Medical school tuition is one of the largest investments that any student can make, leaving many prospective doctors wondering how to pay for it. Students have several sources of funding to consider, some of which provide immediate funding, and others that allow the student to borrow needed money and repay it later. Most students will need to use a combination of sources to pay the full cost of medical school.
Aspiring medical students who are willing to serve in the military after graduating from medical school can benefit from the military's tuition assistance programs. The most popular is the Health Professions Scholarship Program. This program covers tuition, supplies, and fees for medical school, plus a generous living stipend for the student. In exchange, the student must serve in the military for an equivalent number of years after completing medical school.
Outside foundations and medical schools both offer grants and scholarships that can help pay for the education. One option is the National Institutes of Health's Medical Science Training Program, which pays for a joint M.D. and Ph.D. program for select students who want to go into medical research. Many medical schools offer internal grants and scholarships to some applicants, based on merit, financial need, or other qualifications. Students should contact schools in which they are interested in attending to find out more about the internal financial aid programs and how to apply for them. Schools often require students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for need-based financial aid.
Medical students can borrow money from several sources to pay any remaining tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. The federal government offers two main types of loans to medical students who fill out the FAFSA. The Stafford loan program lets students borrow up to $20,500 per year, or more for some health profession degrees. This loan has an interest rate of 6.8 percent, and students with significant financial need can have the interest payments subsidized by the federal government on up to $8,500 borrowed per year. If students need to borrow more money than they can through the Stafford program, PLUS loans are available with an interest rate of 7.9 percent. Students can also turn to private lenders for loans with a variable interest rate that is sometimes lower than the rate on federal loans.
Students who have to take out loans to pay for medical school can often have part or all of the debt forgiven. For example, many hospitals or state medical boards pay off all or part of a graduate's loans after he works for a specific number of years in an approved position. Borrowers who took out federal student loans can also take advantage of the federal government's loan forgiveness policies. One, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, forgives all remaining debt after the student makes 10 years of payments while working in a public service position, which includes some jobs in public health. The income-based repayment plan allows students to have any remaining debt forgiven after 25 years of payments.