FAP.

Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program

This program offers up to $40,000 per year in student loan repayment over a set number of years. You must be a physician in the Army, Navy, or Air Force to qualify.

U.S. Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP)

The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) provides medical personnel in the Navy with aid for their education loans. If you meet the program’s criteria, you could receive repayment assistance of up to $40,000 per year, minus about 25% in federal taxes.

State Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs)

Many states also run programs that grant student loan repayment assistance in exchange for working in a high-need or underserved area. A good place to check the medical loan repayment and forgiveness programs available in your area is through the AAMC database.

Here are just two examples of the many state-specific programs:

  • The Arizona Loan Repayment Program offers up to $65,000 in exchange for a two-year commitment from physicians.
  • The Kansas State Loan Repayment Program offers up to $25,000 per year of contract toward your outstanding education debt. After completion of the initial two-year service obligation, you may be able to extend your contract in one-year increments.

Check with your state to find out if it has an LRAP for doctors, nurses or other medical professionals. Depending on where you live and work, you could qualify for significant assistance toward your student loans.

Do the math before committing to a loan forgiveness program

As you take a look at each loan forgiveness program, remember to weigh salary considerations against any amount you’d receive in student loan assistance. Opting for a job with a $75,000 salary to earn $25,000 in loan forgiveness wouldn’t be as lucrative as going after a job with a $200,000 salary and no loan forgiveness, for instance.

Unless you’re driven to work in a high-need area or with an underserved population, you might not benefit from sacrificing a high salary for the sake of qualifying for loan forgiveness. Consider your career goals and your wants and needs in a job.

Refinancing student loans can also help

Whether or not you’re working toward student loan forgiveness, you might also consider refinancing as a strategy for managing your debt. Through refinancing, you could reduce your interest rates and save money on your loans beyond whatever forgiveness you can get from these programs.

Because of their steady incomes, doctors tend to be especially strong candidates for student loan refinancing. Along with lowering your rate, you could choose new terms and adjust your monthly payments.

But refinancing with a private lender also means you’ll lose access to federal programs and repayment plans, so make sure you’re comfortable with this sacrifice before making any changes to your debt. If you decide refinancing is right for you — or simply want to learn more about the process — check out the best lenders to refinance student loans here.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.

Our Top Picks for Refinancing Student Loans

You can learn more about what these lenders have to offer by checking out the best options to refinance student loans here.

LenderTransparency ScoreMax TermFixed APRVariable APRMax Loan Amount 
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LendKeyA+

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Laurel Road BankA+

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Citizens BankA+

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Discover Student LoansA+

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Variable Rate

$150k


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Graduate
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Does Debt Snowflake Actually Work?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

debt avalanche vs. debt snowball

Two of the most popular debt payoff strategies are debt snowball and debt avalanche. Debt snowball, popularized by Dave Ramsey, involves paying off your debts from the smallest to the largest balance. Debt avalanche involves paying off your debts from highest to lowest interest rate.

There’s another winter-related strategy you might want to consider if you’re looking to repay significant debt: debt snowflake. Ideally, this strategy should be used in conjunction with either of the above methods. It helps you save small, snowflake-sized amounts of money each day or week to put toward your debt.

Read on for everything you need to know about the debt snowflake strategy.

How the debt snowflake strategy works


The debt snowflake strategy involves saving in little ways each day and then putting those small savings toward your debt. Ideally, debt snowflake shouldn’t be used by itself, but rather with another debt repayment strategy.

Priya Malani, founding partner of Stash Wealth, a financial planning company, said she wouldn’t call debt snowflake a “method,” per se. “I would think of it more as a bonus or add-on strategy that works in conjunction with one of the main methods of debt paydown, [like the] snowball or avalanche,” she said.

So how does it work? It’s quite simple. Let’s say you bring your lunch one day instead of spending $8 on a salad. You can put that $8 toward your debt immediately by making a small payment online. Or you can keep track of your “snowflakes” and put them toward your debt at the end of the month.

There are many areas you can reassess in your daily life to find small savings. Consider the following ways to cut back:

  • Cancel old subscriptions. Malani said this can include everything from magazine and music subscriptions (like Spotify) to gym memberships and movie/TV subscriptions (like Hulu).
  • Sell old clothing and goods online. If you have old clothing, shoes or accessories sitting in your closet, consider selling them on Poshmark, eBay or through a Facebook buy/sell/trade group.
  • If you’re going out, do it during happy hour. Instead of spending $13 on a craft cocktail, find a bar that sells one for $6 as part of a happy hour special, Malani recommends.
  • Take uberPOOLS or Express POOLS whenever you can. UberPOOLS are significantly cheaper than normal Ubers, and Express Pools can be up to 50% cheaper than uberPOOLS. Malani also recommends taking public transportation whenever you can.
  • Skip the morning latte. Beverly Harzog, author of “The Debt Escape Plan,” said just because you’re budgeting with the snowflake strategy doesn’t mean you need to skip your latte every day. Instead of getting one six days a week, opt for once a week instead.
  • Skip convenience items at the grocery store. Pre-washed, pre-cut lettuce is going to run you a lot more than a head of iceberg, Harzog said. Skip convenience items such as this when shopping for your weekly groceries.
  • Have a low-key night at home. A night out with friends could run you $100 or even $200. Malani recommends having everyone over for a wine night or potluck instead to save a little cash.
  • Opt for cheaper entertainment. Instead of going to the movies or catching a live show every weekend, consider renting a movie and eating something at home. Just remember: That doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. “Maybe go to a movie once a month instead of four times a month,” Harzog said.

