How to Get a Health Professions Student Loan

Starting a career in healthcare can be costly. This article reviews Health Professions Student Loans.

When it comes to student loan debt, the medical industry is on a level of its own. It's common for health professionals to rack up six-figure student loan balances to fund their education, and even "cheaper" medical degrees come with steep price tags.

That's why future health professionals have access to a type of federal loan reserved just for them. Let's take a look at what makes a Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL) unique, and what prospective borrowers should know about eligibility requirements and viable alternatives.

What Is a Health Professions Student Loan?

A Health Professions Student Loan is a federal student loan available only to students pursuing certain degrees in the health field. There are four types of health profession loans. 

These loans are similar to Direct Subsidized Loans because both types of loans do not accrue interest while the borrower is in school and during the grace period after the borrower graduates. That makes them less expensive than other federal or private loans. Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and private student loans do accrue interest while the borrower is in school and during grace periods.

HPSLs also have a 12-month grace period, while other federal loans have only a six-month grace period. 

To be eligible for an HPSL, students must fill out the application required by their specific university. Some colleges will ask students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to apply for an HPSL, while other universities have a separate application. 

Students must demonstrate financial need to be eligible for an HPSL. All HPSLs have a 5% interest rate, which is slightly lower than the rate for other federal graduate student loans. Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate or professional borrowers have a 5.28% interest rate, while Direct PLUS Loans have a 6.28% interest rate. 

The annual amount available for an HPSL is between $200 and $9,000, so most students will need to find additional funding elsewhere.

Here are the four health profession loan options available to borrowers:

Health Professions Student Loans

To be eligible for an HPSL, you must be working toward one of the following degrees:

  • Doctor of Dentistry
  • Bachelor or Doctor of Science in Pharmacy
  • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
  • Doctor of Optometry
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

To apply for an HPSL, you must fill out this application. If you have any questions, contact your college’s financial aid department.

Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) 

To be eligible for an LDS, you must be working toward one of the following degrees:

  • Doctor of Allopathic Medicine
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Doctor of Dentistry
  • Bachelor or Doctor of Science in Pharmacy
  • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
  • Doctor of Optometry
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Nursing School Loans

Only full-time nursing students are eligible. They must be pursuing an associate, undergraduate or graduate nursing degree.

Primary Care Loan (PCL)

Students receiving a medical degree in either allopathic medicine or osteopathic medicine are eligible. PCLs will not accrue interest while the student is in residency or during any subsequent fellowship training if the program is related to primary care. 

After residency and fellowship, students must work in primary care for 10 years or until they repay the loan, whichever comes first.

Other Options

If you don’t qualify for an HPSL, you can apply for one of the following types of student loans:

Federal Student Loans

Medical and health professional students are also eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans, also known as Graduate PLUS Loans. 

The interest rate for Direct Unsubsidized Loans is 5.28%, and the maximum amount a graduate student can borrow is $20,500 per year and $138,500 in total. The interest rate for Direct PLUS Loans is 6.28%. The maximum annual limit is the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid. 

Private Student Loans

If you don’t qualify for an HPSL or want to explore other alternatives, you can still get a low interest rate loan for graduate school. That’s where Juno comes in. Juno offers graduate student loans for health profession students, and some students may qualify for a lower interest rate than they would receive with an HPSL or other federal loan. 

Juno offers both fixed-rate and variable-rate loans with five-, seven-, 10-, 12- and 15-year terms. A fixed-rate loan will have the same monthly payment during the entire term, while a variable-rate loan will have different monthly payments. The interest rate on a variable-rate loan depends on the external market interest rate, which can rise and fall over time. 

As of September 2021, Juno offers fixed-rate loans with rates ranging from 2.99% APR to 6.14% APR and variable-rate loans ranging from 0.99% APR to 5.77% APR.

Borrowers may not need a co-signer to qualify for a graduate loan through Juno, especially if they have a good credit score and stable job. Even if you don’t need a co-signer to qualify for a graduate loan, adding a co-signer may result in a lower interest rate. 

Zina Kumok
Written By
Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.

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