Student Loan Forgiveness for Veterinarians

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Christy Rakoczy

By Christy Rakoczy

February 3, 2020

Becoming a veterinarian enables you to spend your day working with animals of all sizes – but anyone who wishes to pursue a career in this field can expect big costs associated with getting their education. In fact, according to the Associations of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, the total cost of attending a four year program for the graduating class of 2019 ranged between $168,087 and $283,308.

Affording the cost of becoming a vet without packing on debt is an impossibility for most people. Unfortunately, this can make post-grad life difficult, especially without a substantial salary.

The good news is, veterinarians can find many different student loan forgiveness options or student loan repayment assistance options. Here are some options for veterinarians to receive student loan forgiveness:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness allows veterinarians who do qualifying public service work to have a portion of their Federal Direct Stafford Loans, PLUS Loans, or Direct Consolidation Loans forgiven.

Veterinarians must work full-time for the government or for an eligible tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization and must be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan to become eligible.

After 120 on-time payments on an income-driven repayment plan while working full-time in a qualifying job, any remaining balance on eligible student loans is forgiven. Full-time work is defined as 30 hours per week (at one job or at a combination of part-time jobs) or meeting an employer’s definition of full-time. Veterinarians must continue to be employed in eligible public service work at the time the loans are forgiven.

 The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program

Veterinarians who work in an area designated as a shortage area by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture can become eligible for up to $25,000 per year in loan repayment funds through this nationwide program.

Veterinarians must agree to serve for at least three years in the shortage area and must apply by each year’s April deadline in order to be considered for the program.

Loans repaid through this program must have been used to repay tuition expenses, educational expenses, or reasonable living expenses and must have been accrued while attending a college of veterinary medicine accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.

The Federal Faculty Loan Repayment Program

Eligible veterinarians from economically or environmentally disadvantaged backgrounds who serve on the faculty of a veterinary medical college can become eligible for this program, which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

This nationwide program provides up to $40,000 in student loan repayment assistance, which is available for the repayment of student loans obtained both from the government as well as from private student loans. Borrowed funds must have been used to pay tuition, reasonable living expenses or other reasonable educational expenses.

Veterinarians must apply for this program by the annual June deadline and must make a commitment to provide full-time or part-time service as a faculty member at an eligible veterinary school for two consecutive years.

State-Based Options for Loan Forgiveness

In addition to each of the national programs mentioned above, individual states also offer student loan repayment assistance to veterinarians who work in shortage areas or who otherwise provide work that’s considered to be in the public interest.

Availability for state-based programs and eligibility requirements vary based on location. However, many of the loan forgiveness programs are limited to veterinarians who work in rural areas designated as shortage areas and who provide veterinary care to livestock or farm animals used in connection with the production of commercial food products.

The American Veterinary Medical Association provides a summary of state-based programs. While this summary was last updated in August of 2017, it serves as a helpful starting reference point to assist with identifying local programs that graduates could potentially qualify for.

Exploring Your Options for Veterinary Loan Repayment

 Whether you want to work for the government, a non-profit, or work in a shortage area, there are options that can help you to get your veterinary school loans forgiven. It is helpful to explore these options early in your career as most programs generally require a service-commitment so your choice to seek loan repayment assistance may influence your career path.

If you are struggling with student loan debt, there are ways you can lower your student loan payments, including enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan, temporarily going on a deferment or refinancing student loans to lower your interest rate. Keep in mind that refinancing any federal student loans means a loss in many benefits – income-driven repayment, any federal forgiveness programs, generous deferment options, and more.

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