Debt snowflake: Pros and cons

The debt snowflake strategy isn’t for everyone. Below, we’ve identified the top three pros and cons associated with the strategy.

Pros

  • It’s an easy way to make small changes. Some debt repayment strategies require quite a bit of planning, but the snowflake strategy is fairly simply. All you have to do is save $2, $5 or $10 every so often, and there isn’t much more to it.
  • There’s a psychological perk. Many people benefit from the small “wins” associated with the debt snowball method. The snowflake has a similar benefit. “The snowflake strategy reminds you that you are in control of decreasing your debt balance, which has great psychological benefits that help keep you motivated and empowered with your financial life,” Malani said.
  • It makes you more aware of your spending. It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of less-than-stellar spending habits without realizing their damage. For example, a $4 latte each weekday might not seem like a lot until you realize that skipping it could save you about $100 a month. “I think [the debt snowflake] makes people stop and think about what they’re doing every single day,” Harzog said.

Cons

  • It requires serious organization. If you opt for the debt snowflake strategy, you have to make sure you’re organized. This means either grabbing your cellphone and making a transfer the minute you save money or keeping a list of all your savings to put toward your debt at the end of the month. Harzog recommends staying organized by setting up email or phone reminders to ensure you make your payments.
  • It doesn’t work well as a stand-alone strategy. Some people want a simple, streamlined solution for paying off their debt. If you’re concerned about balancing too many things, debt snowflake might not be for you, as it works best with another strategy such as debt snowball or debt avalanche.
  • You might lose motivation. The savings associated with the debt snowflake strategy are small. Malani said if you struggle to find these small savings, you might feel defeated and could lose your motivation to stay on track.

Debt snowflake makes a difference: Here’s how

Saving $5 here or $7 there might not seem like it will make a difference in your debt, especially if you have a large balance. But it does.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt with a 15% interest rate and a minimum monthly payment of $100. You normally pay $200 per month toward your debt but are able to put an extra $100 toward it by using the snowflake strategy to cut out weekly lattes and other small expenses. Here’s how much of a difference that extra $100 a month can make:

StrategyTotal DebtMinimum PaymentMonthly PaymentInterest RateTime to Pay Off Debt Total Interest Paid
No snowflake$5,000$100$20015%31 months$1,033
Snowflake$5,000$100$30015%19 months$642

3 other debt repayment strategies to consider

Perhaps the debt snowflake, debt snowball and debt avalanche methods aren’t for you. Luckily, there are myriad ways to pay off debt. Below are three other strategies to consider.

Debt consolidation loan. One common way to pay off debt is through a debt consolidation loan. This involves combining all your debt and taking out a personal loan that will go toward the debt as one monthly payment.

Interest rates on debt consolidation loans are typically lower than interest rates on credit cards.

Balance transfer credit card. If your debt is credit card-related, you might want to consider a balance transfer credit card. These cards typically have introductory rates as low as 0%, which can allow you to repay your debt while saving on interest.

This strategy is only worthwhile if you’re certain you can repay your debt within the introductory rate grace period since the rate after that could be just as high or even higher than your previous rate.

Debt management. If you hold a significant amount of debt and have struggled for years to pay it off, you might benefit from credit counseling. Consider meeting with a nonprofit credit counselor who could help you come up with a debt management plan.

Besides helping you stay on track with a debt management plan, nonprofit credit counselors can teach you about good financial habits that help avoid getting into debt again.

Whichever strategy you choose doesn’t matter as long as you’re committed to becoming debt-free.

“The right method is the one that works for you — the one that keeps you motivated and going — because everyone has different personal circumstances,” Harzog said. “You have to be very honest with yourself. Take a close look at your budget and your cash flow, and just see what you can do and pick the right method for yourself.”

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Jamie Friedlander is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jamie here

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Before you read on, click here to download our FREE guide to become debt free forever!

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 1.30.44 PM

Updated – January 10, 2019

Digging out of credit card debt can feel frustrating, intimidating and ultimately impossible. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be any of those things if you learn how to take control.

Paying down debt is not only about finding the right financial tools, but also the right psychological ones. You need to understand why you racked up credit card debt in the first place. Perhaps it was a medical emergency or a home repair that needed to be taken care of immediately. Maybe you’d already drained your emergency fund on one piece of bad luck when misfortune struck again. Or maybe you’re struggling with a compulsive shopping problem, so paying down debt will likely result in you accumulating more until the addiction is addressed.

You also need to understand what motivates you to succeed. Do you want to pay down your credit card debt in the absolute fastest amount of time possible that will save more money or do you want to take some little wins along the way to keep yourself motivated?

Here’s a couple strategies consider as you learn the best way to handle credit card debt — and pay it off quickly.

2 common credit card debt repayment strategies

These repayment strategies can help you pay off credit card debt quickly. Keep in mind, you can use these strategies even for non-credit-card debt:

  • Debt avalanche: Focus on paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. Then, work your way down. This strategy can save you money on interest and get you out of debt sooner.
  • Debt snowball: Pay off your smallest debts first. Doing so can motivate you to continue making payments as you climb out of debt.

You don’t necessarily need to pick the repayment strategy that gets you out of debt the fastest. After all, if your repayment strategy doesn’t keep you motivated, you may not stick to it.

Using a personal loan or balance transfer credit card

As you seek to repay your debt, you could consider a personal loan or balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate than on your existing debt. Transferring your debt to one of these financial products could help you reduce long-term interest costs.

But you’ll first need to learn whether or not you’re eligible. Your credit score will play a big role in determining your eligibility for a personal loan or balance transfer card. Use our widget below to figure out if a personal loan or a balance transfer is the best option for you!

What’s the best option for me?

Please enter information below and we’ll provide the best option to consolidate your credit card debt!

If you have a credit score above 640, you have a good chance of qualifying for a personal loan at a much lower interest rate than your credit card debt. With new internet-only personal loan companies, you can shop for loans without hurting your score. In just a few minutes, with a simple online form, you can get matched with multiple lenders. People with excellent credit can see APRs below 10%. But even if your credit isn’t perfect, you might be able to find a good loan to fit your needs.

Not sure what your credit score is? Click here to learn how and where to find out. If you know your credit score needs some work but not sure of what can be done, click here.

If you have a score above 700, you could also qualify for 0% balance transfer offers. We will talk more about balance transfers below but this option is the best way to pay off credit card debt if you’re able to qualify for a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.

A credit score of less than 600 will make it difficult for you to qualify for either option. If you have a credit score less than 640, struggling to make monthly debt payments and would like to explore your options to reduce your debt by up to 50%, then please click our option below to customize a personal debt relief plan.

Custom Debt Relief Plan

Now let’s talk about the financial tools to add to your debt repayment strategy in order to dig out of the hole.

Let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt, and are stuck paying 18% interest on it.

You already know that putting as much spare cash as you can toward paying down your debt is the most important thing to do. But once you’ve done that, so what’s next?

Use your good credit to make banks compete and cut your rates

You could save $1,800 a year in interest and lower your monthly payments based on several of the rates available today. That means you could pay it off almost 20% faster.

Here’s how it works.

Option One: Use a Balance Transfer (or Multiple Balance Transfers)


If you trust yourself to open a new credit card but not spend on it, consider a balance transfer. You may be able to cut your rate with a long 0% intro APR. You need to have a good credit score, and you might not get approved for the full amount that you want to transfer.

Your own bank might not give you a lower rate (or only drop it by a few percent), but there are lots of competing banks that may want to steal the business and give you a better rate.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

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Rates & Fees

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Annual fee
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Intro Purchase APR
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Intro BT APR
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Balance Transfer Fee
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Regular APR
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Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
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good-credit
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MagnifyMoney regularly surveys the market to find the best balance transfer credit cards. If you would like to see what other options exist, beyond Chase and Discover, you can start there.

promo-balancetransfer-halfIt also has tips to make sure you do a balance transfer safely. If you follow them you’ll save thousands on your debt by remaining disciplined.

You might be scared of a balance transfer, but there is no faster way to cut your interest payments than taking advantage of the best 0% or low interest deals banks are offering.

Thanks to recent laws, balance transfers aren’t as sneaky as they used to be, and friendlier for helping you cut your debt.

Sometimes the first bank you deal with won’t give you a big enough credit line to handle all your credit card debt. Maybe you’ll get a $5,000 credit line for a 0% deal, but have $10,000 in debt. That’s okay. In that case, apply for the next best balance transfer deal you see. MagnifyMoney’s list of deals makes it easy to sort them.

Banks are okay with you shopping around for more than one deal.

Option Two: Personal Loan

If you never want to see another credit card again, you should consider a personal loan. You can get prequalified at multiple lenders without hurting your credit score, and find the best deal to pay off your debt faster.

Personal loan interest rates are often about 10-20%, but can sometimes be as low as 5-6% if you have very good credit.

Moving from 18% interest on a credit card to 10% on a personal loan is a good deal for you. You’ll also get one set monthly payment, and pay off the whole thing in 3 to 5 years.

Sometimes this may mean a higher monthly payment than you’re used to, but you’re better off putting your cash toward a higher payment with a lower rate.

And you’ll get out of debt months or years faster by leaving more money to pay down the debt itself. If you want to shop for a personal loan, we recommend starting at LendingTree. With a single online form, dozens of lenders will compete for your business. Only a soft credit pull is completed, so your credit score will not be harmed. People with excellent scores can see low APRs (sometimes below 6%). And people with less than perfect scores still have a good chance of finding a lender to approve them.

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If you don’t want to shop at LendingTree, you can see our list of the best personal loans here.

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Brian Karimzad
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Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at brian@magnifymoney.com

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